iPadOS 15 brought much-needed changes to Apple’s tablet-focused operating system, including better notification management via Notification Summary and Focus modes, new Quick Note functionality, a simpler multi-tasking UI and much more.

But, as sure as the sun will rise in the morning, Apple will release iPadOS 16 in 2022. The question is, what should we expect?

While we’re still a couple of months away from the reveal of iPadOS 16, there are already a handful of rumours that point towards a potentially exciting update for iPad owners.

Here’s everything there is to know at this early stage, from announcement and release predictions to the latest rumoured features coming in iPadOS 16.

When will iPadOS 16 be released?

iPadOS 15 was released in September 2021, so if you’re on the lookout for iPadOS 16, you’ll be waiting a while. How long exactly? While we’re still too far away for Apple to officially confirm anything, the company tends to stick to the same yearly schedule for its iPadOS, iOS, tvOS, watchOS and macOS updates, making it easier to predict.

For those new to the world of Apple updates, the company tends to reveal new software updates at its developer-focused Worldwide Developers Conference, more commonly known as WWDC. That tends to take place in early June, and we expect much the same in 2022 with the reveal of iPadOS 16.

In fact, Apple has confirmed that WWDC 2022 will take place between 6 - 10 June 2022, and the special Keynote where the company reveals its big updates will take place on the first day of the show, 6 June 2022, at 10am PDT / 1pm EDT. It's almost certain that we'll see iPadOS 16 during the show. 

Apple will then seed a beta version of the update to developers – and keen public beta testers weeks later – with regular updates through the summer that’ll hopefully bring it to release quality by September 2022, when we expect it’ll be available to download globally.  

In summary, expect an iPadOS 16 reveal at WWDC 2022 on 6 June 2022, with a global release almost certainly in September 2022.

Which iPads will support iPadOS 16?

It’s far too early to predict which iPads will support the next big software update – it’ll likely depend on how internal testing goes, and whether the new features introduced require specific hardware – but given that iPadOS 15 is available on the iPad Air 2, a tablet released in 2014, we’re confident that even if some iPads do get the chop, it won’t be many.

For reference, here’s every iPad that supports iPadOS 15, and it’s likely to be very similar, if not identical, for iPadOS 16:

  • 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 mini (4th gen)
  • iPad Air (4th gen)
  • iPad Air (3rd gen)
  • iPad Air 2

What to expect from iPadOS 16

While we’re still some time away from the official reveal of iPadOS 16, the rumour mill is in full swing and, if true, the next iPad-focused software update could be a big one for pro users.

M1-native apps

The big new addition to iPadOS 16, according to an iDropNews report, will be Mac-level first-party app support.

The publication claims that Apple is gearing up to launch not only Final Cut Pro but Logic Pro and xCode for the iPad, albeit with the caveat that these will only run on the M1 variants of iPad Pro.

One of our biggest complaints about the new iPad Pro range is that the software doesn’t take advantage of the impressive processing power available from the M1 chipset, and this should go a long way to remedying that.

It also makes the iPad Pro range a viable alternative to the MacBook range for video editors, developers and producers, and it’ll hopefully open the door to more Mac-level apps in future.  

Redesigned app icons

In the same iDropNews report, it was suggested that the redesigned app icons coming to iOS 16 will also make an appearance in iPadOS 16 – and it makes sense given the synchronicity of design between the two.

Per the report, the redesigned first-party app icons are allegedly in development by Alan Dye, VP of Human Interface Design at Apple, and his team. While the publication doesn’t provide 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.

Widgets on the lock screen

Apple is said to want to give the Lock Screen a refresh after minimal changes over the past few years. Reports suggest that Apple could do that by bringing widgets to the Lock Screen in both iOS 16 and iPadOS 16 in some form, though it’s arguably better suited to the latter than the former.

It’s uncertain whether you’ll be able to add any widget, and what those widgets will be able to do, but it’s something that Apple is said to be experimenting with behind closed doors.

Interactive widgets

The repositioning of widgets isn't the only new widget-themed feature allegedly coming in the next big iPad update. In fact, leaker @LeaksApplePro suggests that iOS 16 will introduce interactive widgets for the first time, allowing you to interact with widget shortcuts like a torch or media controls without being taken to the app in question. 

The leaker went as far as to showcase a screenshot of the internal testing build, currently codenamed InfoShack, and teased that more information would be released soon. However, in a follow-up tweet, the leaker suggests that "there could be changes to this in the coming months" so it's far from confirmed at the moment. 

It's also worth pointing out that the leaker was focused on iOS 16, not iPadOS 16, but it's difficult to imagine such an important feature would only appear on the small screen. 

Improved multi-tasking

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 whispers suggest Apple isn't done just yet. 

The main source of information is Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, who suggested in an April 2022 newsletter that there "might be a new iPadOS multitasking interface", though the tipster didn't go into any detail about what we should expect. 

Floating app windows

While there have been growing comparisons between iPadOS and macOS for the past few years, an upcoming feature may really blur the line between tablet and desktop within Apple's range.

According to tipster Majin Bu, Apple is hard at work on a new system that'll expand the multitasking system first introduced in 2015. As well as standard split-screen options, Apple is said to be working on a system dubbed "Apple Mixer" internally that'll allow apps to sit in freefloating windows when the iPad is connected to a keyboard and trackpad. 

If it sounds familiar, it's because that's how desktop operating systems like macOS and Windows operate. The tipster included a mock-up in their tweet:

The tipster claims that it'll be exclusive to M1-based iPads, which makes sense given that the M1 is a laptop/desktop chipset. One thing that isn't clear right now is when it'll be released, as the tipster is unsure whether it'll be released as part of iPadOS 16 or not.

Interestingly, app developer Steve Toughton-Smith has revealed what looks to be more references to this new "multitasking mode" in recent additions to the Apple WebKit infrastructure on GitHub.

Per Troughton-Smith, the new mode would allow for freely resizable windows on iPadOS and could run similar to Windows 10's tablet mode, allowing you to "restructure the UI for touch vs mouse & keyboard" at any time. That sounds very similar to the new multitasking system outlined earlier, suggesting we could well see this new system in iPadOS 16 very soon. 

What are you most looking forward to in iPadOS 16? Let us know on Twitter.

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