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iPadOS 15 new features, and what will change on your iPad

iPadOS features spread
iPadOS features spread (Image credit: Apple)
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iPadOS 15 is now available to iPad users. In fact, you can now get all the way up to iPadOS 15.6, with iPadOS 16 now on the horizon.

A sister update to iOS 15, the new iPadOS has lots of the features of that iPhone operating system, but with a few extras that make the most of the tablet form factor.

iPadOS 15 improves upon iPadOS 14 features (and adds some that were curiously absent from 2020's update despite already being on iPhone). If you're unsure in how to update your iPad, we've created a short guide for you to take advantage of what the new update offers.

Below though, we've detailed all the significant updates included in iPadOS 15, along with those in iPadOS 15.1 through iPadOS 15.6.

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? The third version of iPadOS, an operating system for iPads
  • When did it come out? September 20
  • How much does it cost? It's free

iPadOS 15 release date

WWDC 2021 screenshot

(Image credit: Apple)

Alongside announcing the iPad (2021), iPad mini (2021) at the September 14, 2021 event, Apple also announced that iPadOS 15 would launch on September 20, which it did.

Since then, we've seen a variety of smaller updates, with iPadOS 15.6 - a July 2022 release - being the most recent. That might well be the last update we get before iPadOS 16.

If you're not yet up to date then head to Settings > General > Software Update to grab the latest available version of iPadOS.

iPadOS supported devices

Apple confirmed iPadOS 15 will come to 'iPad mini 4 and later, iPad Air 2 and later, iPad 5th generation and later, and all iPad Pro models'. So what does that mean? Well, all the iPads listed below:

The same is true of all the iPadOS 15.x releases, so all of those devices will also be able to get iPadOS 15.6.

iPadOS 15 features

Lots of the new iPadOS 15 features are actually features of iOS 14 that have received a rejig. Below we've highlighted the key changes coming to your iPad.

iPadOS 15 widgets

WWDC 2021 screenshot

(Image credit: Apple)

Widgets were added in iOS 14, but they were locked to the home screen in a panel on the left... for some reason. That wasn't the case for iPhones, and it made the iPad widgets hard to use.

That's changed in iPadOS 15, so you can put widgets wherever you want. There are also widgets for more apps than before, including new widgets for the App Store, Find My, Game Center, Mail, and Contacts, and widgets now come in different sizes than they did before.

Two examples shown were a Photos app that shows you snippets of the pictures you've taken, and a Files widget that's pretty big, so you can see lots of files at once.

iPadOS 15 App Library

An iOS 14 feature that we're finally getting on iPadOS is the App Library, which is a menu where you can list all your apps on a separate screen, much like the app drawer on Android.

It also sorts your apps into categories, so this is a good way to keep all your tools organized if you're a disorganized person, and file your apps by their function or frequency of use.

On iPhones you have to swipe to the end of your home screens to get to the app library, but on iPads you can also bring the thing up easily from any page via the dock.

App Library in iPadOS 15

(Image credit: Apple)

iPadOS 15 multitasking

Another 'new' feature that isn't actually new is multitasking, so you can dual-screen apps and keep them off to the side if you're not using them.

It's not clear how this is different from the current split-screening feature, as the 'shelf' or list of apps to swap between when you're multitasking already exists in prior iPadOS builds.

The way to enable split-screen is different though, as instead of dragging or dropping apps around, a separate menu at the top of the screen lets you enable Split View or Slide Over with a tap.

There's also now quick access to the home screen from Split View, and the ability to use keyboard shortcuts to set up and switch between Split View and Slide Over.

iPadOS 15 Notes app

WWDC 2021 screenshot

(Image credit: Apple)

The iOS Notes app has turned into Google Docs, by the sounds of it. You can tag people into documents, see a revision history and more.

One other new improvement is the ability to easily bring up a Quick Note by swiping up on the screen with the Apple Pencil, giving you a way to easily sketch a note or write down an idea.

You can use this while another app is on the main screen, and then copy some data from the app that's open, like the URL of a website.

There are also new ways to tag notes, which means you can categorize your notes and find them through a new feature called the Tag Browser.

iPadOS 15 new apps and other features

iPhones have access to Apple's Translate app, which is basically like Google Translate but made by Apple.

This app is now coming to iPadOS, so you can convert text and spoken words between languages. You can also translate things in other apps, like emails in foreign languages for example. And with Auto Translate the app will detect when someone is speaking and in which language, and translate it without having to hit a microphone button.

FaceTime has a variety of improvements, and the biggest of them is a feature called SharePlay that allows you to listen to songs together over Apple Music or watch TV shows in sync, with shared playback controls.

It's sort of like Netflix Party, a feature many used during the Covid-19 lockdowns in 2020, but specifically for Apple devices and through the company's services like streaming platforms.

There's a new Live Text feature too, which recognizes text in a photo and allows you to take a relevant action, such as calling a phone number in a picture, or translate the text. This pairs with Visual Look Up, which can identify objects in a photo.

Updates to Safari meanwhile include a new tab design, and a Tab Groups feature for saving and managing tabs.

There's also a new Focus tool, which is designed to filter out notifications when you want to concentrate on particular tasks. For example, you may want to make sure you don't have Facebook pinging you while you're working. This can be customized so that it only filters out the types of notifications that you don't want to be distracted by.

Plus, like iOS 15, notifications summary will gather together particular notifications at the time of day you choose them to. Find you get lots of notifications during work that you don't want to see until you finish? You can set this up with iPadOS 15.

You can also develop your own apps straight from the tablet with Swift Playgrounds 4. Pus you can move seamlessly between an iPad and a Mac with a single mouse and keyboard, Memories in Photos has a new look and personalized song suggestions, Maps includes new and enhanced details, and there are new privacy and accessibility tools.

iPadOS 15.1: SharePlay

With iPadOS 15.1, the headline new feature was SharePlay. This allows you to stream films and TV shows or listen to music while on FaceTime calls, and to have the content in sync for everyone.

iPadOS 15.2

iPadOS 15.2 includes a number of small features and improvements, such as an App Privacy Report feature that lets you easily see how often apps are using the permissions you've granted to them.

There's also a Legacy Contacts feature, which lets you assign someone to get access to your Apple ID, iCloud account and iPad data after you pass away. There are other smaller changes too, which you can read about in our iOS 15.2 guide, as they're the same for both iPhone and iPad.

iPadOS 15.3

iPadOS 15.3 was a tiny update dedicated to bug fixes and security updates, so it was worth downloading, but didn't add any new features.

iPadOS 15.4: Universal Control

With iPadOS 15.4, users finally got access to Universal Control, which allows you to connect your iPad to a Mac and use the iPad's screen like an extension of the Mac's display, with one keyboard and mouse controlling both devices.

iPadOS 15.4: other changes

There are various other iPadOS changes with version 15.4, but they're largely the same as we've seen on iOS 15.4 for iPhone, so head to our iOS 15.4 guide for full details of them all.

iPadOS 15.5: Apple Podcasts improvement

There's not much in iPadOS 15.5, but one change is a new Apple Podcasts setting to limit episodes stored on your iPad and automatically delete older ones.

iPadOS 15.6: a TV update

iPadOS 15.6 is another small update, but along with bug fixes it also includes the ability to fast-forward, rewind, pause, and restart live sports games that are currently in progress from the TV app.

Daryl Baxter
Daryl Baxter

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', alongside podcasting and usually found playing games old and new on his PC 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.