iPad year in review, 2023: No hardware, but big steps for the platform

iPad Pro 12.9-inch in iMore freelancer's office
(Image credit: Future/Lloyd Coombes)

The iPad lineup remains one of Apple’s most puzzling. The company will tell you it’s a computer, but it’s taken well over a decade to bring its suite of pro apps to the iPad. On the other hand, it’s also a fantastic note-taking device, a great portable cinema screen, and can be great for gaming too.

Yes, the iPad still divides opinion among the Apple faithful, but for this writer, it remains a product open to so many possibilities. Whatever you use it for, there’s a good chance iPadOS 17 has something for you, too.

With this in mind, here's a look back on the iPad in 2023.

Hardware

iPad Pro 12.9-inch in iMore freelancer's office

(Image credit: Future/Lloyd Coombes)

2023 saw plenty of updates to Apple's hardware — the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 brought BackTap and a new chip, the Mac saw both M2 and M3 products debut, and the iPhone 15 series improved on the camera and replaced the Lightning port with USB-C. Yet there was no new iPad hardware this year, outside of the bizarre Apple Pencil revision.

Zilch, zip, nada on the tablet front, and perhaps that’s OK. The iPad’s lineup is confusing, with no fewer than seven options available right now (if you count the 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pros separately).

There’s a good chance the ninth-generation iPad will be shuffled off the store soon, but the iPad Mini could do with some love, too. Meanwhile, the iPad Pro has an M2 Apple silicon chip, but the Air has an M1 inside.

Apple needs to perform a soft reboot on the iPad line, and reports suggest that could happen as early as next year – with an OLED model potentially on the cards for iPad Pro fans.

Software

iPadOS 17 Stage Manager with Threads, Safari and YouTube playing

(Image credit: iMore)

iPadOS 17 carries on the theme of being “iOS 17 but for iPads” for the most part, but in some ways that’s no bad thing.

To that end, Lock Screen widgets finally arrived after they came to the iPhone last year, and they’re interactive, too.

The Notes app also gained the ability to show PDFs within notes, which feels perfect on the iPad thanks to its tactile, large display, while the same can be said of Apple News Plus’ new crosswords functionality.

The arrival of the Health app on the iPad also needs to be praised. Many older users may not use an iPhone, but have an iPad because it’s easier to read, and putting their body’s metrics and information in their hands, easily shareable with their doctors, is much more than just a quick port of an existing app.

Speaking of apps making the jump, Final Cut and Logic finally arrived on iPad for the first time, and they’re both fantastic. If you’ve been using either for years, you’ll likely want to stick to the Mac, but the idea of having a movie production desk or a recording studio on a tablet is an exciting one.

Arguably the biggest update, however, is Stage Manager. While it arrived last year, it was beset by bizarre window limitations that meant it felt like a supercharged version of the existing multitasking system rather than anything else. I’d still like to see more flexibility to make the sidebar take up less space, but by lifting the limits, the iPad is a place where I can genuinely do plenty of work – something that didn’t feel possible after iPadOS 16’s first draft.


In conclusion

While there was no new iPad hardware in 2023, I can’t help but feel more excited for the platform than ever – particularly with the arrival of USB-C on iPhone, potentially meaning a long-awaited revision of the Files app could be on the docket for next year.

The iPad may not know what it needs to be yet, but that’s almost becoming part of the magic as it evolves before our eyes.

Lloyd Coombes
Contributor

Lloyd Coombes is a freelance writer with a specialism in Apple tech. From his first, hand-me-down iMac, he’s been working with Apple products for over a decade, and while he loves his iPhone and Mac, the iPad will always have his heart for reasons he still can’t quite fathom.

Since moving from blogging to writing professionally, Lloyd’s work can be found at TechRadar, Macworld, TechAdvisor and plenty more.

He’s also the Editor in Chief at GGRecon.com, and on the rare occasion he’s not writing you’ll find him spending time with his son, or working hard at the gym (while wearing an Apple Watch, naturally). You can find him on Twitter @lloydcoombes.

  • naddy69
    "The iPad’s lineup is confusing, with no fewer than seven options available right now"

    Why? What is confusing? We have cheap iPads. We have expensive iPads. We have small iPads. We have large iPads.

    You might as well say that Nissan's car lineup is confusing. They have small cars and large cars and cheap cars and expensive cars.

    Choice is good. It is not "confusing".
    Reply