iPadOS has come from humble beginnings, starting off as effectively a ‘blown up’ version of iOS and evolving into a fully-fledged and well-supported platform in its own right.
While there are undoubtedly things that we still want to see (multi-user support, anyone?), the platform has improved steadily with each release, and anyone who’s not used an iPad for a year or more may be impressed by how much is new.
iPadOS 16.1 brings a raft of new features and improvements – and interestingly, Apple is now starting to split features between its iPads running on M2 processors and those using older A-series chips, meaning which new features your iPad receives will depend on how new it is.
With this in mind, here are some of our favorite iPadOS 16.1 features that you can try on one of the best iPads out there.
The iPad has had a variety of multitasking options over the last few years, and while Split-View and Slide-over have long been the go-to features for the productivity minded, the arrival of Stage Manager on M2 iPads and other supported devices shows that Apple isn’t afraid to mix things up.
Stage Manager, which is also available on macOS Ventura, essentially puts one app front and center on your screen while minimizing others to the side. The feature is available on M1 and M2 iPad Pro models, and on iPad Air devices. It takes some getting used to, and it’s fair to say that resizing windows on an iPad has been prone to bugs and issues, with some apps crashing and others disappearing altogether. However, we're hoping that these issues are fixed in the coming months.
Stage Manager was supposed to arrive with external display support too, which means users can spread their apps (and Stage Manager instances) between additional screens. However, this has been delayed to a future release for now.
In a bid to challenge Google’s relative dominance of the collaborative working space, Apple is positioning its productivity apps, including Pages, Numbers, and Keynote, as more collaboration-friendly options in iPadOS 16.1.
Users will be able to hop into projects in those apps, third-party options, and even Safari, and maintain communication with collaborators in real-time via a Messages thread. While we’re on the subject, iPadOS 16.1 will also add the ability to edit or unsend iMessages, along with the ability to schedule emails.
Apple is also adding a new app called Freeform in the coming months. This will act as a digital whiteboard of sorts, giving users the ability to scribble with the Apple Pencil and add notes during FaceTime calls.
Desktop-class app refinements
While we’re still no closer to the likes of Logic Pro or Final Cut making the jump to the iPad, Apple has touted a series of 'desktop-class apps' that's available in iPadOS 16.1.
What that translates to is essentially the addition of more laptop- and desktop computer-style features to existing apps such as Calendar, Pages, and Files. One big advantage is the ability to customize toolbars to change how apps look, and how you interact with them.
Files may be the biggest beneficiary, though, since you’ll now be able to flick through, copy, move, and rename files just as if you were on a Mac. It’s a big help for pro users in particular, but is sure to be useful for anyone who finds themselves rummaging through their storage on a regular basis.
iCloud Shared Photo Library
If you and someone in your immediate family has an iPhone, then the iPad’s iCloud Shared Photo Library will be a huge timesaver.
While it's also available for iOS 16.1 and macOS Ventura, you get a much bigger and better view of your photos on an iPad. These shared photos are added to your shared family library, so you can enjoy them on that gorgeous 12.9-inch display.
Updates are reflected for all users, too, so you won’t need to keep tabs on who edited which photo.
Game Center & Weather
Sure, it’s unlikely to be a feature to get everyone excited, but if you're an Apple Arcade aficionado, or just love to challenge friends on a regular basis, you’ll be pleased to see an overhaul that makes Game Center more console-like.
Players can spot which games their friends are playing, jump into a game together, and start playing in the middle of a FaceTime call or an iMessage thread with SharePlay.
Last, but certainly not least, is the Weather app coming over from iOS to iPadOS 16.1 and macOS Ventura. Weather saw a big redesign in iOS 14, where push notifications for upcoming rain, and detailed maps displaying predicted temperatures, has made it far more useful than the basic widget the app started life as.
In iPadOS 16.1, you’ll now get hourly weather updates, home screen widgets and elegant animations that really make rain, snow and sunshine pop on your iPad’s screen, especially if you have the new M2 iPad Pro.
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Lloyd Coombes is a freelance tech and fitness writer for TechRadar. He's an expert in all things Apple as well as Computer and Gaming tech, with previous works published on TopTenReviews, Space.com, and Live Science. You'll find him regularly testing the latest MacBook or iPhone, but he spends most of his time writing about video games at Dexerto.
- Daryl BaxterSoftware & Downloads Writer