Since the launch of the first-generation iPad in 2010, Apple has dominated the tablet market. Originally launching with iPhone OS 3.2, the first-generation 9.7″ iPad was architecturally akin to a large iPhone. With successive models, Apple has differentiated the iPad from the iPhone by adding support for input methods such as the Apple Pencil, and different screen sizes such as the 7.9″ iPad Mini, and the 11″ and 12.9″ iPad Pro and the 11″ and 12.9″ iPad Pro with M1 chip.
As the iPad lineup has expanded into a wholly separate product category, Apple announced at its 2019 Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) that it has rebranded iOS for iPad as iPadOS, starting with iOS 13, to highlight and target the features that differentiate the iPad from other devices. This follows Apple’s naming trend of watchOS for Apple Watch and tvOS for Apple TV.
TechRepublic’s cheat sheet for iPadOS is an overview of the software’s features. This article will be updated periodically as new information about iPadOS becomes available. You can also download this article: Apple iPadOS: A cheat sheet (free PDF).
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- What is iPadOS?
- What are the main features of iPadOS?
- What is the latest iPadOS version?
- What is the release date for iPadOS 16?
- Which iPads are compatible with iPadOS 16?
- How can you tell what version of iPadOS you have?
- When was iPadOS released?
- How do I get iPadOS?
What is iPadOS?
For the release of iOS 13, Apple rebranded the variant of iOS for the iPad as iPadOS, effectively making it a superset of the phone-oriented iOS. iPadOS includes all of the improvements available with iOS 13, as well as new features and optimizations specific to the iPad.
“iPad transforms how people work and express their creativity, and with iPadOS, we’re taking it even further by delivering exciting capabilities that take advantage of its large canvas and versatility,” said Craig Federighi at the WWDC 2019 event. “iPadOS delivers exciting features, including a new Home screen with widgets, more powerful multitasking and new tools that make using Apple Pencil even more natural.”
Today, iPadOS 16 transforms the iPad into a more desktop-class experience that is on par with what you would expect from macOS and departs a lot from the previous experience that was a bigger iOS operating system.
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What are the main features of iPadOS?
iPadOS brings the iPad closer to feature parity with the entry-level MacBook, making it more possible to use as a laptop replacement. iPadOS includes the following features.
Tablet-oriented home screen
The iPadOS home screen now supports persistent widgets. The iPadOS home screen will support Home Screen widgets on iPadOS 15 and newer. Users can place and organize widgets on the home screen the way they would an app (similar to widgets on Android tablets since Android 3.0).
Users can move between Slide Over apps by swiping along the bottom or swiping up to see all the apps in the Slide Over view. Slide Over apps can be moved to full screen by dragging them to the top or closed by opening to the app switcher and flicking the app upward.
The Multitasking feature available on iPadOS 15 and newer makes it easier to find and use apps on iPad. Users can use a single app in full screen mode or use multiple apps simultaneously in the Split View or Slide Over mode.
The new center window feature allows users to touch and hold to bring notes or messages to the center of the screen without leaving the current task. With easy menu options, users can access additional options without interrupting whatever task they’re currently working on.
Safari now loads the desktop version of web pages, optimized for touchscreens, as well as better support for Google Docs and WordPress editor. Some 30 new keyboard shortcuts were also added to Safari.
External drive support
USB drives and SD cards are now supported in Files, making it possible to plug in to an iPad directly without needing a third-party program or an intermediary Mac for file management.
Improvements to Files app
Files adds a column view similar to Finder on macOS as well as support for Server Message Block (SMB) shares.
Cameras can be connected directly to the iPad, and photos can be imported for editing on iPad apps, such as Adobe Lightroom.
Fonts can be downloaded from the App Store for use in various apps.
New gestures for faster editing
Copy, paste and undo can now be performed using three-finger gestures, with three-finger pinch to copy, three-finger spread to paste and three-finger swipe to undo. This feature is available for first-party and third-party apps.
Apple Pencil improvements
Swiping from the corner of the screen with Apple Pencil opens the markup view, allowing users to annotate anything on the screen and export it. Latency for Apple Pencil was also decreased from 20ms to 9ms.
At WWDC 2021, Apple announced new capabilities for the Apple Pencil. Users can add notes by swiping up on the screen with the Pencil and then writing a Quick Note. Users can also add links/URLs to save a Quick Note for each site they visit. The Quick Note will automatically be available when the user returns to the same website. Quick Notes are also accessible via Notes.
The Apple Pencil Quick Notes feature is available on macOS and iPadOS and can be accessed on iOS.
Users can extend their macOS desktop onto the iPad as a second display or mirror content between both displays. When used in conjunction with the Apple Pencil, Sidecar can make the iPad usable as a drawing tablet. Sidecar works via a wired connection or wirelessly within 10 meters.
There is support for Apple’s Magic Keyboard, Magic Mouse 2 and Magic Trackpad 2 as well as third-party accessories connected over Bluetooth or USB. When you connect a mouse or trackpad to the iPad, it provides a circular cursor that you can move across the screen and interact with elements on the screen. multi-touch gestures also just work on the trackpad as well, allowing the user to never need to take their hands off the keyboard and trackpad/mouse.
This feature in iPadOS 14 for Apple Pencil allows Pencil owners to handwrite in any text field and have it automatically translated from handwriting to type. On launch, it supported English and traditional and simplified Chinese, and could even distinguish between the two when used together in the same text field.
Apple’s Translate app is available with new features in iPadOS 15. iPad uses a new auto-translate feature that detects when a person is speaking, so no button pushing is required in order to translate spoken words. Users can translate text from anywhere within their iPad screen (email, Safari/web browsing, texts etc.).
At WWDC 2021, Apple announced Swift Playgrounds, which allows developers to build apps directly on iPad via Swift UI. Using Swift Playgrounds, developers can immediately see their coding changes reflected in preview mode. Those who are new to app development are in luck—Swift Playgrounds offers a guide to creating your first app, and it can even be submitted directly to the App Store for iPhone and iPad.
A new tool slated for release in iPadOS 16, Stage Manager is a new multitasking model for iPad that allows for multiple iPad apps in windows to be displayed at a single time on the iPad. Even multiple overlapping and resizable windows are available to users.
External Display Support
With iPad Pro or iPad Air with M1 chips, users can connect external monitors and extend or mirror the iPad screen on the larger display to display even more apps at a single time, even dragging and dropping files and apps between displays.
With iPadOS 16, Apple is devoting more customizations to iPadOS than typically was shared between iOS and iPadOS. With the new iterations of iPadOS, desktop-class apps are possible, including minor details like being able to customize tab bar items; undo and redo in more places; change file extensions and check file sizes in Files app; and duplicate, rename, and export files in more places.
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What is the latest iPadOS version?
The current version number of iPadOS mirrors the release of iOS and is updated annually at Apple’s WWDC typically held in June each year. As of August 2022, the current shipping version of iPadOS is iPadOS 15; however, Apple unveiled iPadOS 16 at WWDC ’22, which is slated for a Fall 2022 release due to shipping delays.
What is the release date for iPadOS 16?
iPadOS 16 was initially scheduled for release around the time that iOS 16 was scheduled to be released: September 2022; however due to delays in shipping, iPadOS 16 is now slated to be shipping in Fall 2022, which is fully expected to be in the late-September to mid-October time frame.
Which iPads are compatible with iPadOS 16?
iPadOS 16 will work with the following models of iPad:
- iPad Pro (all models)
- iPad Air (3rd generation and later)
- iPad (5th generation and later)
- iPad mini (5th generation and later)
With iPadOS 16, Apple dropped support for iPad Air 2 and iPad 4th generation. If you have an older iPad, then iPadOS 15 can run on the following devices:
- iPad Pro (all models)
- iPad Air (2nd generation and later)
- iPad (5th generation and later)
- iPad mini (4th generation and later)
How can you tell what version of iPadOS you have?
If you’re unsure about which version of iPadOS your iPad is currently running, then you can check it by performing these steps:
- Open the Settings app.
- Select General > About.
- Under Software Version, you can see the version your iPad is running.
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When was iPadOS released?
Apple first announced iPadOS at WWDC 2019. The company announced iPadOS 14 at WWDC 2020; developer betas were made available on June 22, 2020—the day of the announcement. The public beta for iPadOS 14 was released on July 9, 2020, and the final release was on Sept. 16, 2020. Apple released iPadOS 14.5 on April 26, 2021.
iPadOS 15 was announced at WWDC 2021 on June 7, 2021; the public beta was released on June 30, 2021; and the public release of iPadOS 15 was available for download on Sept. 20, 2021.
iPadOS 16 was announced at WWDC ’22 on June 6, 2022; the public beta of iPadOS 16 was released on July 11, 2022. The public release of iPadOS 16 is scheduled for “Fall” (generally October) 2022.
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How do I get iPadOS?
The update is now available on compatible iPad models. To update, open the Settings app, and go to General > Software Update. For users of LTE-capable iPads, connecting to Wi-Fi is advisable to avoid overages or throttling as a result of downloading the update.
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