Apple might render Luna and Duet Display obsolete with enabling native support to use a connected iPad as an external Mac display

Apr 20, 2019

Astro’s Luna Display provides the most seamless tethered drawing experience on the iPad (Photo by Astro HQ)

Whether you’d like to use your iPad as a drawing display or merely as an extension of your Mac’s screen real estate, you will find numerous third-party solutions in the App Store. In these systems, your Mac's desktop is mirrored/extended to your other screens, in a way that as you drag a window off one, it appears on the other. What is ingenious in these setups is that you can not only see the regular macOS interface on your iPad, but you can also touch the screen and use the Apple Pencil. We already introduced two of the best-known companies effectively turning the iPad into a Wacom-like drawing tablet, called Duet and Astro HQ. While Duet provides a purely software-based experience, Astro HQ went even further when introduced Luna Display, a tiny hardware dongle, leveraging the power of your computer’s GPU making the experience as seamless as possible. It is no secret, that digitalEPIGRAPHY was blown away by the performance Astropad Studio delivers when used with Luna Display. 

According to a new report from 9To5Mac, Apple is now working on making this seamless experience baked into the Mac with a feature that would let you pair your iPad with your Mac to turn your iPad into a secondary Mac display in a similar manner. This feature, code-named Sidecar, could ship with macOS 10.15, the next major version of Apple’s desktop OS, coming this fall. The new system will have a feature to allow users sending any window of any app to an external display by the click of a button. Apparently, this external display can be an actual external display/monitor connected to the Mac or even an iPad! The site also has some information about how the feature might work. “This new menu will be opened by hovering over the green maximize button in a Mac app window for a split second. The menu will have options for making the window full screen, tiling and moving to external displays, including the user’s iPads and external displays connected to the Mac. Selecting one of the display options moves the current window to the selected external display or iPad, in full screen.

The new feature will let you pair your iPad with your Mac to turn your iPad into a secondary Mac display

Users with an iPad that supports Apple Pencil will also be able to draw with the Pencil on iPad when it’s being used as an external display for the Mac, effectively turning the iPad into a Wacom-like tablet. Engineers are also working on options that will allow windows to be easily snapped to one side of the screen, like a feature that already exists on Windows.” 

While in regular use you will control Sidecar through these on-screen controls, there is likely to be a considerable difference in the underlying hardware to make it work as seamlessly as Luna Display. If so, that will mean the feature may not work with all devices. It is also not clear whether Apple’s system would function wirelessly or if you’d have to connect an iPad through a physical cable, nor does the report say which iPad models would support the feature.

Nonetheless, it very much sounds like Apple is going to bake these setups into the Mac as a native feature. Naturally, it could boost iPad sales for MacBook users, and MacBook sales for iPad users. Furthermore, it could create a powerful pairing for digital epigraphers/artist working with a Mac and an iPad Pro its less powerful cousin, the new iPad Air. What it also means is that project sidecarmight render popular third-party options like Luna or Duet Display obsolete…

With Luna Display, you can even use your iPad as the primary display for your Mac mini (Photo by Astro HQ)

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