Apple tries to make the iPad more of a computer with iPadOS 15

Your iPad can do everything for you now. At least, that’s what Apple wants you to believe. At its WWDC 2021 keynote, the company detailed how the iPad is one of the most versatile devices you can buy thanks to its entertainment consumption abilities, productivity features, and flexible design.

With iPadOS 15, the company’s new OS for the device, Apple wants to remind you that you can also do a ton of your computing on your iPad instead of on a traditional laptop or desktop. They had to do this, by the way, because they need to justify giving the iPad Pro an M1 chip which seems like overkill.

For the record, the M1 is still overkill despite what iPadOS 15 brings to the table. Obviously, nothing’s bad in the update, but it’s definitely still held back by the fact Apple needs to strike a balance between laptop replacement and Netflix machine.

The most obvious sign Apple wants you to focus on productivity is in multitasking. The company is greatly improving the experience of using multiple apps on iPadOS 15 with a dedicated button at the top of the screen. Now, when you tap it, you can choose to enter a split view with another app. There’s no more remembering which gesture brings up multitasking and which one lets you get rid of an app. Just tap a button and you’re in.

Apple also added a new shelf view for apps with multiple windows in addition to new keyboard commands for bringing up different split views. Apple is also adding App Library to the iPad to help make getting to your apps easier (a shortcut to your library will live in the bottom right corner of the screen in the dock).

Speaking of which, the home screen is getting more useful thanks to widgets. You’ll be able to grab widgets and place them wherever you want on your iPad, just like the iPhone. Apple’s even throwing in a new, larger size for widgets to take advantage of the extra screen space.

Also in the vein of productivity are Quick Notes. With iPadOS 15, you’ll be able to swipe up from one of the bottom corners of your iPad with your Apple Pencil and begin jotting down a note. You’ll also be able to better organize your notes with tags and folders in the Notes app.

This next feature tells you everything when it comes to figuring out whether Apple wants you to use your iPad for everything: it’s bringing the ability to build and distribute apps coded in Swift right from iPadOS 15. The Swift Playgrounds app will power the experience, and first-time coders will be offered tutorials and a walkthrough on how to build their first app. It’s an incredibly cool idea, and I’m sure it’ll open the door for many new developers who might have an iPad but can’t afford a full-blown Mac.

Then there’s Universal Control. This is definitely one of the cooler features to reach the iPad in the past few years and further blurs the lines between the iPad and the Mac.

So long as your iPad is running iPadOS 15 and your Mac is on macOS Monterey, you can use Universal Control to move your cursor between your Mac and iPad. It even works with more than two devices – Apple showed off the ability to drag and drop an image from an iPad across a MacBook and to an iMac. It’s incredibly impressive. Take a look.

Unfortunately, in terms of pro-grade experiences, the buck stops there. The rest of what iPadOS 15 offers is to build synergy with the iPhone and iOS 15. There’s no Logic Pro X support, no Final Cut Pro support, and no Mac support. Apple is simply enhancing what we already had in iPadOS 14, for better or worse. Regardless, it’s clear Apple wants you to continue to think you can do all your work on your iPad.

  • iPadOS 15 gets the same Spatial Audio and SharePlay features as iOS 15 in FaceTime, allowing you to hear voices from where they’re located on your screen and share content with others from services like Apple Music and TV for listening and watching sessions with your friends.
  • Safari gets redesigned with a new tab UI, Tab Groups, and extensions.
  • Focus lets you configure different profiles and customize which notifications you get in certain scenarios. Your home screen can also adapt to the profile you select (to avoid temptations like Twitter at work, for example).
  • AI gets enhanced with Live Text for copying text form images and smart object recognition for search and shopping.
  • Translate comes to the iPad with multi-language conversation support.
  • Shared with You plugs into apps like Apple News and TV to filter out content you’ve received from friends through iMessage.
  • Photos gets improved with a new look and integrated Apple Music for auto-generated videos.
  • Maps gets more detailed 3D maps and a new night mode.
  • Siri now operates on-device more often.
  • iCloud+ (the future name for iCloud subscriptions) adds a new Hide My Email feature to secure your email from advertisers, a VPN, and expanded HomeKit Secure Video support.
  • Privacy gets improvements under-the-hood. You also get a new App Privacy Report to see what apps are tracking your data the most.

All of these features aren’t ground-breaking, and it’s clear that 2021 isn’t a year for Apple to revolutionize the iPad. Rather, iPadOS 15 wants to simply enhance the experience for people who want to use their iPad more. It’s not the update some pro users wanted, but hey, there’s always next year.

Apple will ship iPadOS 15 to all the iPads that supported iPadOS 14 this fall. A developer beta is currently available, while a public beta will be available in July.