Amongst a flurry of other software reveals, Apple made a surprising announcement at WWDC 2019: the iPad is ditching iOS. While up until this point iPhone and iPad updates had been bundled together as iOS, starting later this year, iPads will run an entirely separate operating system dubbed iPadOS.

While it may look similar to iOS 13 on the surface, iPadOS brings a range of new features to iPad users. Here’s everything you need to know, from release date and beta details to the headline features of Apple’s tablet-focused OS.

When will iPadOS be released?

iPadOS will be released at some point in September, alongside iOS 13, but you don’t have to wait that long to try it out.

iOS developers can download the iPadOS beta right now, and consumers will be able to download a public beta of iPadOS at some point in July. It’ll be buggy and may cause adverse effects, but it’s an option for those who simply cannot wait until later this year for the full release.

Which iPads are compatible with iPadOS?

While many thought iPadOS would be limited to Apple’s ‘Pro’ tablets, it’ll be available for quite a few devices when it launches this year.

  • 9-inch iPad Pro third generation (2018 model)
  • 9-inch iPad Pro second generation
  • 9-inch iPad Pro first generation
  • 11-inch iPad Pro (2018 model)
  • 5-inch iPad Pro
  • 7-inch iPad Pro
  • iPad sixth generation (2018 model)
  • iPad fifth generation (2017 model)
  • iPad Air 3 (2019 model)
  • iPad Air 2
  • iPad mini 5 (2019 model)
  • iPad mini 4

New features in iPadOS

Apple announced a lot of iPadOS features at WWDC 2019, and here, we explain the key features of the upcoming operating system.

Improved gesture support

The highlight of iPadOS for many will be the introduction of new-and-improved gestures that help take advantage of the large display; swiping in from the left of the home screen will provide easy access to Widgets, a three-finger pinch will copy text, a three-finger spread will paste and a three-finger spread will undo recent changes. You get the idea, right?

Despite a rather shaky demo, the upgraded gesture support looks to vastly improve the iPad workflow, especially for those using the device for work and education purposes.

Multi-window support

The gestures in iPadOS are further enhanced by changes to Slide-In and Split-Screen, with the latter now supporting multiple windows from the same app. This allows you to read one Note while editing another, or compose an email while reading an article on Safari.

All-new Safari browser

If anything has been turbocharged in iPadOS, it’s Safari. The highlight is desktop website support, allowing you to access full websites (automatically optimised for touch input) when browsing on an iPad. This makes the iPad fully compatible with popular sites including WordPress and Google Docs.

You’ll also be able to organise file downloads via Safari’s built-in Download Manager, and the introduction of 30 new keyboard shortcuts should make using the browser much quicker too.

Files

Files has also had an upgrade in iPadOS. You’ve got access to an all-new column view, bringing a macOS-inspired File Preview with it. You’ll be able to quickly view photos and videos, access Quick Actions to rotate images, convert documents to PDFs and view metadata with a tap.

You’ve also got the option to share folders in iCloud Drive and add files via SMB, USB sticks, SD cards and other USB-C/Lightning-enabled accessories, bringing the capabilities of the iPad closer to that of a traditional laptop.

Keyboard

The iPad’s on-screen keyboard has sorely needed love for some time, and it finally got the TLC it needs with iPadOS.

As well as being able to type by swiping from one letter to another – just as you can on iOS 13 – you can also pinch the keyboard to shrink and move it wherever you want on-screen, making one-handed use a breeze while also providing more screen real-estate for your apps.

Apple Pencil improvements

Rather incredibly, Apple has managed to reduce the already-impressive 20ms latency of the Apple Pencil down to 9ms, providing a more natural drawing experience for creatives that use Apple’s high-end stylus.

There’s a host of other Apple Pencil-specific features on offer too, like quick access to mark-up, a redesigned Pencil toolkit and PencilKit, allowing developers to offer Apple’s suite of Apple Pencil tools within third-party apps.

Sidecar support with macOS Catalina

If you’ve got a Mac running macOS Catalina (due out later this year) then you’ll be able to take advantage of the new Sidecar functionality, allowing your iPad to double up as a second display without the need for wires.

It’s a must-have for MacBook owners, as it can almost double the size of the display, but the benefits go beyond simply displaying information on a secondary screen. In fact, Sidecar offers Apple Pencil support, allowing you to ditch your dedicated stylus setup and use your tablet and Apple Pencil to draw naturally on your Mac.

Custom font support

While this isn’t for everyone, designers and creatives in general will be happy to know that iPadOS will support custom fonts, allowing you to use a range of previously-unsupported fonts to create gorgeous graphics and documents. It’ll be easy to install them too, with a dedicated section coming to the iPad’s App Store.  

And most features of iOS 13, too!

And of course, iPadOS comes with all the headline features of iOS 13 including the much-requested Dark Mode, a redesigned Photos app, the Apple ID sign-in option for third-party apps, enhancements to AR, custom Memoji in the Message app and a whole bunch more.

It’s a good year for iPad users, isn’t it?