We’ve been saying it for years: the iPad is a phenomenally powerful and flexible piece of hardware held back by iPadOS. In 2019, Apple officially split iOS and iPadOS, signaling that the tablet’s software would grow in its own direction, and we’ve been waiting for it to pay off ever since. With iPadOS 16, we’re taking the first really big step in that direction.
There are dozens of new features, big and small, but these are the four biggest things that could change the way you use your iPad. Don’t forget, the iPad also got many of the new features of iOS, such as iMessage editing, Live Text updates, iCloud Shared Photo Library, and so on. But these are the four features that will change the way you use your iPad.
iPad multitasking is quite a mess. There’s split view and slideover and resizable views (except when you can’t) and you can’t see the dock except when you can…and it’s all enabled with gestures that causal users don’t seem to figure out .
iPadOS 16 won’t fix this mess, but it is doing add a new mode that brings us closer Real multitasking on the iPad. It’s called Stage Manager and it’s only available on iPads with an A12X, A12Z, M1, or M2 processor (the latest iPad Air and recent iPad Pros).
You just drag up in the lower right corner of the screen to resize the current app to a floating window, with the dock and other recent apps displayed along the left edge. Apps can overlap, you can drag and drop between them, and you can even create groups of apps for your different tasks. This works with new full support for external displays, allowing you to run up to four apps on your iPad and four Lake apps on the external display. (This feature is coming soon and is limited to M1 iPads.)
It’s still a work in progress, but it’s an important building block in making the iPad a more powerful productivity device.
Collaborative Document Editing
When you share a document with the Share sheet with someone today, you are really just sending that person a copy. With iOS 16, you can choose between that or Collaborate, which sends a link via Messages to one or more people that allows those documents to be edited between everyone in the Messages conversation. When you send a share from a Messages group in this way, everyone is automatically added and the Messages thread is updated whenever someone makes a change.
You can even start a FaceTime call with the entire collaboration group with just a few taps. This is going to work with most of Apple’s apps – Files, Keynote, Numbers, Pages, Notes, Reminders, and Safari for starters – and third-party developers can also use this feature with a new API.
This is also coming to iOS and macOS, but Apple emphasized it as an iPadOS feature, and for good reason: This kind of collaborative on-the-go productivity is the kind of thing tablets were made for.
The weather is coming to the iPad
We know it’s only one app, but we’ve been bugging Apple with this for years: The iPad has a Weather widget like the one on the iPhone, but it just opens a web page to a third-party weather site when you tap . am working on it. With iOS 16, the iPad And last but not least gets its own dedicated weather app, reconfigured for the bigger screen.
But there is more than that. As predicted when Apple bought Dark Sky in 2020, it is creating a new WeatherKit framework that will allow developers to add weather data to their own apps as well. Where is Calculator now? Looks like we’ll have to wait for iOS 17 for that.
Desktop Class Apps
Apps on the iPad have always had more robust interfaces than their iPhone counterparts, but they are still hampered by the limitations of iOS. Not anymore: iOS 16 has support for desktop-class apps like the ones on our Macs, and it will make a huge difference in how we use our tablets.
Last week, Apple announced that DaVinci Resolve is coming to the M1 and M2 iPad Pro, but it’s not just high-end productivity apps that will benefit from the new feature. Developers now have access to customizable toolbars and menus, system-wide search and replace, consistent undo, and more control over filenames in Files. Add the addition of a set of function keys to the latest iPad keyboard and we’re getting very close to a time when the iPad will actually be considered a Mac replacement.
It will take developers a while to update their apps with the new tools (Resolve won’t be coming until later in 2022), but iOS 16 lays the groundwork for the iPad to become the powerful productivity tool we’ve always wanted. Now if only Apple would bring us Final Cut Pro.