What We Want From iPadOS 15

All or nothing

Key Takeaways

  • Apple will reveal new versions of iOS, iPadOS, WatchOS, and macOS at WWDC on Monday, June 7.
  • The M1 iPad is far too powerful for iOS 14. It’s time for a radical redesign. 
  • The most-anticipated feature is multi-user support.
Apple WWDC '21 Promo image

Apple

iPadOS 15 could be the iPad’s biggest change in years—or its biggest disappointment.

During Monday’s WWDC keynote, Apple will provide details on its upcoming software updates. Of those, the most interesting could be iPadOS 15. Why? For starters, the iPad missed out on some major changes in iOS 14 last year—home-screen widgets, for example. But more than that, the iPad’s incredible hardware is held back by its software. Even the 2018 iPad Pro has more power than most people can use, and yet the OS still lacks basic features. 

Widgets, Windows, and Multitasking

Last year, iOS 14 got home-screen widgets. You probably use them on your iPhone. The iPad, which is arguably better-suited to large widgets on the home screen, got a version that only let you add widgets to the sidebar. 

But the whole iPad home screen needs a revamp. The app icon grid is a waste of the most precious space on your iPad. Imagine if Apple could somehow bring the power and convenience of the Mac’s desktop and windows to the iPad. In fact, don’t even bother imagining. Designer Vidit Bhargava already did it for you, with his Menu Bar and Multitasking for iPadOS concept. 

iPad Menu Bar concept

Vidit Bhargava

We won’t get too deep into this, but if you’ve ever used the iPad for complex projects, you know using multiple apps together is a royal pain. The big iPad Pro’s screen is almost the same size as the MacBook’s screen, so why not let us have windows, and a desktop as a place to temporarily store files? Speaking of files…

Finder vs. Files

The Files app in iPadOS is just terrible. Connections to external disks are flaky. There’s no progress indicator when copying files, large or small. Just copying/moving a file from one folder to another is an adventure.

"The iPad’s incredible hardware is held back by its software."

"The iPad’s Files app works great for conducting basic file management," Phil Crippen, CEO at John Adams IT, told Lifewire via email. "But even doing something as simple as renaming multiple files at once is complicated."

Simply copying Mac’s Finder probably isn’t the answer, but I’m sure plenty of folks would be happy if Apple did just that.

Multiple User Accounts

When I asked people to give me their number one request for iPadOS 15, the most common wish was for multiple user accounts. 

"I’m dreaming of the day I can have multiple users for the iPad," vacation planner Candice Criscione told Lifewire via email. "It would be so helpful for when my family is traveling and we don’t want to bring multiple devices."

Tiled multitasking concept for iPadOS

Vidit Bhargava

There’s really no excuse. iPad storage is on a par with MacBooks, and now the iPad and Mac use the exact same chip. 

"It’s time for Apple to finally allow multiple user accounts to log into an iPad," says Crippen. "I understand that this feature wasn’t possible from a technological standpoint when the early iPad models were released. But the iPad is now powerful enough to support multiple users."

Apple already allows multiple iPad users in education. We’d like it for everyone else. 

Pro Apple Apps

There are pro apps on the iPad. Adobe’s Lightroom, Pixelmator, and all of Affinity’s design and photo apps. But there are no pro apps from Apple.

iPadOS 14 on iPad

Apple

The M1 iPad is clearly capable of running Logic Pro or Final Cut Pro because—as we keep mentioning—it uses the same M1 chip as the Mac. The challenge is redesigning it for a touch screen, which might be more likely than we think. Recent versions of Logic on the Mac added a sampler and a sequencer which are begging to be used with touch. In fact, if you use the Logic Remote iPad app to control Logic on the Mac, you can use the sequencer right there. 

If anyone can make a pro iPad app, it’s Apple, and these apps would signal that the iPad platform really is for professional use. 

External Monitor

The iPad can already use an external monitor, and some apps can even display different "windows" on internal and external screens. But for most uses, the iPad screen is mirrored, complete with pillar-box black bars on wide-screen monitors.

"The OS still lacks basic features."

The M1 iPad has a Thunderbolt port, so why not put it to use? Imagine a windowed interface like Bhargava’s concept design, only on a large 32-inch display. Or better still, on a newly announced Apple display, a version of the new iMac, only without the Mac part. But that’s for another discussion. 

iPadOS 15 might bring none of this. But an iPad-focussed revamp feels long overdue, so Monday’s keynote may be very exciting.

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