- Apple says iPadOS 16 will ship later than iOS 16 for the iPhone.
- New desktop-class features bring the iPad closer to the Mac than ever.
- iOS launches are dictated by iPhone launches, whether they’re ready or not.
This year, iPadOS 16 will ship around a month later than iOS 16 for the iPhone, and iPad fans should be over the moon about it.
Apple has very few forced schedules these days. Now that it controls all the hardware and software in its devices, it can release things when they're ready and not before. Except the iPhone. Apple announces a new version of its biggest moneymaker every September, and along with it comes the latest version of iOS and iPadOS, ready or not. This year, Apple has decided that iPadOS 16 needs more time and will most likely release it along with this year's version of macOS in October. This is great news because the iPad becomes more like the Mac every year.
"The new additions: Stage Manager, full external-display support, Reference Mode, Display Zoom, and virtual memory swap are proof [that Apple is really serious about the next 'pro' software stage of iPadOS]," iOS and Mac app developer Stavros Zavrakas told Lifewire via email.
It’s All In the Timing
To see the perils of releasing software before it's ready, let's take a trip back to the fall of 2019 and the disastrous launch of iOS 13. Along with the usual array of new features, Apple made significant changes to the iCloud integration and features but ended up pulling a lot of these before launch. It also had security flaws and was generally glitchy.
The iPhone ships in late September (sometimes early October), and Apple has to lock in a version of iOS ahead of time, so it can be installed on all those devices. This is why we very often see an update when, or soon after, the iPhone goes on sale—because it contains many weeks' worth of fixes.
In addition, Apple would release the corresponding iPad update simultaneously, even though there might not be any new iPad hardware that requires it. That led to unnecessary problems. This week, Apple told TechCrunch that it will ship iPadOS 16 in the fall, after the iOS launch. This has happened before, although usually not as drastically. The aforementioned iOS 13 launched on September 19, 2019, whereas the first iPad version that year was iPadOS 13.1, which came five days later, on September 24.
More Like a Mac
Perhaps Apple has finally uncoupled the iPad from the iPhone's schedule. And it makes particular sense this year because the iPad is becoming much more Mac-like. Among the additions are "desktop-class apps," which pretty much means apps will behave more like their desktop counterparts, plus the biggest change to the iPad in years: Stage Manager.
Stage Manager is a reimagining of how multitasking works on the iPad. Instead of the iPhone-like full-screen paradigm, iPadOS 16 lets you put multiple apps on screen at once in windows. They don’t quite work like Mac windows, though. You create groups of apps, which you can switch between; within those groups, Stage Manager rearranges the windows automatically, so they’re always available but tucked behind the window you’re currently using.
iPadOS 16 also adds proper support for external displays. If you connect your iPad to a USB-C or Thunderbolt monitor, you can add another group of windows, in addition to the ones on your iPad’s screen, and control everything from a mouse/trackpad and keyboard.
In short, your iPad can turn into a passable iMac, just with a few peripherals.
All Grown Up
"Stage Manager is a big step. It needs more time. The iPad is not turning into the Mac, but iPadOS getting a release date that's closer (or identical?) to the macOS release date isn't necessarily a bad thing," Apple-watcher and journalist Jason Snell said on his Six Colors blog.
At the same time, macOS Ventura also adds Stage Manager, in addition to the various multi-window modes it already has, like split-view, Spaces, Launchpad, Mission Control, and probably others I've missed. Stage Manager might not appeal to all Mac users, but it will make sense for those who also use it on the iPad, keeping the UI nice and consistent.
As the iPad matures and perhaps inevitably becomes more Mac-like, it makes sense to let it run on its own schedule. As someone who used the iPad as their only computer for years, this leveling-up is welcome. The iPad is no longer just "a big iPhone," and that's great news.