We’ve been saying it for years: The iPad is a phenomenally powerful and flexible piece of hardware that’s being held back by iPadOS. In 2019, Apple officially split iOS and iPadOS, signaling that the tablets software would grow in its own direction, and we’ve been waiting for that to bear fruit ever since. With iPadOS 16, we’re getting the first real 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. Remember, iPad is getting many of the new features found in iOS like SharePlay in Messages, Live Text updates, iCloud Shared Photo Library, and so on. These are the features particular to iPadOS that have us most excited.
iPad multitasking is kind of a mess. There’s split view and slide over and resizable views (except when they’re not) and you can’t see the dock, except when you can… and it’s all enabled with gestures that causal users can’t seem to figure out.
iPadOS 16 doesn’t fix this mess, but it does add a new mode that gives you real multitasking on the iPad. It’s called Stage Manager and it’s only available on iPads with an M1 processor or later (the latest iPad Air and iPad Pros).
You simply drag up on the lower-right corner of the screen to resize the current app into a floating window, showing the dock and other recent apps 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 external display support, allowing you to put up to four apps on your iPad and four more apps on the external display.
Finally, real multitasking power that takes advantage of the M1 chip in the latest iPads!
Collaborative document editing
Today, when you share a document with the Share sheet with someone, you’re really only sending them a copy. With iOS 16, you’ll be able to choose between that or “Collaborate,” which will send a link via Messages to one or more people that provides editing of those documents between everyone in the Messages conversation. When you send a share this way from a Messages group, everyone is automatically added, and the Messages thread is updated whenever someone makes a change.
You can even kick off a FaceTime call with the whole collaboration group with just a couple taps. This is going to work with most of Apple’s apps—Files, Keynote, Numbers, Pages, Notes, Reminders, and Safari to start—and third-party developers will be able to tap into this feature as well with a new API.
This is coming to iOS and macOS as well, but Apple highlighted it as an iPadOS feature, and for good reason–this sort of collaborative on-the-go productivity is the kind of thing tablets are made for.
Weather comes to iPad
We know it’s just one app, but we’ve been bugging Apple about this for years: The iPad has had a Weather widget just like the one on iPhone, but it just opens a web page to a third-party weather site when you tap on it. With iOS 16, the iPad finally gets the Weather app, reconfigured for the larger display.
But there’s more than that. As predicted back when Apple purchased Dark Sky in 2020, it’s making a new WeatherKit framework that lets them add weather data into their own apps too.
Now, where is Calculator? It looks like we’ll need to wait for iOS 17 for that.
Freeform collaboration app
Freeform is a new collaboration app coming to iPadOS 16 “later this year,” which means it’s not likely going to be there at the iPadOS 16 launch. But it’s pretty slick, and it speaks to the way Apple is starting to reposition the iPad as a collaborative productivity device.
Real-time idea collaboration boards are not new, but Freeform is Apple’s take on the idea. It’s basically a big flexible canvas that lets you drop almost anything onto it–PDFs, Notes, images, audio, web links, and more–seeing them all in preview. Then you can add notes or draw anywhere with Apple Pencil support. Live cursors show you where others are working, and you can pan and zoom around to explore the whole space of ideas. It looks pretty slick and could truly transform the way we work on our iPads.