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iPadOS 16 turns the iPad into a serious productivity machine

iPad Pro 2021 review
iPad Pro 2021 review (Image credit: Daniel Bader / iMore)

Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) is always a big deal, as it gives us a sneak peek at what's coming for iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch. This year, we got a taste of what's next for iOS 16, iPadOS 16, macOS Ventura, and watchOS 9, as well as a surprise reveal of a redesigned MacBook Air with M2. As you can tell, it was definitely a jam-packed event with a lot of goodies.

While many are swooning over the changes coming in iOS 16, there's also a lot to love about what we're getting with iPadOS 16 (and everything else we got from WWDC). In fact, this update is bringing the iPad closer to a laptop replacement than ever before, and perhaps it could potentially be a thing by the time the general release comes out.

We may not have a Calculator app yet, but hey, Weather is finally here!

Wwdc 2022 Ipados 16 Weather App

Wwdc 2022 Ipados 16 Weather App (Image credit: Apple)

First things first — we still don't have a native Calculator app on the iPad, hilariously enough. But after 12 years, we are FINALLY getting Weather on the iPad.

I mean, it's not like Weather wasn't exactly on the iPad before. It was, but only as a widget. With iOS 16, Weather is now a full-fledged app that looks and feels similar to the one we have on our favorite iPhone. This means those gorgeous animations, detailed weather conditions and climate information: all on a large screen

Honestly, it's shocking that it took 12 years for this to happen. And yet, we still don't have a calculator. Hopefully, it's not another 12 years before we see Calculator on iPad.

Stage Manager and external display support boost M1 iPad productivity levels

Wwdc 2022 Ipados 16 Stage Manager

Wwdc 2022 Ipados 16 Stage Manager (Image credit: Apple)

Stage Manager is the new multitasking interface in iPadOS 16. With Stage Manager, you'll be able to resize and have overlapping windows. And when you enable the actual Stage Manager feature, the current app that you're working in can take center stage on your screen.

And things only get even better if you use an external display, which is now fully supported. Previously, external displays would only mirror what was on your iPad screen. But now in iPadOS 16, your iPad wallpaper and Dock will extend to the external display, while your current apps remain on the iPad's screen. The external display will be able to do things like launch Stage Manager if you move your iPad cursor to the display and launch an app from your iPad's Dock.

Things may be looking up for iPads to be taken seriously as a work machine.

With Stage Manager and an external display combined, one could have a total of eight apps running at once in iPadOS 16. There are also improvements to desktop-class apps, as well as a new display mode: Display Scaling, and Reference Mode for color-critical workflows.

Compared to how you could only really have three apps on the screen at once before, this is a serious boon for productivity and brings the iPad more in line with a laptop than ever before. I've tried to use an iPad exclusively to do work before, and it was so restrictive to the point it was frustrating. But with Stage Manager and full external display support, things may be looking up for iPads to be taken seriously as a work machine.

It's unfortunate that only M1 iPads will make the most out of iPadOS 16

iPad Air 5 Apple Music

iPad Air 5 Apple Music (Image credit: Luke Filipowicz / iMore)

As excited as I am about those powerful productivity features, I'm also very disappointed that only M1 iPads are able to use them. I have a 2020 iPad Pro, which was pretty expensive at the time, and just two years later, I'm locked out of some amazing iPadOS features? Very disappointing.

For those who are wondering, Apple claims that features like Stage Manager need an M1 iPad because of how Virtual Memory Swap works on an M1, which helps speed up multitasking. As of this writing, that means only the 2021 iPad Pros or the iPad Air 5 will receive this update.

When you buy an Apple product, one of the reasons is longevity. The fact that my iPad — which is only two years old at this point — is already "obsolete" enough for new features, is infuriating. I guess I'll either have to drop some dough for an M1 iPad to try out Stage Manager or just live without it (and probably continue to be locked out of future features). I mean, I get it — Apple is transitioning to M1 for almost everything, but I know I'm not the only one that is annoyed by this.

The future of iPadOS is powered by Apple silicon

Despite my annoyance with the M1 limitation on big features, I am happy to see where iPadOS 16 is going. I've lamented before that the best iPad is not a serious work machine because iPadOS is so restricting, but iPadOS 16 is turning the tables. At least in the future, when I finally get an M1 iPad, I know that I can actually be productive with it.

Christine Chan
Christine Chan

Christine Romero-Chan has been writing about technology, specifically Apple, for over a decade at a variety of websites. She is currently the iMore lead on all things iPhone, and has been using Apple’s smartphone since the original iPhone back in 2007. While her main speciality is the iPhone, she also covers Apple Watch, iPad, and Mac when needed.

When she isn’t writing about Apple, Christine can often be found at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, as she is a passholder and obsessed with all things Disney, especially Star Wars. Christine also enjoys coffee, food, photography, mechanical keyboards, and spending as much time with her new daughter as possible.