Got an iPad or an iPhone that you frequently find yourself sharing with someone else? It sure would be nice if you could give them their own account so they could stop messing with yours, wouldn’t it?
In the tech community, there’s a growing sense that Apple just isn’t innovating the way it used to. Some critics, in fact, are worried that Tim Cook & Co. are starting to play catch up, and you need only look as far as Android 4.2 and Windows Phone 8 for some supporting evidence.
On April 3, 2010 Apple released the first generation iPad. Two and a half years later, Apple has expanded the range: there’s now the $499 9.7-inch iPad and the new $329 7.9-inch iPad mini. But while an iPad buyer can now choose the size that meets his or her individual needs best, Apple’s tablet still isn’t ideally suited to multiple users. Support for separate user profiles is something iPad users have been asking for since the original launch — and it still hasn’t been delivered, despite the fact that Apple has pushed out three major iOS releases.
With the Android 4.2 update that recently arrived, owners of Google’s Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 tablets can now create as many accounts as they need on one device. Each account gets its own separate space for apps, games, and media, and personalization options (like wallpaper, widgets, and homescreen setup) are individualized, too. The experience extends to apps like Chrome, Gmail, Google Talk, and Skype. There’s no overlap, and no need to be concerned that your kids will accidentally wipe out half your address book.
Even if you’re not sharing your Nexus 7 or Nexus 10, having a second profile can be a handy way to separate apps that you use to get things done from the apps, games, and media that you turn to when you’re looking to relax or kill some time. Android 4.2′s multiple user support is exactly what iPad users want, but Apple just hasn’t gotten around to shipping it yet.
Microsoft, too, has beaten Apple to the multi-user punch. In Windows Phone 8, there’s a new feature called Kid’s Corner. It’s similar in purpose to Android’s multi-user support, but not quite as flexible. Think of it as a “guest mode” for your phone. When you hand most smartphones (including the iPhone) to another person, the honor system is really the only thing that prevents them from flicking through its contents. Kids Corner lets you specify which apps, games, and even which photos, songs, and videos you want to let others access. Activating Kids Corner is as simple as swiping left while the lockscreen is displayed on a Windows 8 phone.
And all those new Windows RT tablets and convertibles? They’re essentially running Windows 8, so of course they all offer full-blown support for multiple users. Want to set up something like this on an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch? Apple’s current solution is the same as it has always been: buy another device.
Not every family has $1000 to spend on two tablets or an extra $300 to spend on a device like the iPod touch. When competitors are offering good tablets and smartphones that cost less and include multi-user functionality, why would they bother? As long as you’re ok with time-sharing, purchasing a single 32GB Nexus 10 or Surface probably makes a whole lot more sense.