Weeks after introducing its most powerful iPad Pro devices ever, Apple is today announcing the latest version of iPadOS — and there’s a clear focus on making Apple’s tablets more capable productivity machines. At least if you find yourself using split-screen mode a lot, that is. Otherwise, there aren’t any radical changes for the platform.
As rumored, iPadOS 15 will make the homescreen more customizable and allow for more flexible placement of widgets. You can now stick them anywhere you’d like, a capability that came to iOS 14 last year. But iPadOS 14 didn’t offer the same functionality, and widgets could only be placed in the Today View sidebar despite the tablet’s vast screen real estate.
Apple is also bringing the App Library to iPadOS. Much like on the iPhone, it will let you maintain a less-cluttered homescreen by filing away the apps you rarely use to an automatically organized section of folders. On iPads, the App Library is located in the dock.
Multitasking is also getting some much-needed refinement. New icons will make it simpler to go into split-view mode, and Apple also mentioned a “shelf” feature that makes it easier to jumble different tasks. It’s a significant change to how multitasking currently works on iPadOS, and it seems like a major improvement.
QuickNote is a new convenience that will let you attach notes to webpages and other areas of iPadOS, making them easier to get back to.
Finally, the standalone Translate app is also now coming to iPadOS.
New tricks shared with iOS 15 on the iPhone
iPadOS 15 will also share many of the new features and experiences that are coming to iOS 15. FaceTime calls will now support spatial audio for more lifelike, natural sound. A voice isolation feature will let your voice cut through background noise, and a “wide spectrum” option will pick up more sound than before. Portrait mode is also coming to FaceTime, resulting in a blurred background that keeps the focus on your face.
Apple is introducing a new SharePlay feature for FaceTime that allows people to share media — music, movies, etc. — together on a group call. SharePlay will leverage iOS features like picture-in-picture, iMessage, and more for a seamless experience across multiple devices at the same time.
The new iPad software update includes new tools meant to help you focus, like revamped notifications that are easier to identify and a “notification summary” section that recaps your less-than-essential notifications. You can also customize which notifications you’ll see at different points of the day, allowing you to separate work and personal alerts. Focus preferences are synced across Apple devices.
Memories in the Photos app can now synced up with music tracks with automatic filters and effects applied based on the vibe of the song, and Spotlight search is also getting some deeper search capabilities. Live Text is a feature that uses on-device intelligence to let you select text from photos you’ve taken and those in your camera roll. It supports seven languages.
Apple punts for another year on “pro” requests
The M1-powered iPad Pros are on equal footing with Apple’s latest iMac, MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, and Mac Mini in terms of sheer performance. Their release has only fueled calls for Apple to evolve iPadOS into a platform that can properly take advantage of all that power for those trying to use the devices as laptop replacements. Using an iPad is a fantastic experience that can regularly turn frustrating when you run into its software limitations.
On the pre-WWDC wishlist of some users were things like multi-user support, a more advanced Files app, better support for external displays, and pro-caliber apps like Final Cut and Logic making their way to the iPad. Apple didn’t address many of those wants in today’s keynote. The most “pro” capability announced was the ability to create and ship apps using Swift Playgrounds. So we’ll have to see what other improvements and surprises iPadOS 15 may hold as it enters beta in the coming weeks.
Developing… we’re adding more to this post, but you can follow along with our WWDC 2021 live blog to get the news even faster.