iPadOS 18: Rumored features, supported devices, and more

iPadOS 17 and Stage Manager being used outside, with dog in background
(Image credit: iMore)

Every year Apple announces a new round of software updates for all of its platforms, and 2024 is going to be no different. With iOS 18 also expected to debut alongside macOS Sonoma, watchOS 11, and tvOS 18, iPadOS 18 is just one of the many anticipated additions. But for iPad owners, it's likely to be the biggest one in terms of anticipation.

That anticipation comes around every year and it often comes from the hope that Apple will finally deliver on its claims that the iPad can be a laptop replacement. A machine that goes beyond the gaming and media consumption that so many use it for and becomes a productivity powerhouse like the MacBook Air or, in the case of the iPad Pro, the MacBook Pro.

Apple has gone some way to making that happen in recent updates with varying degrees of success, and Stage Manager is a prime example of Apple's efforts to meld the simplicity of the iPad with the multitasking, multi-window features required from people who spend eight hours a day in front of a keyboard and display. Whether that display runs iPadOS depends on how well Apple can merge the two things. Will iPadOS 18 improve matters beyond what iPadOS 17 was able to achieve? We'll find out by September — here's what we can expect.

The story so far

iPadOS 17 PDF notes app

(Image credit: Apple)

Just like previous years, September 2023 saw Apple unveil iPadOS 17, its latest and greatest iPad software. It brought with it a number of improvements, many of them borrowed from iOS 18 but nevertheless welcome.

A brand-new Lock Screen was at the top of the list with new wallpaper options, interactive widgets, and more. The interactive widgets in particular were a big addition and are great on the iPad's huge display.

One iPad-specific improvement saw the Health app finally come to the iPad with space for more information, bigger graphs, and all of your data. It syncs with iCloud as you'd expect and it's a great way to peruse your health and fitness information.

The Notes app gained better PDF support for reviewing their rich content right within the app, while Reminders now sorts grocery lists into categories to make shopping easier. All of the iPhone's Messages improvements also made the jump to the iPad including Stickers, improved location sharing, and more.

But in terms of iPad-only features, iPadOS 17 was an off year. Will that change in 2024?

iPadOS 18: Rumored features

iPadOS 18: A focus on AI

It's impossible to look at iPadOS 18 without cribbing some features and expectations from iOS 18, especially given last year's example. With that in mind, AI is likely to be a big thing for Apple in 2024. Hard details on iPadOS 18 have been almost impossible to come by so far, and while iOS 18 leaks are more readily available, they're still few and far between. But AI is the common thread right now, and Apple knows that Large Language Models and chatbots like ChatGPT have started to become more popular — putting Siri to shame in the process.

With that context, Apple is said to be working on a new AI upgrade that will bring significant upgrades to Siri. Reportedly called Ajax GPT, The Infomation previously reported that the new language is a cut above what even ChatGPT can offer.

Bloomberg's Mark Gurman has also hinted that 2024 will be a big year for Apple in terms of its AI initiatives

What this will all look like in terms of features is less clear, however. Will Siri just get better at answering questions and interacting with people, or can we expect a big leap in its abilities? We might have to wait until WWDC in June to find out.

iPadOS 18: Journal app

Journal app for iPhone and IPad

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple brought its new Journal app to the iPhone with iOS 17 last year, but the app was strangely missing from the iPad and Mac. That could well change in 2024.

The Journal app offers prompts for people who find it difficult to write journal entries, giving them ideas for the things that they could write about. In aid of that, the app offers up music they have listened to, places they have visited, photos they have taken, and more as prompts.

The Journal app is the latest entry in Apple's growing collection of health and mental health apps and services, and it's a no-brainer that it will eventually come to the iPad. Surely iPadOS 18 is the update that will see that happen.

iPadOS 18: What we'd like to see

It's often difficult to predict what Apple will do with iPadOS for a few reasons, mainly because Apple doesn't always seem to know what it wants the tablet to be. But with more powerful iPads expected to launch in 2024 and a new, larger iPad Air in the cards, I'd like to see gaming become a key feature.

The recent gaming push with the iPhone 15 Pro and A17 Pro chip means that so-called console-level gaming is back on the agenda. The M-series iPads are also capable of similar feats, and we'd like to see Apple lean into that more.

Siri upgrades are an obvious answer here, and reports of an AI focus in 2024 are welcome. Using Siri remains an exercise in frustration whether you're asking it for something more complicated or just requesting a light be turned off. Improvements need to be made, and iPadOS 18 could make them.

iPadOS 18: Expected release date

iPadOS 17 Live Activities

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple has historically previewed iPadOS updates at WWDC and then made them available for download in September. That's a pattern that we expect it to follow this year, too.

If that's the case, expect a WWDC event in the first week of June to see the update unveiled alongside new software for the iPhone, Mac, Apple Watch, and Apple TV. A release will then likely happen around the middle of September.

iPadOS 18: Compatible devices

It's impossible to know what Apple will do when it comes to iPad compatibility and new iPadOS updates, but it tends to try and make sure even older tablets can be updated. There are no guarantees that all new features will be available, however.

With that in mind, we'd expect the iPad mini 5th-gen, iPad 6th-gen, and iPad Air 3rd-gen or later to be included. The same can be said for the iPad Pro models, too.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.