“We have some big changes coming to iPad,” says Craig Federighi, Apple’s software chief. Apple is unveiling a big software update for iPads today, and it’s now splitting up iOS to form a new iPadOS for the company’s tablets. Apple has long been tweaking iOS to include more multitasking features, including a split-screen feature, / Slide Over and multitasking improvements, and changes to the dock. These updates have gradually moved iOS in two directions for phone and tablet, causing iPad gesture dilemmas.
iPadOS now contains a new home screen with widgets that can expand alongside app icons. These widgets are the same as the ones you’d normally find in the Notification Center. Apple is also adding in more multitasking gestures to slide between multiple apps, and drag and drop apps side by side. All of these apps are then available in an Exposé-like view.
iPadOS is designed to run on Apple’s iPad devices, and it will give the company more freedom to tweak the operating system for these larger screens. Just as Apple has watchOS for the Apple Watch, tvOS for its Apple TV, and macOS for its range of Mac computers, iPadOS will be separate but familiar to iOS users.
iPadOS will also include an improved Files app. It has a column view just like Finder on macOS, and there’s an information pane so you can make small modifications on files. iCloud Drive also now supports folder sharing, and the Files app will even support SMB file shares natively. Perhaps most importantly, USB drives and SD cards will now be supported in the Files app, so you can just plug them into an iPad and get access to the files within this updated app. You’ll even be able to import photos into apps like Lightroom without having to use a Siri Shortcut.
Apple is also improving its Safari browser for iPadOS with desktop-class browsing and a real download manager. There will even be 30 new keyboard shortcuts, text size controls, per-site settings, and photo upload options.
iPadOS will also address some of the lack of computer-like controls on an iPad. Apple is adding fonts to the App Store so you can use these custom fonts in apps. Apple is also improving its copy and paste feature on iPadOS, so you use three fingers to pinch to copy and a three-finger spread to paste.
Even the Apple Pencil is getting some love with this new iPadOS update. Apple is improving the latency from 20ms to 9ms, and the standard tool palette is also getting updated so third-party apps can use new controls. If you drag the Pencil from the corner of an iPad, it will now grab a screenshot for you to immediately start marking up.
All of these features really make this iPadOS stand out from what Apple is doing on the iPhone side, and the company has made it clear today that it will now happily customize the iPad experience further. That should mean that while iOS will still drive many iPadOS features, we’ll see independent changes that make sense for the bigger displays and hardware that the iPad has. That’s great news for iPad owners.