After an extra month or so delay, Apple has finally released iPadOS 16 to the public. Well, technically, it’s iPadOS 16.1. The wait means we’ve already skipped a version and are onto a “point update,” and that before anyone outside of beta testers even had a chance to try iPadOS 16. No matter what Apple is calling it, there are now new features and changes for your iPad, and they’re definietly worth updating for.
The truth is, there isn’t too much new on iPadOS 16.1 that you haven’t already seen with the iPhone versions, iOS 16 and iOS 16.1. Highlight features like editing and unsending iMessages, instantly lifting the subject out of any photo, and iCloud Photo Library have been around since September, so updating your iPad might feel less like a fresh experience and more like iPhone déjà vu.
That’s just the way things are going these days at Apple. The company is working continuously to merge the experiences of iPhone, iPad, and even Mac to make the entire ecosystem feel seamless. (You might be surprised how many macOS Ventura features are also iOS and iPadOS 16 features.)
However, there are a handful of features exclusive to the iPad. These features, coupled with the dozens of others shared across iOS and macOS, offer you plenty to explore with iPadOS 16.1.
But first, which iPads are compatible with iPadOS 16.1?
Apple didn’t make too many cuts this year for iPadOS 16.1. The only iPads running iPadOS 15 which didn’t make the jump to the next generation are the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 4. I still love my Air 2, even if it’s slow and no longer supported.
Here is the official list from Apple of supported iPads:
- iPad Pro (all models)
- iPad Air (third generation and later)
- iPad (fifth generation and later)
- iPad mini (fifth generation and later)
Knowing that, here are the exclusive iPadOS 16.1 features coming to these devices:
Without a doubt, the biggest new feature in iPadOS is Stage Manager. It’s Apple’s latest attempt to improve upon the multitasking experience on its tablets, inching closer to a traditional computer experience without committing to putting macOS on the iPad. (Apple included Stage Manager with macOS Ventura too.)
Stage Manager is a complex beast, and is likely why Apple delayed iPadOS 16 and macOS Ventura for a month. It’s also probably why the feature is disabled by default. If you want to use it, you’ll need to turn it on from “Home Screen & Multitasking” in Settings. Once you’re up and running, it works like this: When you open a new app, it’ll appear in the middle of your screen, rather than the typical full-screen experience you’re used to. You can then add up to three other apps to the current window, which ties all apps into a “pile.” While you can only have one pile on screen at once, other piles can run in the background, and you’ll see them and other open apps on the left side of the screen.
All windows are resizable, to a degree. Apple still has preset sizes, but the option are much more robust than they were in iPadOS 15 and before. While it isn’t a true desktop window management experience, it’s the first time you can have multiple floating windows open at the same time on your iPad, and I’m here for it.
You can customize Stage Manager to your liking, too. You can choose to hide the apps and piles on the left side of the display, as well as the dock. If you want even more room, choose “More Space” from Settings > Display & Brightness > View, which affects the display settings for your entire iPad.
From my brief experience with Stage Manager, here’s an essential tip: You can switch open windows with Globe + `, instead of Command + ` as you’d expect on your Mac.
This feature is only available on iPad Pro 11-inch (all generations), iPad Pro 12.9-inch (third generation and newer), and iPad Air (fifth generation).
If you work with color on your computer, it’s essential to correctly calibrate your your display. With a 12.9-inch M1 iPad Pro running iPadOS 16.1 or newer, you can use its screen as a reference display for “popular color standards,” as well as HDR and SDR video. You can also take advantage of this feature when working on the iPad itself.
There’s finally a Weather app
It only took twelve years, but Apple finally put a Weather app on the iPad. There’s nothing that makes the app specific to the iPad, either, other than the fact it’s huge. This is the Weather app you know and love from the iPhone, complete with animations, severe weather alerts, and plenty of data for you to comb through.
There’s still no Calculator app, though. Apple even added one to macOS this year. Go figure.
Apple really wants you to consider the iPad a computer-replacement, without actually supplying the device with a computer-like OS. Still, the company is touting new upgrades to apps this year that make them “desktop-class.” I think that’s a bit braggy, but the updates are undoubtedly useful.
For starters, you can now customize the toolbars in apps like Notes and Reminders, so you rearrange or remove items to your liking. You’ll see new menu options like Save, Close, and Duplicate in apps like Pages and Numbers. Find and Replace is now supported on your iPad as well, which will make editing text in apps like Mail, Messages, Reminders, and Swift Playgrounds easier. Finally, there’s a new Availability view in Calendar that will show you the availability of your invited participants for an event.
External display upgrades (coming later this year)
iPadOS 16 will support full screen external display support, including for Stage Manager. You’ll be able to add up to eight additional windows on the external display, and move files between your iPad and the monitor. Unfortunately, this feature is still in the works, and won’t launch until a future update. I normally wouldn’t include a feature that isn’t in the update that’s available, but this one was advertised as being part of iPadOS 16 from launch, so it’s important to clarify.