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Safari on iPadOS Optimized to Work With at Least Some Desktop Versions of Websites

Apple's upcoming iPadOS is designed to bring more desktop-class functionality to iPads with bigger screens, and as part of that aim, Safari is receiving a major overhaul that will enable it to display desktop versions of websites.


In the first instance, Apple is going about this by adapting Safari's mobile "user agent" – that aspect of the software which retrieves and renders interaction with web content – to enable the iOS browser to retrieve the desktop variety of a website by default, rather than its mobile counterpart.

In addition to that, Apple appears to be custom-optimizing the iPadOS Safari user agent to include touch- and keyboard-based interaction with at least some popular websites. As highlighted by The Verge's Dieter Bohn in his brief testing of Google Docs, Apple has made it possible to use touch to hit the menu buttons.
Google Docs has long been a huge problem on the iPad, for two reasons. First, Google’s own iPad app is god-awful and the company seems hell-bent on not updating it to work better. Second, Google Docs in Safari on the iPad right now redirects you to that app even if you “Request Desktop Site.”

On iPadOS, however, Google Docs in Safari seems great.

Admittedly, I only spent about five minutes poking around, but I went straight for the stuff I didn’t expect to work at all — and it worked. Keyboard shortcuts for formatting and header styling, comments, cursor placement, and even watching real-time edits from another person in the doc all worked.
For the productivity suite, Safari for iPadOS seems to be re-rendering the web-based interface to align it more with the site's desktop functionality. Granted, we don't know yet how far this optimization extends – is it only available for a handful of commonly used desktop sites, for example, or will Apple's implementation be more extensible? – but it's at least a sign that Apple is doing a lot under the hood to make Safari on iPad more of a desktop-class user experience.

iPadOS will incorporate several features that recognize the tablet's function as a potential computer replacement, including a new Home screen, an updated Split View to enhance multitasking, improved Apple Pencil support, and additional keyboard shortcuts for use with physical keyboards. iPadOS is due to get its public release in the fall.

Related Roundups: iOS 13, iPadOS


Top Rated Comments

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2 weeks ago
I don't think I have ever seen a more inaccurate summary in my life. Holy cow this is off the rails:


In the first instance, Apple is going about this by adapting Safari's mobile "user agent" - that aspect of the software which retrieves and renders interaction with web content - to enable the iOS browser to retrieve the desktop variety of a website by default, rather than its mobile counterpart.


No, a user agent doesn't retrieve or render anything. It is a string, just some text, that say what browser it is and what version, and often lists similar browser rendering engines that it should be compatible with. It is literally just a description of the browser. The server then determines what to send back based on that.


For the productivity suite, Safari for iPadOS seems to be re-rendering the web-based interface to align it more with the site's desktop functionality.


Not even close. Safari on iPad changes how it responds to certain events in on the page. There is no re-rendering. The big obvious one is that if an element has both a hover and a click event, iPad Safari sends the hover first, then waits to see if the page changes at all (as it would on any desktop browser when hovered over, i.e. not re-rendered), and if it does change then it doesn't send the click, so that the user can see the new content and decide to tap on a new option. If the page doesn't change it sends the click after a short delay (a couple hundred milliseconds is what they said in the session on Desktop class browsing at WWDC).

The big change is that Safari on iPad now reports, via the user agent, that it is MacOS, not iOS, and they've updated how it handles events that can have conflicts on a touch based device.
Rating: 20 Votes
2 weeks ago
This whole narrative is a bit frustrating. iPhoneOS 1.0 promised a "desktop class browser" back in 2007. Look at this press release for example:


https://www.apple.com/newsroom/2007/01/09Apple-Reinvents-the-Phone-with-iPhone/

The whole point from the very beginning of iPhone was that the browser was a proper real browser and better than that WAP crud we had before. Then mobile optimization happened and we seemed to have ended up with something better than WAP but still not the promised desktop-class browser.

We keep being promised desktop-class browsing, but that seems to be elusive. What gives?

Rating: 18 Votes
2 weeks ago
Apple really made major leaps and bounds this year so far.
Rating: 13 Votes
2 weeks ago

This whole narrative is a bit frustrating. iPhoneOS 1.0 promised a "desktop class browser" back in 2007. Look at this press release for example:


https://www.apple.com/newsroom/2007/01/09Apple-Reinvents-the-Phone-with-iPhone/

The whole point from the very beginning of iPhone was that the browser was a proper real browser and better than that WAP crud we had before. Then mobile optimization happened and we seemed to have ended up with something better than WAP but still not the promised desktop-class browser.

We keep being promised desktop-class browsing, but that seems to be elusive. What gives?

Well, I understand how this could be confusing, but the iPhone did change mobile Internet. DO you remember how things were before the iPhone? The iPhone did improve things a lot and of course content was made especially for the iPhone. Websites are optimised for the iPhone and work really nice on the iPhone. On the iPad though, all we got was the same browser, with the same restrictions, with no way to distinguish between Safari on the iPhone and on the iPad. This is apparently changing now, so let's hope that we will get a better experience in Safari on the iPad.
Rating: 11 Votes
2 weeks ago
12 years
12 years!

Since iPhone was first revealed and many websites are completely unusable on iOS. The web experience on iPhone is so hit or miss due to VERY lazy webmasters. It's often like 1995 (or a lot worse) browsing the web on iPhone.

Wake up lazy webmasters! There's a billion of us iPhone users
Rating: 5 Votes
2 weeks ago

We keep being promised desktop-class browsing, but that seems to be elusive. What gives?

Like what, requesting a desktop version of a website? Because IMO it is painful to use full-sized websites on a phone-sized screen, especially when you consider the fact that they were only 3.5" back then.

Mobile-optimized websites do work fine in theory, it's just a matter of when they actually work, and Google clearly is the one at fault for not making their own websites properly support phones.
Rating: 5 Votes
2 weeks ago

This whole narrative is a bit frustrating. iPhoneOS 1.0 promised a "desktop class browser" back in 2007. Look at this press release for example:


https://www.apple.com/newsroom/2007/01/09Apple-Reinvents-the-Phone-with-iPhone/

The whole point from the very beginning of iPhone was that the browser was a proper real browser and better than that WAP crud we had before. Then mobile optimization happened and we seemed to have ended up with something better than WAP but still not the promised desktop-class browser.

We keep being promised desktop-class browsing, but that seems to be elusive. What gives?

Stupid developers doing stupid things with user agent strings and crap they shouldn't be messing with.

Mobile first with progressive enhancement. Boom, done. Don't get why so many companies and developers don't do this. If anything it's easier than making a bunch of custom versions for different user agent strings. You only maintain a single codebase for your site, and everything is neatly packaged into breakpoints with fewer and fewer modifications as you scale up. Build your site to be lean and functional on mobile and you have a great foundation for a desktop class site from the start. Instead, a lot of companies keep their existing desktop site and do stupid device tests that load completely separate bits of code. Sometimes the iPad version is so stripped down that it's practically unusable. Drives me crazy because it doesn't have to be that way.
Rating: 5 Votes
2 weeks ago

This whole narrative is a bit frustrating. iPhoneOS 1.0 promised a "desktop class browser" back in 2007. Look at this press release for example:


https://www.apple.com/newsroom/2007/01/09Apple-Reinvents-the-Phone-with-iPhone/

The whole point from the very beginning of iPhone was that the browser was a proper real browser and better than that WAP crud we had before. Then mobile optimization happened and we seemed to have ended up with something better than WAP but still not the promised desktop-class browser.

We keep being promised desktop-class browsing, but that seems to be elusive. What gives?

None of this is on Apple. The iPhone did provide a desktop class browser back in 2007. If you compared it to what was available on Symbian, Windows Mobile, and BlackBerry, it was like night and day. It's the web developers that crafted mobile-optimized sites who made phones feel second class again.

What's going on is that iPad will no longer identify as a mobile device, so webservers will properly serve non-mobile sites to it.
Rating: 4 Votes
2 weeks ago
Needs comparison with Chrome on ChromeOS which is the gold standard for desktop class browser on mobile devices.
Rating: 3 Votes
2 weeks ago
I just wanna be able to log into my damn Synology router on my iPad instead of having to be at my Mac or remoted into my pc on my iPad
Rating: 2 Votes

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