Apple is about to make your iPad more useful than ever

iPadOS 16 and Stage Manager with an external display
(Image credit: Apple)

Apple has revealed a new expansion that it hopes will make iPad devices open to more accessories than ever.

DriverKit, one of the many updates coming to iPadOS 16, will let manufacturers and developers create drivers specifically for iPads for the first time, and even build multi-platform drivers.

The tool has been available since 2019 on macOS Catalina, allowing third-party USB and Thunderbolt accessories to be connected to macOS devices, but is now coming to the iPad as well.

DriverKit for iPad

In a video announcing the launch, Apple said that DriverKit would bring a lot more flexibility and choice for developers and end-users alike, keeping exactly the same macOS experience for iPad users.

"DriverKit brought a new way to extend the system that is more reliable and secure, running in userspace," Apple's Souvik Banerjee noted.

Banerjee added that the launch was especially targeted at professional iPad users who often have to rely on external hardware that wasn't compatible with their device.

DriverKit API in iPadOS 16 will support USB, PCI, and audio devices, and if a developer has already created a driver with DriverKit on Mac, it can now be ported directly over to iPad with no changes required.

The news, which Banerjee noted is made possible "due to the power of the M1 chip" within some iPad models, means that users will be able to connect Thunderbolt audio interfaces such as microphones or headsets on the iPad for the first time.

Each driver will only work when the linked external device is connected, and any new drivers must be enabled manually in the iPad Settings app after being installed, where they can also be toggled on or off by the user at any time.

Once an app has been developed and submitted to the App Store, Apple will make sure only users with the correct drivers can download and use them in order to ensure there are no compatibility issues.

All iPads with M1 hardware will support DriverKit, which is available now.

Mike Moore
Deputy Editor, TechRadar Pro

Mike Moore is Deputy Editor at TechRadar Pro. He has worked as a B2B and B2C tech journalist for nearly a decade, including at one of the UK's leading national newspapers and fellow Future title ITProPortal, and when he's not keeping track of all the latest enterprise and workplace trends, can most likely be found watching, following or taking part in some kind of sport.