(mylifeunlock) – The next version of iPadOS is here. You can now download it on your iPad by going to Settings > General > Software Update.
We installed an early version on our iPad mini where we’ve been testing it out for the last couple of months – and we’ll bring you our thoughts here.
The main thing to realise about iPadOS is that it’s built on the same foundation as iOS – but it has unique, powerful capabilities best suited to the larger display of the iPad. It includes almost all of iOS 14’s new features, too.
iPadOS and iOS will get more distinct as time goes on, with the iPad receiving more computer-like features and we’re certainly starting to see them diverge.
With the added factor of Apple Silicon-based Macs it’ll be really interesting to see how the iPad evolves over the next few years given that the Mac will be moving closer to it in terms of hardware.
iPadOS 14 features
Here’s our summary of the main features and what we think of them.
New phone/video call alerts
Firstly, Apple has made phone call, FaceTime or Skype call alerts much less intrusive if your iPad is unlocked. Now it doesn’t take up the entire screen, but it’s a floating alert instead. Very welcome.
You can quickly tap to answer the call or simply flick it to dismiss and get right back to work just as you would with any other notification.
If your iPad is locked, it’ll still take up the whole screen as before.
A less intrusive Siri
Siri now appears at the bottom of the screen when activated. Apple says it quickly gets out of the way when launching other apps or controlling music. Replies come up in a sort of speech bubble above the Siri sphere.
Design updates for stock apps including sidebars
The basic apps are getting a design update including the Photos, Files and Music apps so they make better use of the iPad’s larger display. They’ve got a new sidebar and you can drag and drop photos into albums on the sidebar just as you would on the Mac. In the Music app, you can rapidly flip between screens like playlists or album view.
The new sidebars are shown across many other apps, including Notes and Calendar, consolidating navigation into a single place. There are new pull-down menus here, too.
Scribble with Apple Pencil
Apple has introduced a new feature called Scribble for use with the Apple Pencil. Its aim is to make handwriting as useful as text on screen and so iPadOS 14 will automatically understand handwriting and convert it into text.
Microsoft Surface pen users will certainly recognise some of the things it can do.
As well as recognising handwriting, there are several other ways you can handle text using Scribble. You can delete words by scribbling over them or circle to select them. You can also insert or join words without needing to fold out your iPad keyboard or bring it up on screen.
As we’ve said in our main Scribble feature, it doesn’t work in all apps in all places but it’s pretty comprehensive where it does work. You will need pretty decent handwriting, though, so may take some practice.
It’ll even recognise phone numbers, dates, and addresses and offers the ability to take actions like tapping a written number to make a call, adding an event directly to Calendar, or showing a location in Maps.
Scribble will initially offer support for English, Traditional and Simplified Chinese including mixed Chinese and English.
iOS 14’s dynamic widgets
Like iOS 14, the latest iPad software has the Windows Phone-like data-rich widgets. These are going to be very useful and are similar to what Apple has already established with the Today view.
Whereas on iOS you can place them among your apps, the iPad keeps things simpler because the widgets are only shown in the Today view – the column you can see on the left of these images (above and below). As before you can stick this column to your first home screen permanently or hide it to the left of your screen if you wish.
There are limited widgets you can have for now, because third-party apps don’t generally have them yet but this will surely come soon. Coincidentally, unlike iOS 14, there’s no App Libary on iPadOS – the Android-like ‘app drawer’ that’s available on iOS 14 on the iPhone and iPod touch.
Like iOS, you can also have a Smart Stack of widgets on top of each other. And you can choose if you want them to Smart Rotate – that is, change which widget is on top depending on the time of day.
A redesigned search
There’s also a new Search with a compact design like Spotlight search on the Mac. It’s now a floating search on the screen. Again you can search the web or for contacts, files and within some apps.
ARKit 4 delivers a new Depth API that allows developers to access even more precise depth information captured by the new LiDAR Scanner on iPad Pro.
Developers can use the Depth API to drive powerful new features in apps, like taking body measurements for more accurate virtual try-on or testing how paint colours will look before painting a room, according to Apple.
ARKit 4 also introduces Location Anchors for iOS and iPadOS apps so apps can use the higher resolution data of the new map in Apple Maps to pin AR experiences to a specific point in the world.
New Maps features
Apple Maps keeps getting better and now select cities have 3D guides to help you make the most of them. There are also new cycling directions and EV routing (so you can charge up). These latter features weren’t working when we tested them out, but no doubt they will be by the time of the final release of the software.
As in iOS 14, all apps will now be required to obtain user permission before tracking. App Store product pages will feature summaries of developers’ self-reported privacy practices, too.
Which Apple iPad is best for you? iPad mini vs iPad vs iPad Air vs iPad Pro
Writing by Dan Grabham.