A new patent hints toward a macOS mode for iPad - but don't hold your breath

Universal Control
(Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)

A patent has been uncovered where docking an iPad to a keyboard accessory would enable a macOS mode, featuring floating windows and more.

As we approach WWDC 2022, rumors of what iPadOS 16 may feature have been light, which could mean two things. Either it's going to be a muted update, or we're going to see a major redesign.

We're most likely going to see the former, with a focus on speed and bug fixes for the iPad in 2022. But that doesn't stop us from thinking about where iPadOS could go.

A macOS mode when an iPad is docked makes a lot of sense, but it could also introduce some confusion to users, in terms of where the hardware lineup stands.

Time for a big iPadOS change

Patent showcasing a macOS mode on iPad

(Image credit: Patently Apple)

The iPad has had a confusing time in the last few years, with Apple renaming its software to iPadOS, while still sticking to the same design principles that iOS has had since its debut in 2007.

While iPadOS 15 brought a great improvement to the home screen with the ability to place widgets there, it wasn't mind-blowing. It's partly why I sold my iPad Pro and am still content with a MacBook Pro 14-inch, but I do believe that the potential for the tablet is constantly there.

Which is why I'm approaching this patent with trepidation. Usually, patents are filed to protect the inventor, and it's a 50/50 chance whether we see these features be implemented.

Yet seeing a mode resembling macOS, as an option for the iPad, is an alluring thought. But it opens a can of worms:

  • Which iPad models will be enabled to use this feature?
  • Would it switch to macOS only when the iPad is docked?
  • What happens if you need to quickly switch between modes?
  • Would some features be exclusive in macOS mode?

Time to say goodbye to the iPad Pro

Patent showcasing a macOS mode on iPad

(Image credit: Patently Apple)

Alongside this, the lineup of iPads is also confusing in the features they all offer. In 2015, the Apple Pencil could only be used with the iPad Pro - now it's all models except the cheapest iPad.

However, while the iPad Pro has ProMotion, a feature that enables the display to run at 120Hz, speakers around the tablet, and Face ID, there's little enough to tempt you to go to this highest tier of iPad.

Perhaps macOS-mode would be best for this iPad instead, but it's time to see a rename for that tier if the feature did arrive. iPad Studio could work, as the name implies creating projects, but being able to take these anywhere, and switch between certain modes, something that the Mac Studio can't do, could be appealing to many.

But again, there's little chance that we'll see this patent come to fruition anytime soon, if at all. The iPad Pro needs to stand out from the iPhone and other iPads, but there's a danger that falling back on a macOS mode could confuse users as to what the tablet is truly for, and how it could benefit them in the long run.

Via Patently Apple

Daryl Baxter
Software & Downloads Writer

Daryl had been freelancing for 3 years before joining TechRadar, now reporting on everything software-related. In his spare time, he's written a book, 'The Making of Tomb Raider'. His second book, '50 Years of Boss Fights', came out in June 2024, and has a newsletter called 'Springboard'. He's usually found playing games old and new on his Steam Deck and MacBook Pro. If you have a story about an updated app, one that's about to launch, or just anything Software-related, drop him a line.