iPadOS 16's biggest upgrade would never have worked on older models, Apple reveals

Apple Wwdc22 Ipados16 External Displays
Apple Wwdc22 Ipados16 External Displays (Image credit: Apple)

What you need to know

  • Apple introduced a new Stage Manager feature to iPadOS 16 that is limited to M1 iPad models.
  • The company has now revealed it tested the feature on non-M1 models.
  • Craig Federighi says that "it became apparent early on that we couldn't deliver the experience that we were designing toward with them."

Apple has revealed that it tested iPadOS 16's Stage Manager feature on older iPads but claims it was apparent early on that it would not deliver the experience that Apple was seeking.

The comments come following a fair amount of outcry about iPadOS 16, and the fact that Apple has included the new Stage Manager feature which gives users a snappy multitasking experience to help them balance lots of different apps and tasks all at once. From Apple:

Stage Manager is an entirely new multitasking experience that automatically organizes apps and windows, making it quick and easy to switch between tasks. For the first time on iPad, users can create overlapping windows of different sizes in a single view, drag and drop windows from the side, or open apps from the Dock to create groups of apps for faster, more flexible multitasking. The window of the app users are working on is displayed prominently in the center, and other open apps and windows are arranged on the left-hand side in order of recency.

As noted, this feature only works on the new iPad Air and M1 iPad Pro (2021) because it requires the M1 chip. This week Apple came out and stated that the feature relies on Apple's fast memory swap feature.

"Stage Manager is a fully integrated experience that provides an all-new windowing experience that is incredibly fast and responsive and allows users to run 8 apps simultaneously across iPad and an external display with up to 6K resolution," said Apple.

"Delivering this experience with the immediacy users expect from iPad's touch-first experience requires large internal memory, incredibly fast storage, and flexible external display I/O, all of which are delivered by iPads with the M1 chip."

On Tuesday, a new interview with Craig Federighi published by Forbes reveals that Apple did try to get Stage Manager working on older iPads, but to no avail.

"We began some of our prototyping involving those systems and it became apparent early on that we couldn't deliver the experience that we were designing toward with them. Certainly, we would love to bring any new experience to every device we can, but we also don't want to hold back the definition of a new experience and not create the best foundation for the future in that experience. And we really could only do that by building on the M1."

Federighi explained that Apple has an "inviolate bar for fluidity and responsiveness in the experience", where its customers expect that the moment they touch something on-screen they get a response, and that "anything less than that breaks the feeling of your connection with the device." He says that this requires a balancing act between computing power and the graphics capability of the devices, versus how many apps can run at any one time without compromising that responsiveness. As he noted in the quote above, the crux of unlocking the power of Apple silicon in iPad also means not holding back new experiences, even if it means that older iPad users can't have the same updates.

iPadOS 16 brought with it some major upgrades, but as mentioned the best improvements are reserved for its best iPads because of the higher power required. At WWDC 2022 the company also unveiled its new versions of iOS 16, macOS Ventura, and a brand new M2 MacBook Air.

Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design. Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9