Photoshop Is Coming to Your iPad Soon (But May Be Missing Key Features)

Photoshop for iPad Credit: Adobe
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Last year, Adobe pleasantly surprised eager iPad users with the announcement that it would be bringing a full version of Photoshop to the iPad, creating a tablet version of Photoshop CC that would be unified with its Mac and Windows counterparts.

The move was hailed by many as a sign that the iPad Pro was finally ready for prime time, and Adobe had promised to not only deliver a “real” Photoshop experience to the iPad, but also optimize the user interface for the tablet and provide smooth and seamless round-tripping of projects between the iPad, Mac, and Windows versions of Photoshop.

Although Adobe’s original announcement last fall was more about the company’s overall vision than the product itself, Adobe actually debuted the app at its 99U Conference in New York City last spring, giving everybody a first tangible look at what shape it would be taking. Immediately after that, Adobe also opened up applications to beta testers, raising hopes that we’d soon see the finished product.

Is This the Real Deal?

When Adobe unveiled its plans for Photoshop for iPad, it made a lot of noise that what is was delivering was a “real” Photoshop experience. That it would share the same code base, and therefore offer the same powerful features as its desktop counterparts.

This is real Photoshop on the iPad, the same underlying code and algorithms you rely on every day, with a reimagined user experience to take advantage of the uniquenesses of the device.


Sadly, however, it seems as though Adobe’s plans might have been overly optimistic. According to Bloomberg, while Adobe is still on track to launch Photoshop for iPad by the end of this year, it looks like it may need to make some compromises on its original promises in order to meet that goal.

Adobe is expected to hold its annual creative “Max” conference in Los Angeles next month, and will provide an update on Photoshop for iPad at that time, although it’s unclear if that event will actually herald the release of the new app, which according to beta testers, isn’t as ready as many hoped it would be.

Participants in Adobe’s beta program have told Bloomberg News that there are a surprising number of features that haven’t yet made it into the iPad version of Photoshop, and these aren’t just minor things either — they’re described as “well-established features” that really should have been part of the release.

For example, many core functions like filters, the pen tool, and custom paintbrush libraries are either missing features, or have opted for less sophisticated (and therefore more limiting) implementations of them.

Feature-wise, it feels like a beefed-up cloud-based version of their existing iPad apps and not ‘real Photoshop’ as advertised.

Photoshop for iPad beta tester

In fact, several testers have called the app “rudimentary” and said that right now it doesn’t even measure up to existing iPad apps like Procreate and Affinity.

‘Coming in Hot’

According to Scott Belsky, Adobe’s chief product officer for Creative Cloud, however, the beta feature set doesn’t represent the final version of what Adobe plans to release to consumers. Belsky notes that due to Adobe’s need to collaborate with Apple in some areas, possibly related to iOS 13, a lot of features will be “coming in hot” immediately ahead of the launch.

Of course, the downside is that this means that some of these features won’t have been nearly as well-tested, raising questions about a less polished “v1.0” release, but Belsky also adds that Adobe isn’t being overzealous here either, conceding that there will still be some familiar features that won’t make it into the first release, but that Adobe definitely plans to iterate on the product to eventually get everything in there.

Launching every single feature that was accumulated over 25 years on the iPad on day one would not best serve our customers and the needs they have.

Scott Belsky, chief product officer, Adobe Creative Cloud

To be fair, Adobe insists that its engineers have put most of their efforts behind those Photoshop functions that they think will be most useful for customers out of the gate. The fact that it can “work with any Photoshop file in the world” and provide full non-destructive layer editing are likely to be huge selling points by themselves, and Adobe is also trying to make the iPad version of Photoshop more accessible for beginners while still offering most of the power that professionals expect, which is a much tighter line to walk.

While it may sound a bit like marketing spin in retrospect, Belsky also makes the distinction that when Adobe said it would provide the “real” Photoshop experience, they weren’t necessarily talking about the “full” Photoshop experience. “I want to say it’s the best product in the world for specific workflows and not have to apologize that it’s not full because that’s not what the customer needs,” Belsky notes, while also adding that he thinks customers will still be very impressed when they see the final product. “I couldn’t be more proud of where we landed,” he added. “People will see for themselves.”

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