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We wanted the iPad to make use of M1— but not with Stage Manager

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

Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) 2022 has come and gone. With it, we got a peek at all of the new software that is to come later in the year for all of our Apple devices: iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch, and Apple TV. Heck, we even got a brand new MacBook Air with M2 coming in about a month's time, and, for some reason, a 13-inch MacBook Pro with M2 as well.

But one of the biggest controversies that came out of WWDC22 comes in the form of iPadOS 16 and Stage Manager. Ever since the iPad Pro (2021) came out with an M1 chip inside, many (including myself) have asked, "Why?" For the past few years, the iPad has been hindered by its own software, iPadOS, and when the M1 iPad Pro came out, there was nothing that took advantage of the M1 chip powering it.

That all changed after the announcement of iPadOS 16. In fact, one of the biggest new features of the new software, Stage Manager, is limited exclusively to iPad models with an M1 chip inside. This means right now, the only iPad models that can make use of Stage Manager in iPadOS 16 are the iPad Pro (2021) and fifth-generation iPad Air.

As great as Stage Manager looks to be, this isn't what most users had in mind when wanting Apple to "make use of" the iPad's M1 chip.

Multiple window multitasking has been around for a long time

iPadOS 16 Stage Manager

iPadOS 16 Stage Manager (Image credit: Apple)

The main premise of Stage Manager is not an entirely new concept — it's just window management, a thing that's been around on computers for years. Stage Manager is the ability to resize your iPad apps so that they overlap with each other, bringing the best iPad experience closer to, you know, an actual computer. While you're limited to four apps on the iPad itself, you can bring in an external display (with up to 6K resolution) for another four apps. That means the total number of apps that you can use with Stage Manager would be eight.

The problem with Stage Manager is the fact that it is limited to M1 iPads, so just the 2021 iPad Pros and the iPad Air 5. Apple's reasoning for this is supposedly because of virtual memory swap. As of right now, Apple claims that you can only get super fast virtual memory swap with M1 because of the high DRAM capacity that is combined with very high capacity, high-performance NAND flash memory. The result is Stage Manager being instantaneously responsive, whereas that just wouldn't be possible with non-M1 iPads.

Apple requiring M1 for such a basic feature is a little silly.

But really, multitasking with multiple windows at once has been around long before Apple silicon — ever since I first started using a computer back in the 1990s, I could have multiple windows and apps running alongside each other. So Apple requiring M1 for such a basic feature of, well, a computer, is a little silly.

Now, a year ago we were all going with the discourse that putting an M1 chip in an iPad was a waste because nothing in iPadOS 15 took advantage of it. But now we're getting iPadOS 16, and Stage Manager is the headliner feature that's apparently making use of the M1. However, the problem is no one really asked for window management to be the big feature that made use of the M1's power in an iPad.

There were better ways to make use of M1 in an iPad

I think the biggest wish for many people when it comes to M1 iPads was never something like Stage Manager. Instead, I believe that what most people want is the ability to run desktop-level pro apps like Final Cut Pro, Xcode, Logic Pro, the complete Photoshop, Blender, Cinema 4D, and more. Heck, even a few of those apps I just mentioned are made by Apple for macOS.

These pro-level apps are what people have been wanting to be able to run on an iPad for years, and we still don't have that capability. Considering how often Apple touts the iPad as being a "laptop replacement," it's silly that the iPad still doesn't have those pro apps that people want, especially something like Xcode. Many developers wish they could code and simulate their apps while using an iPad, instead of having to bring a MacBook with them when they're out. After all, why is it called iPad "Pro" if you can't even do pro-level work?

Compromises could be made

According to Craig Federighi, Apple tried getting Stage Manager on non-M1 iPads and wasn't satisfied with the performance, so the company simply decided to leave the major feature out for all non-M1 iPads with iPadOS 16. Honestly, I feel like some compromises could have been made, but Apple just took the easier route and left it out. Maybe even a watered-down version of Stage Manager, where you could only have three windows at once instead of four — I would have been satisfied with that, or something along those lines.

Maybe I'm just overly salty that my 2020 iPad Pro is already rendered obsolete when I usually buy Apple products for longevity. But it's annoying that Apple isn't interested in making some compromises, and also won't give the iPad a true "pro" use case besides Stage Manager. Hopefully, that will change in the future, but only time will tell.

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.

11 Comments
  • I would have been happy if Apple (in addition. To pro apps) had finally allowed you to connect an external camera to the iPad Pro. We can connect drives and mics but not cameras.
  • This is one of the more reasonable takes on this whole issue. Apple has given us a feature that pretty much nobody was looking for, and which seems to have irritated a large portion of the existing user base given Stage Manager won't even run on their hardware. Surely porting Pro apps to the iPad Pro would have been a better use of time and resources? The existing users would have been thrilled.
  • Sorry, but the notion that ANY of the Pro Apps will EVER appear as full-fletched apps on the iPad is just SO painfully ignorant. If you actually think that will (or could) happen in any USEFUL way any time soon just "Because M1!", as if that were even somehow the most relevant aspect of such a post, then you clearly have no clue whatsoever what that would a) entail and b) don't grasp what an absolutely HORRIBLE effect that would have on the desktop versions and their development. Never mind the "What the **** FOR??" question. What exactly is it you think you need or what do you plan on doing on a PRO level *on a friggen IPAD* that you can't in fact already do with what's available?? Do tell. And would somehow *benefit* your workflow HOW?! Funny how NO ONE mindlessly screaming for FCP et al on the iPad could ever answer that question with a truly legitimate reason. Want to give it a shot? I dare you. Spoiler alert: you're only going to show how clueless you are on the subject as a whole. Because, ironically, it is only NON-PROS even asking. Just wannabes. So do the world a favor, first catch a clue, then finally stop whining about wanting it.
  • I copy/pasted this. Thank you so much for pointing this out. Seriously, literally every privileged out of touch YouTuber or Tech bloggers are the ones asking for FCP on a freaking iPad. Honestly, the iPad did not even need M1 to make that happen at all. They could have done it with the A12X chip if they truly wanted it too. But clearly these small minority of people are not getting the hint that the basic consumer won’t probably ever even touch the free trials of those apps on a Mac, let alone on an iPad.
  • Cheers. It's just so frustrating, right?? And never mind that NO self-respecting "pro" (whatever that even means anymore today) is going to do a FULL JOB on an iPad outside of maybe selects or quick roughs (everything you can ALREADY do!). Since how stupid do you even have to be to not grasp that buying A MACBOOK AIR is not only ergonomically the FAR better choice for the *actual* and *uncastrated* (which FC would have to be if it came to the iPad as a "full" version) version of FCP, but, when you add a keyboard, half decent storage etc. to the iPad, the Air is CHEAPER! 🙄 It's just so mindless and lacks ANY common sense logic.
  • This is total BS.
  • Don't speak for everybody. It only makes you look silly.
  • No it doesn’t
  • Well then, speak for yourself. Give us the lowdown that makes everything said "silly", hm? Or are you just hurt that someone burst your mindless bubble with some SENSE and LOGIC? Yeah. Maybe don't play self-appointed internet cop and contribute something of actual value? Oh right… you clearly have nothing. Bummers.
  • I can’t believe the amount of whining going on here about this. Why do you want the iPad turned into a Mac Pro? Why must it apply to ALL iPads? Why is it that the same people who want a touch screen Mac also insist on a mouse and keyboard on an iPad? 🙄 AGAIN, no one buys an iPad to do heavy duty multitasking. If you need a “real computer”, then by all means get one. Yes, an iPad CAN replace a laptop for most people, because most people don’t need, want or understand the complexities of a “real computer”. That’s why phones and iPads exist. So everyone does not NEED to be a computer geek to use the internet. IPadOS is already 9GB. Adding all of this crap is only going to make it bigger, slower and clunkier. Which is NOT what “we” want.
  • LOL, people crying over such an afterthought feature that will maybe have 5 min of novelty once the full public release is out. The fact that only this came to iPad and not TRUE full support, which by the way, the iPad 3rd Gen was able to do back in iOS 5 via Jailbreak just proves that Apple just wants to cripple the iPad. Why you stupid tech bloggers and stupid out of touch YouTubers want “PRO” apps on the iPad is honestly beyond me. I guess it’s only to further brag about how they have the privilege that they can use the same product on 3 different devices. You want Final Cut Pro but you DON’T need it. That’s a fact, One thing I noticed for many vloggers is that just with an iPhone and iMovie on a MacBook Air is way more than enough for them to be successful. Think about that, people have had successful careers out of stock apps on a phone and base level laptop then so called “pros” out of $230+ software. Honestly, unless you are in movie/tv production you don’t need such apps and Apple knows this about their base consumer (semi/non computer literate folks). Hence why you’ll never see those on an iPad. Now I will agree that you have YouTubers like Rambalac, Jeff Benjamin and many others will actually play around with HDR and other editing features into their work and you can tell their passion is there. I do respect people like that. But when you got MKBHD and Tailosive Tech asking about such Pro software on an iPad but all they do is sit in front of a camera and play some B-roll, do you honestly think those opinions should be taken seriously? Yes I agree Apple should have added more to the iPad to actually make it sellable. I’m sorry but NO ONE is gonna be like “wow, I guess I have to get an M1 iPad just for stage manager.” It just doesn’t justify a minimum 50% loss on selling their current device for such a semi-pointless features. But I will agree, Apple NEEDS to get rid of this stupid pro naming once and for all. As of now, the ONLY justification for using such a stupid name is for premium features, that’s it. As of now, there is nothing pro about both the iPhone and iPad.