I'm transitioning from an iPhone app to iPad, in the iPhone version I have a view hierarchy similar to this:

iPhone_list iPhone_item

That is, an UITableView, while tapping on a cell the app navigates to another view with it's details. From that view, it's also possible to enable the edition of the current item.

On the iPad, I've a split view that is intended to be hidden when device in portrait, as Mail app does:


I don´t know what following options should be more appropriate, from the point of view using UX and from the point of view of the iOS HIG:

a) A form sheet modal view, similar to the one that is displayed in iTunes for iPad when a movie or another thing is selected. Then, when tapping the "Edit item" button, I don´t know if I'd navigate to the "New Item" form inside that same modal view, or display another modal view on top of this one (in iPhone, such "New Item" form is a modal view):


b) A popover. Then, I don´t know if I should keep the edition form inside the popover, or display it in a modal view:


Another consideration: tapping the image placeholder, a camera view should appear to let the user take a picture. A thumbnail is shown in such placeholder.

Thanks in advance

EDIT: To just display the details of a cell, without having the need to enable an edition mode nor any user interaction, which option should be the best? A modal view, a popover, or a full screen navigation?

  • Hi AppsDev, I actually have a question about your question. What is it about moving from iPhone to iPad (in your description) that prompted you to determine a popover modal model? I'm actually designing an iPhone app, and am thinking about the exact same design, where tapping a graphical item (thumbnail, icon, etc) in the main screen would darken the main screen and put a vertically and horizontally centered popup over it. Have you already tried that for the iPhone and failed? I like the popover idea because the main screen behind it is still partially visible, hinting at the other options. Commented Oct 3, 2013 at 12:54

5 Answers 5


You would use the popover for smaller, more transient tasks.

If there are multiple views that the user can find under this view, you would use a modal view.

For example, if the user is simply viewing the details (with the option to edit) of an entry in your table, then you would want to use a popover. This is what you mentioned in your question, so in your case a popover would be a better answer.

If you were displaying information with its own navigation controller, where the user could move into a view heirarchy within the pop-up, you would want to use a modal view. The user is going to hold a navigation path in their head for this view, it doesn't just come up with the one view and disappear.

This isn't a firm guideline - there are definitely times when it is good to use a popover and there are several views, but in general:

  • For single tasks (view, edit, change settings), use a popover.

  • For pop-ups with multiple options (add account, change display settings, and subscribe to email updates all from the same pop-up) and/or more involved tasks, use a modal view.

Also, note that you don't want any button to dismiss the popover, users will know to tap away from the popover when they want to dismiss it. From the HIG:

Avoid providing a “dismiss popover” button. A popover should close automatically when its presence is no longer necessary.

You can find a discussion in the HIG here.


Why not fully embrace the navigation model of iOS?

Selecting and item would open the item in a new screen that would slide from the right (giving the impression of diving deeper towards the right hand side). From there, a back button would show on the header, with which a user can return to the list of items.

  • I was considering modal views or popovers because maybe the item won't have information enough to fill the whole screen, and I thought these ways could offer a better appearance...
    – AppsDev
    Commented May 28, 2013 at 11:58
  • If I do as you say, then the button for displaying the left pane should be replaced by the "back" button, or can I have both?
    – AppsDev
    Commented May 28, 2013 at 12:01
  • First, it seems there's enough to fill a whole page, if you have a title, and a picture and a list of details (as seen on your mock-up). You can also pay more respect to the picture by making it bigger.
    – Dvir Adler
    Commented May 28, 2013 at 13:04
  • Regarding the placing of the buttons, I didn't understand you. What button displays the left pane? Can you elaborate?
    – Dvir Adler
    Commented May 28, 2013 at 13:05
  • I meant... if you see my last two iPad mockups, I have a button in the left side of the nav bar ("Options"), since I'm thinking about having a left side panel for the split view that you can hide and show again by tapping that button, such Mail app does. So, if I navigate to a full screen edition view in a similar way I shown in the iPhone mockup, and a "back" button appears in the nav bar... should I place the "Options" button next? I don´t find any app showing an example like this...
    – AppsDev
    Commented May 28, 2013 at 13:34

I think this all depends on how you want your users' story to be.

  • Do you want the user to browse the 'list' content while being able to browse the options? Do you want to lower the chances of the user getting lost. Then a flyout might work.

  • If you want to focus the user and 'break' their "flow", then a modal might work. A modal will make them pause, and hopefully force them to focus on what is in the modal.

  • If you want them to reference other things on the page and to be able to quickly get to options without breaking the way they are browsing then a dropdown will allow them to do that.

Obviously, you will also want to consider what you users are most used too and how to keep your applications consistent, not only with itself as an iPad app, but with its iPhone version.


Edit in the same Detail view. Your user will be use to this if you've done this on the iphone.

Master & Detail view. Refer to Settings app to display a list of items (Master) and the item on the right (Detail)


If I need to add one more "pattern" or solution to the problem - would be having an interface alike "Settings" on ipad, which shows list view and shows necessary details (new page by sliding) of the clicked item. I think this serves better if your details are not simple and you had mentioned that a camera function needs to be adopted.

It looks there is a complexity (I mean when parallel functions like Hardware facilities need to be triggered) to the already existing interaction where simple details about an item is best understood you let go - post reading the details (viz.popovers, modal views).

The flip-side is if you have a modal view or popover, users understand that to click outside the specific window to close the transition phase, which may incase be accidentally triggered when users are trying to get hold of the camera function (vulnerable high).In worst case, if you do not provide this function and substitute with a "x" or "close" button - its well understood that a screen "dismiss" is more a add-on function or task or keystroke for the user (saying vs. opening a task or a keystroke to enable)

Go for a full-page or seperate page, it may suit your content and usage and may result as a emphatetic design and lets users remain empowered.

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