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iPhone vs iPad: Developing iOS Applications

iPhone vs iPad

Let’s start with the basics. iOS stands for iPhone operating system. An operating system is the main software in a device — be it a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop — that enables programs to run. Without an operating system, your device would be unable to carry out the most basic functions and there would be no user interface for you to interact with.

iOS is the operating system used for Apple’s smartphones and until recently, their range of tablets, too. In 2019, Apple unveiled iPadOS 3, the iPad’s own unique operating system. The company announced that the increasingly unique range of features offered by the iPad meant that it was high time it was supported by its own operating system.

iOS is responsible for many of the user interactions that are quintessentially Apple — swiping, tapping, and pinching the screen, for example.

The ‘opposite’ (for want of a better term) of iOS is the Android operating system. While the Android system is ‘open source’ (meaning anyone can contribute to its development), iOS is proprietary. Apple has complete ownership of the software and only approved Apple devices are able to download the operating system.

While iOS devices come preloaded with a range of critical applications, such as an internet browser and email platform, users are able to download additional apps from the App Store. Mobile app development is an ever-growing industry, with companies from all types of industries looking to capitalize on the digitized marketplace by bringing out their own iOS applications.

Developing Apple apps

It goes without saying that the iPhone and the iPad are quite different devices. If you have ever browsed the App Store in the hope of downloading your favorite iPhone app to your iPad, you may have come up short — many iPhone applications are not available in tablet format and vice versa. But why is this?

Apple has very strict requirements when it comes to the type of apps that can be advertised and sold on the App Store. The company has worked for a long time to ensure that users have the best experience possible using their devices, and so are very protective over their brand and marketplace.

Apple apps can be broken up into four categories, dictating what devices they can be used on:

  • iPhone only: Apps that are built solely for the iPhone and cannot be downloaded to the iPad.
  • iPhone-specific: These apps have been built with the iPhone in mind. However, they can work on the iPad. The screen will usually appear smaller (or may have the option to zoom in, creating pixelated visuals) and the interface may be limited.
  • iPad only: Apps that are built solely for the iPad and cannot be downloaded to the iPhone. There are very few of these apps; they tend to be programs that require a larger screen, such as a sketchbook or presentation-based application.
  • Universal: These apps provide the same experience on iPhone and iPad. In Apple’s dream world, all apps would be universal in nature.

iPhone vs iPad: what’s the difference?

You might ask then, why don’t all developers create universal apps?

Well, there are a couple of reasons for this. To start with, you need to understand that an iPad is not simply a larger iPhone. There are inherent differences in the types of features offered by each device and the user interface. Not all developers understand (or care about) these differences and the impact that they have on user experience.

The main differences can be summarized as follows:

Screen size

It goes without saying that the iPad is bigger than the iPhone. If we are to take the two device’s latest models — the iPhone 12 Pro and the iPad Pro, the former has a screen size of 6.06 inches while the latter sits at around 12.9 inches.

Some developers choose to build iPhone-specific apps and figure that iPad users can simply put up with a smaller or pixelated interface. While this may have been okay in Apple’s eyes a few years ago, they have shown an increased preference for universal apps that work across all screen sizes.

Screen usage

It is not only the size of the screen itself but also the manner in which you can use it. The larger iPad interface means that developers have the option to include features that depend on multi-screen capabilities, opening up a whole new world of opportunities. The iPhone is somewhat more limited in this respect.


Generally speaking, iPhone users prefer to browse in portrait mode where-else iPad users have a preference for landscape. Ideally, your app should function perfectly across both orientations but if you have to pick one over the other, it’s important to keep these predispositions in mind.

How Apple helps developers succeed

If you want your app to be successful, it’s important that you make it compatible with both iPad and iPhone. Doing so ensures that it will reach as broad a target audience as possible. In addition, Apple announced last year that they were providing users with the option to purchase iPhone, iPad, and Mac apps as a universal bundle, making it easier than ever for developers to get their products into the hands of users — providing that their product is suitable for cross-platform use.

This is not the only change that Apple has recently made to support the work of developers. Swift Playgrounds, a coding app developed by Apple, is set to undergo major changes that align with the release of iOS 15, meaning that iPad users will be able to code and release apps straight from their device. Previously iPad apps had to be built on an iMac, which was not a particularly user-intuitive process. know more about iPhone Repair in Dubai.

As mentioned, Apple prides itself on providing an engaging and authentic user experience across all of its devices. With that in mind, the best way to ensure your app succeeds is to prioritize UX. If you’re not sure what UX is or don’t think you have the tech skills to support your vision, why not contact a team that specializes in iOS application development? Working collaboratively with professionals means that your great idea will transfer seamlessly to the larger screen of the iPad, alongside the handheld iPhone display.