Apple’s WWDC keynote kicks off in less than two weeks, and we’re anticipating a great show packed with new OS features and hopefully some new hardware. We’re looking forward to big updates to iOS and macOS—but what we want most of all is some meaningful changes to iPadOS.
Since iPadOS launched in 2019, Apple hasn’t given it the attention or identity it deserves. Last year, it got the App Library and an underwhelming implementation of desktop widgets, but we’re hoping iPadOS 16 is finally the update that elevates Apple’s tablet. Here are eight features we want to see unveiled at WWDC.
This is one of those feature requests that show up on everyone’s wishlist every year, and it’ll stay until Apple decides to do something about it. It’s simple: if Apple wants the iPad to offer a better computer experience, it needs to allow for multiple user accounts. Like the Mac, people share iPads amongst family members and roommates, and you shouldn’t need to be tied to a single iCloud account.
For as good as the iPad Pro’s hardware, form factor, and the processor is, it’s still stuck with the same interface as its distant $329 cousin and heavily hamstrung by iOS. And as it stands, the Magic Keyboard is more of a convenient desktop accessory than a productivity tool, but giving it a new interface would make it far more useful. A desktop or pro mode would instantly change that.
Google does something similar with its Chrome tablets, but Apple could do it better with a hybrid macOS-iPadOS environment that seamlessly switches between tablet and desktop mode while unlocking the benefits of a touchpad with an intuitive, powerful interface.
Speaking of pro mode, if Apple wants the iPad to be an alternative to a desktop computer, it needs desktop-caliber apps. Plenty of third-party developers make them—Adobe, Pixelmator, Shapr3D—but Apple’s main apps are missing in action on the iPad. Where’s Final Cut Pro? Xcode? Logic Pro? Motion? It’s been more than six years since Apple released the iPad Pro and we’re still waiting for Apple to release a single pro app for it.
External monitor support
The iPad technically supports external displays, but it’s about as rudimentary as it gets. When you plug an iPad into an external display, you’ll see an identical home screen to what’s on your iPad, with ugly black bars on each side. Yes, some apps take advantage of the unique dual-screen capabilities, such as Procreate and LumaFusion, but for the most part, the experience is less than great. Much like the Magic Keyboard suggestion above, we’d love to plug an iPad into an external display and get an expansive desktop like the Mac.
iPadOS 15 has a very cool feature called Quick Notes that lets you swipe from the edge of the screen to bring up a floating square that lets you quickly jot down your thoughts and then swipe it away. It’s a neat feature that’s frustrating because it’s so limited. If Apple can do this instant access with Notes, it can be done with a calculator, Music, Messages—any app that doesn’t need more than a small window and a few seconds of interactions. It’s not unlike our wish for interactive widgets on the iPhone, but they’d be even more useful on the iPad, where multitasking is key to the experience.
Speaking of multitasking, iPadOS is in major need of an upgrade. The current incarnation is confusing and clunky, and Apple’s changes in iOS 15—the Shelf and three-dot menu—try to clear up some of the confusion while adding unnecessary layers of complexity. Someone new to the iPad can’t just turn on their tablet and instantly know how to multitask—and we’re willing to bet that many, if not most iPad users don’t even know how to use split-screen and slide over.
On the Mac, there’s nothing to learn. Someone brand new to the platform will instantly know how to multitask without a tutorial or a learning curve. Multitasking on the iPad doesn’t have to be like the Mac, but it does need the same level of intuition.
We understand why Apple likes the grid on the iPhone. With a small screen, icons and apps need to be neat and organized, but that’s not as important with a tablet. Ever since its debut in 2010, the iPad has been saddled with the iPhone grid that’s too spacious, too confining, and too limiting. And now that we have desktop widgets, the constraints feel even more restrictive.
Widgets on the iPad could be a better experience, but Apple stopped well short of giving us a customizable, personalized desktop. Rather than have them all jumbled at the top of the grid, icons should be able to be placed anywhere on the screen and locked to the closest grid. Then we could create an iPad desktop that we actually don’t mind looking at.
There are reports that Apple is planning to launch a few “fresh” apps at WWDC, but all we really want is the missing iOS apps to come to the iPad: notably, Weather, Wallet, Calculator, and Health. We don’t know why they’re not there, but it’s high time Apple added them.
Michael Simon has been covering Apple since the iPod was the iWalk. His obsession with technology goes back to his first PC—the IBM Thinkpad with the lift-up keyboard for swapping out the drive. He's still waiting for that to come back in style tbh.