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What I want to see in iPadOS 16

Ipad Air 5 Split Screen
Ipad Air 5 Split Screen (Image credit: Luke Filipowicz / iMore)

WWDC 2022 is just over a month away and with it will come our first glimpse at the future of Apple's software across its various platforms.

After a less-than-groundbreaking iPadOS 15 release last year, I'm hoping that Apple has something special up its proverbial sleeve for the iPad. Before we get the official unveiling in June, let's take a look at all the areas in which iPadOS is crying out for some attention in 2022.

Improved multitasking views

Ipados 15 Multitasking Menu

Ipados 15 Multitasking Menu (Image credit: Adam Oram / iMore)

iPadOS 15 did address iPad multitasking, but it didn't go far enough to really revolutionize the experience of using multiple apps side-by-side.

While the new multitasking controls made using Split View and Slide Over easier and more discoverable, the end user experience remained the same.

In iPadOS 16, I'd love to see Apple overhaul multitasking with more ways to display multiple apps on-screen at once. This could take the form of a more freeform Split View, with support for three or four apps sharing the screen, or even see Apple move to a floating window approach.

Parker Ortolani has offered the best concept I've seen so far as to how this could work without having to throw out everything good about the simplicity iPadOS offers right now.

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iPad hardware, particularly that of the iPad Pro and iPad Air 5 which both run the desktop-class M1 chip, is more than powerful enough to run several apps simultaneously. Productivity on the iPad is being artificially held back by the software at this point.

Granted, Apple has to make its iPad multitasking a touch-first experience if it is to run across all of its supported devices. That being said, multitasking is already mostly hidden away and is opted into by those that know about it and want to use it. It could get a significant redesign while remaining that type of opt-in power-user feature.

Desktop mode

One thing I love about the iPad is that it becomes whatever you need it to be. Whether you want to use it as a handheld web browser, snap on a keyboard and use it as a laptop replacement, connect an Apple Pencil and use it as a drawing tablet, or pair a Bluetooth controller and play games, the iPad can do it all.

As MacStories editor-in-chief and noted iPad enthusiast Federico Viticci wrote a couple of years ago, the iPad is a modular computer:

"At its core, the iPad Pro is still a tablet; with the right additions, however, it's also become the modular computer I didn't know I needed."

This is exactly why I think iPadOS 16 needs to offer a desktop or "pro" mode. As Bloomberg's Mark Gurman theorized earlier this month, a special mode could be activated when the right accessories are paired, such as Apple's Magic Keyboard or Apple Pencil.

This could allow for more Mac-like multitasking, a more advanced Home screen experience, and even allow for an iPad to properly extend its screen to an external monitor (rather than just mirror the display as is the case now).

As I have written before, the people who spend laptop-like prices on an iPad and a Magic Keyboard today expect a laptop-like experience. iPadOS does not really provide one just yet.

Interactive widgets

Ipados 15 Home Screen Hero

Ipados 15 Home Screen Hero (Image credit: Adam Oram / iMore)

Speaking of the Home screen, it's high time that Apple enabled interactive widgets. iPhone widgets launched with iOS 14 and came to iPad, in full, in iPadOS 15 but they aren't as functional as they could be.

While widgets, in their current form, offer convenient glanceable information, they do little else. You can't, for example, check an item off your to-do list in the widget or skip a song. Instead, tapping any part of the widget opens the corresponding app, disrupting your flow.

On the iPad, with its plentiful Home screen real estate, it would be extremely useful to be able to set up a dashboard of glanceable info and interactive widgets for these types of quick actions.

The Apple Music app on Android has an interactive widget, so there is at least hope that Apple will have considered bringing the same functionality to its own OS.

Pro apps

Swift Playgrounds 4 Ipad Pro 2021 Hero

Swift Playgrounds 4 Ipad Pro 2021 Hero (Image credit: Joe Keller / iMore)

It's so long past due for Apple to bring its first-party pro apps to the iPad that it's possible it never will, but if it wants to continue to tell the pro story of the iPad then it shouldn't wait any longer.

For many years, Apple has pointed creative users to GarageBand and iMovie for making music and movies, but these apps are not as advanced as the pro-grade Logic Pro and Final Cut Pro that Apple makes for the Mac.

Third-party apps have filled some of the holes Apple has left, such as Ferrite and LumaFusion, but many professional users of Apple products already use Apple's apps on their Macs and could stand to benefit from the same apps being available on the iPad.

The same goes for app developers. While Swift Playgrounds 4 was touted as a proper developer tool last year, rather than a purely educational app, it's still not as fully featured as Xcode is on the Mac. The iPad, particularly on the Pro end, is powerful enough for dev work, so let's see Xcode for iPad finally.

Multiple user account support

Multiple profiles on Apple TV

Multiple profiles on Apple TV (Image credit: Bryan M. Wolfe / iMore)

People have been clamoring for multiple user account support on iPadOS for a long time, and I'm not sure it's ever coming. Though Apple offers the feature on macOS and on Apple TV, the company has always presented the iPhone and iPad as individual devices.

While that may be true for phones, tablets are often used by multiple people in one household. As a former Apple Genius, I have seen the havoc this can wreak on a person's Apple ID or personal privacy.

Multiple account support would be one way that iPadOS could differentiate from iOS, further justifying the name change, while offering more "proper computer"-like functionality. With Family Sharing, Apple could make it really simple to set up, too.

That being said, if a family can all use one iPad, Apple risks selling only one iPad to that family which is likely why this feature has yet to, and may never, appear.

HomeKit hub mode

Ipad Mini 6 Review Home Hub

Ipad Mini 6 Review Home Hub (Image credit: Adam Oram / iMore)

This is perhaps a niche feature, but one that I would personally love to see in iPadOS 16: a HomeKit hub mode for iPad.

In my home, I have repurposed an old iPad model and turned it into a dedicated HomeKit device by keeping it permanently docked and locked to the Home app via Guided Access. It gives me easy access to my HomeKit accessory controls and is often easier to use on the way out of the door instead of barking Siri commands or fiddling with my phone.

We've seen a lot of dedicated smart displays crop up in recent years for the Alexa and Google Assistant ecosystems, but the only way to replicate it thus far for HomeKit is with something like I have set up.

The problem is, it's a bit of a hacky solution and requires having a spare iPad laying around to do. The Home app is also very information-dense and not all that glanceable. What I propose is an optional mode that the iPad can default to when left docked that shows pertinent HomeKit-related information on the screen.

Amazon does something very similar with Show Mode for its Fire 8 HD Plus and charging dock. With its famed hardware and software integration, Apple could shamelessly crib this idea, sprinkling in some Apple design sense to make it functional and good looking, and even make some money on a first-party docking solution if it wanted to.

Hopefully not more of the same

With WWDC 2022 just over a month away, we have some hopes for the unveiling of the new iPadOS 16. Ever since Apple spun iPadOS out of iOS, we've only really seen iterative updates to the tablet-specific OS.

After a less-than-exciting iPadOS 14 cycle that focused more on refinement, and an iPadOS 15 release that improved some foundational experiences without reinventing the wheel, it's time for a fundamental rethinking of iPadOS with version 16.

Adam Oram is a Senior Writer at iMore. He studied Media at Newcastle University and has been writing about technology since 2013. He previously worked as an Apple Genius and as a Deals Editor at Thrifter. His spare time is spent watching football (both kinds), playing Pokémon games, and eating vegan food. Follow him on Twitter at @adamoram.

13 Comments
  • So you are basically saying that you want the iPad to become a Mac but only in certain circumstances. While there is merit to your wishes, the iPad was designed purposefully not to be a Mac. If you want a Mac. Get a Mac. Let’s look at this from Apples perspective. We have a device that is a tablet, a dam good tablet. We also have dam good laptops. Most Mac owner also own an iPad. If the iPad could completely replace the Mac. Why buy a Mac.
    Now I am not saying your wrong in wanting this. I would actually love it but it would essentially compete with the Mac so it makes no sense from a strictly business stand point. Let’s remember that Apple is a for profit business and the more devices they sell the more money they make. (Your opinion on that is a whole different article). This why, I believe, you will never get the full laptop experience on an iPad. It will get better but they will not change the fundamental fact that it is a tablet not a laptop. Because of this people like you and me will keep buying both. I guess we are the suckers. As I quote the great Rene Ritchie “a nerd can dream”
    Have an fantastic weekend.
  • Ah yes because they didn't completely destroy their iPod sales with the iPhone... You fail to understand that if someone wants an iPad, but it is in its current state, they aren't just going to be like "boom, let me fork out hundreds more for a Mac instead." That could be a potential lost sale for apple. So why you claim that apple is doing it to sell more Macs (which is plausible) you also fail to mention that it could easily backfire on them and push them to other devices (android/surface tablets).
  • You do have a point but I don’t think anyone seriously considering an iPad will not get an android tablet because well android tablets are pretty terrible or a surface. Surface is not a bad device but if your looking at iPad it’s because you don’t want windows. I think iPad in in its current state is exactly where Apple wants it to be. Easy and good for the mass market (who would probably not buy a Mac anyways) and different enoug.h from the Mac that will still attract Mac customers (ad side car and universal control and now it works great as a Mac companion). This was a brilliant move by Apple. I use my iPad Pro as a second monitor daily. It is a over powered machine for what it does but that is pure economics. It’s cheaper to put a chip they already mass produce in it then create an “in between “ chip for the iPad. Like I mentioned I would love to see the iPad more Mac like but I as well as most of the readers of this site are not the majority of Apple customers. iPad will get small improvements but it will never be good enough to make full max users ditch their mac. And that is exactly the point.
  • See you are not open to change, just like Apple in many ways. Plus Android tablets have gotten much better over time. Not to mention Android is on many other platforms today, including Chromebooks, Linux, SBC's, and soon to be Windows. Chromebooks running Android apps used to suck until Google decided to make touch screens on Chromebooks a really good thing, and now running Android apps on a touch screen Chromebook is a really good experience today. You see Google and Android are willing to sacrifice sales from one category to bring in new customers to any other category. The categories have started to blur over the last few years, but Apple sticks to keeping their own devices separate, which is dumb overall, but great for Apple making more money by selling more iPhones (smartphones), iPads (tablets), Mac (PC's, laptops). Apple could actually sell more in the long run if Apple started to creat a touch screen Macs. Especially since M1 Macs can already run iOS apps. However running iOS apps on a M1 Macbook makes for a crappy experience. Why is it a crappy experience when running iOS apps on a Macbook, well I'm glad you asked! All iOS apps are designed with a touch screen interface in mind, including multi-touch iOS apps. Now M1 Macs can simulate a single touch using a mouse click, but that experience is really lame. Its why Apple themselves haven't said a thing lately about running iOS apps on Macs these days, because even Apple knows that running iOS apps on a screen without a touch screen interface, sucks big time. Why do you think both Google and Microsoft decided to add touch screen interfaces to their respective platforms? Because they knew that it is better to cannibalize, or transform your own devices, than to lose customers altogether. Plus the smartphone, tablet, PC categories are still changing. What kills me about the tablet category is that devices like 2 in 1 notebooks, and laptops still fall under the PC category. Not one 2 in 1 laptop is looked at as a tablet, but they fold up to become a tablet. Still none of those 2 in 1 laptop device sales are ever considered tablets. The same is true for foldable smartphones, like the Galaxy Z Folds, Oppo Find's, Suface Duo's, and others. Sure foldables to some will say that it is still too new, well mainly those in the Apple camp. However this is the 4th year of these foldable smartphones being sold to the public, so really not that new. Not one 2 in 1 smartphone, like the Galaxy Z Fold's falls under a tablet sale, but those devices are both a smartphone and a tablet. Yet none of those 2 in 1 foldables will ever show up in the tablet sales category. Go figure. Apple could easily add a touch screen to their Macs, but doesn't want to, because Apple would be cannibalizing their own tablet sales. But as all the smart people know, Apple would also be gaining some new users as well in the PC category of sales. In the long run if Apple did make a 2 in 1 Macbook, I would see it helping Apple in the long run. Chromebook sales really took off, especially when they started adding touch screens, as well as 2 in 1 laptops to the Chromebook sales. Today individual tablet sales still live on for Android, but many Android users today know that getting a touch screen Chromebook that can run Android apps as well, is a much better option, than getting a separate Android tablet. Apple should be learning from others about this, but chooses to ignore what is better for their customers in the long run.
  • “Apple could easily add a touch screen to their Macs, but doesn't want to, because Apple would be cannibalizing their own tablet sales.” No. Adding a touch screen to a Mac would be pointless. Just like touch screens on Windows. Because neither the OS nor the apps are usable on a touch screen. I find it amazing AND incredibly stupid that people want a touch screen Mac AND an iPad with a keyboard and mouse. These are 2 different products for different purposes. Microwave ovens exist just fine along with - and in fact complement - a conventional gas or electric oven. But no one roasts a turkey in a microwave oven, and no one heats a cup of coffee in a conventional oven. Again, 2 different products for different uses. Everyone needs to get over this pipe dream of a single device for all use cases. It is not going to happen. It is not even desirable.
  • Say No, and you are saying that a touch screen on a Mac would be pointless. You statement is pointless, especially since M1 Macs can run iOS apps. But running iOS apps on a non touch screen Mac is pointless, especially since iOS apps are designed with a touch screen interface in mind. I do notice lately that Apple has backed away from talking about running iOS apps on Macs these days, because running any touch screen iOS apps on any Mac without a touch screen interface is a horrible experience. Better yet its pointless to run any touch screen based apps on a non touch screen Mac. You see if Apple did make a 2 in 1 Mac, or even just a touch screen Mackbook. Then instead of Apple being number 1 in tablet sales. Apple overnight would see their tablet sales drop almost over night, and Apples PC sales are currently around 10% of the PC market. All 2 in 1 laptops, and touch screen laptops, all fall under the PC category. Apple could gain more market share in PC sales if they did release a 2 in 1 Macbook, or a touch screen Mac in general. Then actually ruuning iOS apps on a touch screen Mac would automatically become better. Just look at running Android apps on touch screen Chromebooks. Now running Android apps on a 2 in 1 Chromebook are great. But see Chromebook sales, including 2 in 1 Chromebook sales, as well as including 2 in 1 Windows laptops all fall under the PC category sales, and not under the tablet category of sales. That is what Apple is worried about.
  • I think this is likely something Apple will do, but it will be wrong all the same. iPad has been going in the *wrong* direction for years now in that they have been basically turning it into an ersatz laptop. The original point of iPad is that it *isn't* a laptop at all. How are these ideas and any of the current and recent developments in iPad (hardware and software), any different from Microsoft's "convertible laptop" response to the original iPad that we all used to laugh at? Here we are just over ten years later and Apple is now copying Microsoft from 2008. What a joke. In the line of a more specific criticism of the ideas presented here in this article ... how would any of this work on the iPad mini? The answer is that it wouldn't. If I wanted a laptop I'd buy a laptop.
    If I wanted a laptop with a touch screen, I'd have bought a Microsoft Surface years ago.
  • I agree with both of the comments here. I don’t want the iPad getting bogged down with laptop functionality. I like the simplicity of iPadOS. I have laptops. I didn’t buy iPads to do complex multitasking. I don’t want to have to login. I don’t want multiuser support. iPads are cheap enough that everyone in the house can have their own. The days of having a single Windows PC in the house - that everyone shares - are long gone. We all have our own phones and iPads now. This is 2022, not 2003. The whole point of an iPad is that it is NOT as complicated to use as a “proper computer”. If I want “proper computer” complexity, I’ll fire up a Windows laptop. Which I do WAY less often today than I did 5 years ago. There is a reason why Apple owns the tablet market. iPads are powerful yet easy to use, sleek and fast. We need more of the same, not a “fundamental rethinking of iPadOS”. 🙄
  • 100% this - Completely agree.
  • I am hoping now that the M1 is in more iPads this will happen but not holding my breathe. Seems apple wants to keep the iPad neutered to sell more Macs (which is dumb because not everyone is going to buy a Mac if they want/need an iPad instead).
  • I use my ipad mini as remote desktop client for Windows.
  • My iPad pro 2021 is my laptop. I have a iMac at home and the combo is perfect for me. I agree that the iPad should not be infused with MacOS but rather a beefier version of iPad OS that takes advantage of it's power. When using my iPad as a laptop I had to learn a new skill set as I could not expect to use my iPad exactly like my laptop (when I had one). Apple needs to bring back that "There's an app for that" commercial as it is very true. The only thing that I have found that I cannot do on an iPad really is burn a DVD. For everything else there is a variation or app that gets the job done but in a different way. Would I want Final Cut Pro mobile on the iPad yes but to be honest with you Lumafusion is amazing and gets the job done in so many ways. I am surprised that Apple has not purchased them yet and rebranded them Final Cut Mobile or something of that nature. The iPad is still true to what Steve Jobs said it would be, that device that sits between your laptop and desktop and that is exactly what the iPad is.
  • I have to disagree with this statement “ As I have written before, the people who spend laptop-like prices on an iPad and a Magic Keyboard today expect a laptop-like experience” - I think it’s only a small subset of computer nerds who want that - which are usually the loudest crowd in tech. I have a lot of friends who own iPad Pros - some of them are in professional industries (scientific, creative), and others are just regular everyday people - and not one time have I ever heard them complain about the iPad not having a desktop mode. I’m a senior iOS engineer with over 7 years of experience, a designer, and have done IT work in the past, and I would NEVER want a desktop mode. But that small subset of computer nerds will keep whining about it till the end of time. If you want a laptop experience, get a freakin’ MacBook. Then you can have a 14” screen instead of a 12.9” one. I know the usual counter argument is: “just because YOU don’t want that, doesn’t mean other people don’t and shouldn’t have it”. Except that, I’ve also worked in business too, and the market is a decision maker - and I would be shocked if the “I want a desktop on my iPad” group accounts for more than 10%.