iPadOS 16 brings with it a whole host of new features: improved multi-tasking, new collaboration tools, and most important of all, the very first built-in weather app for iPad.
The problem was that issues in development forced Apple to skip the initial iPadOS 16 release, with iPadOS 16.1 being the first version of the software available to consumers. That’s the bad news. The good news? It’s finally available to download.
Here’s everything there is to know about iPadOS 16, from supported devices to the key new features of the big software update.
When was iPadOS 16 released?
iPadOS 16.1, the first release of iPadOS 16 for consumers, is now available to download as of 24 October at 10am PST/1pm EST/6pm BST.
Which iPads support iPadOS 16?
The following iPad models are able to run iPadOS 16.
The good news is that if your iPad currently runs iPadOS 15 then you can almost certainly upgrade. In fact, only two models have been dropped: the 4th gen iPad mini and the 2nd gen iPad Air.
- iPad Pro 12.9 (5th gen)
- iPad Pro 11 (3rd gen)
- iPad Pro 12.9 (4th gen)
- iPad Pro 11 (2nd gen)
- iPad Pro 12.9 (3rd gen)
- iPad Pro 11 (1st gen)
- iPad Pro 12.9 (2nd gen)
- iPad Pro 12.9 (1st gen)
- iPad Pro 10.5
- iPad Pro 9.7
- iPad (9th gen)
- iPad (8th gen)
- iPad (7th gen)
- iPad (6th gen)
- iPad (5th gen)
- iPad mini (6th gen)
- iPad mini (5th gen)
- iPad Air (4th gen)
- iPad Air (3rd gen)
What are the new features of iPadOS 16?
Some of the major changes are to multi-tasking and there are a few M1-specific software tricks, which apply to the latest iPads that use Apple’s M1 processor.
Of course, iPadOS 16 also benefits from many of the improvements in iOS 16 (the iPhone version of the operating system – the two are still closely related). Here are a few of those, but read our separate guide to iOS 16 for more detail:
- Redesigned Home app for smart home controls
- Improved dictation with easier swapping to keyboard or Apple Pencil
- New ‘My Sports’ section in Apple News with scores, schedules, and suggested articles
- Handoff in FaceTime so you can move calls seamlessly between your iPhone, iPad, or Mac
- iCloud shared photo libraries with up to six people
- Edit and undo send in Messages
- Schedule and undo send in Mail
- Live Text can capture text from videos
Now let’s turn our attention to the new features that are more core to the iPad experience.
New collaboration tools
Collaboration was a major theme of Apple’s iPadOS 16 announcement.
For one, collaboration tools have been integrated directly into Messages, so that you and a Message group can work directly together across Files, Keynote, Numbers, Pages, Notes, Reminders, and Safari, as well as third-party apps.
You can share a document with a whole Message group at once from within compatible apps, which will share it to every member. It’s designed to be quick to jump from that app directly into the chat group or even start a FaceTime call too.
Changes to shared files are shared in the Message group so that you can keep up to date on changes even when you’re not in the file yourself. And you can even share the new Safari tab groups, opening a browser window together – even letting you see which tab other people in the group are looking at.
All of these tools are taken to the next level in Freeform, a new app that will launch alongside the OS update later this year.
Freeform lets you work across an enormous collaborative whiteboard. You can write or draw anywhere on it, and even pin images, videos, audio files, PDFs, and more. Freeform will launch on iPads, along with iPhones and Macs.
Improved multitasking for M1 iPads
The iPad is great for multitasking, with split-screen and floating window support, but Apple hasn’t done a great job of advertising the tech within iPadOS. It took steps to fix this issue with iPadOS 15, introducing a new icon when browsing iPad apps that lets you activate the split-screen functionality, but Apple isn’t done just yet.
At WWDC the company introduced the new Stage Manager view, which will arrive on both Macs and iPads this year.
It’s more than a little reminiscent of Microsoft’s Windows software if we’re being honest, allowing you to open a single piece of software in full-screen while all of your other apps are tucked away. Curiously they sit on the side of your screen, in addition to the Dock along the bottom, so it will make things a little cramped.
The multi-tasking bit is that up to four windows can be grouped together in overlapping windows of adjustable sizes, allowing you to focus on those while keeping your other software ready and waiting – but not distracting.
Importantly for M1 & M2 iPad users, Stage Manager also supports external displays. And not just mirroring – you can actually run separate apps on the display to those on the iPad screen, theoretically allowing you to run as many as eight windowed apps simultaneously.
Stage Manager functionality was initially limited to those with Apple’s latest M1 chipset, but the company has since widened support to include all models of iPad Pro 11 and the third-gen iPad 12.9 or later. However, the iPad Pros without Apple’s M1 chipset won’t be able to take advantage of external display support.
More Pro features
Stage Manager isn’t the only new feature that’s exclusive to pro users.
Reference Mode is specific to the 12.9in iPad Pro with a Liquid Retina XDR display, and allows it to match the colour requirements in workflows colour grading and compositing.
Display Zoom is powered by the M1 chip, and lets you increase the pixel density of the display, essentially letting you view more in your app windows – ideal for split-screen multitasking.
Finally, Virtual Memory Swap can re-allocate up to 16GB of storage to serve as make-shift RAM for demanding apps – again, only for the M1. This feature is widespread on Android devices, where the actual performance gains are questionable, but perhaps Apple has found a way to make it more effective.
Designed to appeal to pros, though not exclusive to them, these updates are all about bringing iPad apps in line with their Mac equivalents.
Apple has instituted system-wide changes so that iPads will offer desktop-style undo and redo, in-line find-and-replace, customisable toolbars, and the ability to change file extensions – among much more.
This isn’t about specific small changes, and more about a sweeping move to give the iPad more of the capabilities and software of Macs, so it feels less like an iPhone with a big screen.
Here’s the biggest surprise: after years without one, the iPad is finally getting the iPhone’s Weather app. We have no idea why Apple thought tablet users didn’t need one previously.
With forecasts, weather maps, and alerts for severe weather or air quality disruptions, the app has all the important features you’d expect. It also boasts the same detailed animations to illustrate the forecast live.
New gaming features
Apple is improving gaming on iPads, too.
For one, iPadOS 16 is gaining support for Metal 3, the new graphics API the company is simultaneously rolling out on Macs. It claims this will enable iPads to play much more demanding games than ever before.
SharePlay is also being extended to gaming, with the Game Centre now allowing you to invite friends to launch a game with you, together with live messaging or FaceTime calls.
Features that are not coming in iPadOS 16
There were some features we expected to see iPadOS 16 but they’re not there. Will these turn up later on in the beta, or not roll out until iPadOS 17 next year?
New lock screen
Apple gave the Lock Screen on the iPhone a major refresh, with the ability to customise its look, as well as the ability to add a slew of widgets.
But there was no mention of this for iPads. It’s wishful thinking that this is an oversight: it’s more likely that iPad owners will have an extra year – or more – to wait for the same lock screen changes.
Those new lock screen widgets are also the iPhone’s first ever interactive widgets, allowing you to – for example – turn on the torch or use media controls without being taken to the app in question.
Again, there’s no sign yet that these are included on the iPad version of the software. It’s hard to believe Apple would miss it out, but so far that does seem to be what’s happened.
Redesigned app icons
It was suggested that the redesigned app icons were coming to iOS 16 and iPadOS 16.
The redesigned first-party app icons are allegedly in development by Alan Dye, VP of Human Interface Design at Apple, and his team. While there were never any concrete details about what to expect from the redesigned icons, it has been said that they’ll be “very similar” to the macOS Monterey icons.
That could manifest as a modern take on the original skeuomorphic iOS app icons that had more depth and texture than the colourful icons of late, and the general iPadOS UI could also get a refresh to match.
What are you most looking forward to in iPadOS 16? Let us know on Twitter.