The next version of iPadOS is here.
When Apple debuted iPadOS at its WWDC developer conference last year, it only said it was "iPadOS". However, it was soon noted the technical version number was iPadOS 13 and that has now been superceded by this year's upcoming release - iPadOS 14.
The main thing to realise about iPadOS is that it's built on the same foundation as iOS - but it has unique, powerful capabilities best suited to the larger display of the iPad. It also includes almost all iOS 14's new features, too.
iPadOS and iOS will get more distinct as time goes on, with the iPad receiving more computer-like features and we're certainly starting to see them diverge. It's fair to say that things are at the beginning of the process and it'll be really interesting to see how the iPad evolves over the next few years.
iPadOS 14 features
New phone/video call alerts
Firstly, Apple has made phone call, FaceTime or Skype call alerts much less intrusive. Now it doesn't take up the entire screen, but it's a floating alert instead. Very welcome.
Design updates for stock apps including sidebars
The basic apps are getting a design update including the Photos app to ensure it makes even better use of the iPad's large display. Photos has a new sidebar and you can drag and drop photos into albums on the sidebar just as you would on the Mac. Files and Music get similar treatment, with a much more computer-like experience.
In the Music app, you can rapidly flip between screens like playlists or album view.
The new sidebars are shown across many apps, including Photos, Files, Notes, Calendar, and Apple Music, consolidate navigation into a single place, making it easier than ever to navigate within an app while keeping content front and centre. Additionally, streamlined toolbars and new pull-down menus provide access to app controls all in one place.
Scribble with Apple Pencil
In terms of Apple Pencil support, Apple has introduced a new feature called Scribble. Its aim is to make handwriting as useful as text on screen and so iPadOS 14 will automatically understand handwriting and convert it into text.
It'll even recognise phone numbers, dates, and addresses and offers the ability to take actions like tapping a written number to make a call, adding an event directly to Calendar, or showing a location in Maps.
Scribble will initially offer support for English, Traditional and Simplified Chinese including mixed Chinese and English.
iOS 14's data widgets
Like iOS 14, the latest iPad software has the Windows Phone-like data-rich widgets. These are going to be very useful and are similar to what Apple has already established with the Today view. They'll also show up in the column on the left of the home screen on iPadOS.
A new search
There's also a new Search with a compact design like Spotlight search on the Mac. It's now a floating search on the screen. Again you can search the web or for contacts, files and within some apps.
ARKit 4 delivers a new Depth API that allows developers to access even more precise depth information captured by the new LiDAR Scanner on iPad Pro.
Developers can use the Depth API to drive powerful new features in apps, like taking body measurements for more accurate virtual try-on or testing how paint colours will look before painting a room, according to Apple.
ARKit 4 also introduces Location Anchors for iOS and iPadOS apps so apps can use the higher resolution data of the new map in Apple Maps to pin AR experiences to a specific point in the world.
As in iOS 14, all apps will now be required to obtain user permission before tracking. App Store product pages will feature summaries of developers’ self-reported privacy practices, too.