Split-screen multitasking on iOS has been hiding in plain sight

Third-party keyboards are one of the tasks in multitasking, even if it doesn't feel like it

March 5, 2015
Jonathan Libov

Prior to the release of iOS 8, there were abundant rumors that split-screen multitasking was coming to the iPad. Abundant enough that designers and developers were already composing very thoughtful blog posts and videos about what it might look like:

John Gruber of Daring Fireball writing about the rumors prior to the introduction of iOS 8:

I’m very curious to see how you get into (and back out of) this mode, though. It’s easy to say you want to see two apps side-by-side on the iPad. It’s not easy at all to implement such a feature without losing the wonderful can’t get lost/can’t get confused about where you are or how you got there simplicity of the iPad today.

The rumors turned to be true and untrue. Untrue because we didn't get split-screen multitasking on iPad the way MacRumors, Microsoft (via the Surface), the author of the post and the concept video, or I imagined it. True because, when I came across Audioshot, a third-party keyboard for sharing music, on Product Hunt today, I realized that Apple actually blew past the original rumors: Not only did they add split-screen multitasking to the iPad but also the iPhone.


The third-party keyboard is the second app in the split-screen. It's just a vertical split instead of a horizontal one, as is more common on the desktop, and as Microsoft does it on the Surface. Look at the Riffsy keyboard for finding and sharing GIF's or other third-party keyboards: many of them are just mini-apps.

Riffsy Keyboard

The beauty of it all is that they did it without compromising the "simplicity of [iOS] today", as Gruber put it. When you think about the most common reason to have two apps open side-by-side — browsing for content in one app to copy/paste into the other — it makes perfect sense to have done multitasking this way, because that's exactly what advanced keyboards are useful for. It just doesn't feel like multitasking.