iPadOS 14 for iPad — Explained! (WWDC 2020)

iPadOS 14 runs on every iPad from the 2014 iPad Air 2, the 2015 iPad mini 2, the 2017 iPad, and all the iPads Pro.

In other words, if you’re running iPadOS 13 today, you’ll be able to run iPadOS 14 when it ships.

As always, that doesn’t mean every single new feature will be there, but all the basic stuff and security updates at the very least.

iOS 14 and iPadOS 14

A bunch of the new features coming in iPadOS 13 are part of the core iOS 13 update, things like the new group features in Messages, all the new Memoji looks, and bike, EV, and congestion routing in Maps.

I’ve done a whole video on all of that already, so seriously, hit subscribe and check that out. I won’t duplicate any of it here but I will point out the major differences.

Also, for anyone saying the iPad got short-shift this year, including me in a moment, just remember that Apple kind of dropped trackpad and cursor support all surprise casual like just a few months ago, and while that would have made a helluva WWDC segment, I’m happy we got it in 13.4 and didn’t have to wait half-a-year for 14.0 to ship.

iPadOS 14 Widgets

Just like iOS 14, iPadOS 14 is getting the newly redesigned widgets, the ones that have leveraged everything Apple learned from Watch complications to make them even more informationally dense and more glanceably legible than ever before. Including Stacks and Smart Stacks.

But… as Apple will tell you, these new widgets are not meant to be mini apps. And that means, unlike previous widgets, you can’t interact with them. No buttons. No fields. Certainly no calculators. All you can do is tap them to go straight to their host app.

That might be a limitation due to their SwiftUI Watch Complication origins, because there’s no way to really interact with elements that small, but at iPad scale especially, it also feels like a regression. So, hopefully it’s really just a first step towards a better, more interactive widget future for everyone.

Also, unlike the iPhone, where you can place widgets in amongst the app grid, on the iPad, widgets are staying locked to the side bar introduced last year in iPadOS 13.

So, you get the visual benefits of the new widgets, just not the spatial ones. I’ve heard that this is because Apple felt the bigger iPad display meant they didn’t have the cram the widgets into the grid, but I’ve also heard the tight deadlines just meant they haven’t had time to do it yet.

While I like the clean look of the sidebar, arbitrary widget placement is just more functional, so I’m hoping it’s more the latter than the former.

Same with App Library, which is the new system that organizes all your apps into smart folders at the end of the home page stack on iPhone… and is completely MIA on the iPad.

Again, I’ve heard Apple may not feel it’s needed on the bigger iPad screen and with the dynamic Dock, and that Apple just didn’t have time to implement it yet. Either way, like Gollum and the one ring, I wants it.

If you wants it too, drop a like below so they can see the numbers.

iPadOS 14 App Interfaces

For app interfaces on the iPad this year, Apple is leaning heavily into sidebars. Split view controllers, or having a list on one side and content on the other has basically been the iPad standard since it launched a decade ago, but these sidebars take organization and sophistication to the next level — an almost Mac-like level you could say. Especially since you can not only tap to reveal contents now but drag and drop to re-organize contents.

Not coincidentally, that should also make iPad apps run better on Apple Silicon Macs, and make them even easier to adapt into Catalyst apps.

Same with the return-to-fashionable popovers and the new pull downs, which are like drop-downs.

Sadly, the classic spinning time and date picker, which lost its photo-realism with iOS 7 has lost it’s… everything with iOS and iPadOS 14. It’s now just a functionally non-delightful number entry. I want the original back so badly.

The compact interfaces that coming to iOS 14 are also coming to iPadOS 14, but make an even bigger difference on the even bigger screens. Again, you can check out my iOS 14 video for all the details on Phone, FaceTime, and Siri.

I already mentioned how I wish I could drag Siri result notifications into widgets to keep them around if I need to reference them again. But It’d be great to be able to temporarily just pin any notification if you want, so you can navigate around to look other things up without blowing it away.

With the new Search, it at least persists what you were recently doing if you tap off then call it back.

It’s also Universal now, like macOS Search or, basically, type-to-Siri, which isn’t just great for consistency, it’s great for utility.

iPadOS 14 Apps

App Clips work on the iPad same as the iPhone, but can’t access NFC because no NFC. Also, since there’s no App Library, if you want to find them again and reuse them, they’ll hang out in the dynamic dock and the multitasking workspace interface instead.

Game Center has also gotten a cross-Apple-platform reboot. There’s a new access point, so it’s no longer sign-in and forget-in. You can just tap the AP to see your highlights. You can also tap on your profile pic to go to an in-game dashboard, with your friends, achievements, and leaderboard status.

You can tap in further to, for example, get friend recommendations, change your profiles settings, and more.

Pretty much the entire experience has been updated, including multi-player. It’s like the best of the old Game Center, minus green felt, plus consistency and ubiquity. I hope every game dev adopts it.

Also, and really cool, Game Center is no integrated into the App Store as well, so on the tab pages like Games and Arcade, and the individual game pages, you can see what your Game Center friends are playing, and that can help you decide what you want to play next.

To either challenge or, you know, avoid them…

iPadOS 14 Privacy

Apps also have to ask you now before they can track you, just like they have to ask for camera or contact or location permission.

You can choose to share an approximate location instead of your exact GPS coordinates if you feel like that’s all a specific app needs.

You can limit an app to only specific photos instead of giving them access to your entire photo library.

And if the mic or camera get turned on for any reason, you get a dot in the status bar and control center telling you they’re on.

iPadOS 14 Safari

Safari will also privately, through cryptographic derivation, which breaks my brain just trying to say, check your passwords against known breaches and alert you if they’ve been breached — and also let you change any available accounts to Sign in with Apple if you don’t want to keep around the individual password any more.

I love this so much.

There’s no new Translate app for there iPad like there is for the iPhone, which just adds more bummer to the already huge no calculator or weather app bummer pile.

But, you can translate web pages with Apple if you don’t want to share what you’re translating with Google, and you can tap the Privacy Report button to see all the cross-site trackers that Safari is auto-blocking for you.

I guess we’ll find out if anyone can hear data harvesters scream in ad-space.

Also, Safari now turns on Favicons by default, because the original art is pretty enough even for Steve Jobs now. And you can see more tabs all at once to more quickly move between them.

iPadOS 14 Augmented Reality

ARKit 4 applies to both the iPhone and the iPad, but it’s got a few features exclusive to devices with the fancy new LiDAR scanner. Which is just the latest iPad Pro… for now.

First, the depthy API can now use LiDAR to provide even more precise data for virtual objects and more advanced photo and video editing effects.

LiDAR is also powering better object occlusion, which means virtual objects passing behind real world objects. Like Pikachu running behind a tree.

You can also place AR experiences at the coordinates of famous landmarks and places around the world. I’m so hoping for Kong at the Empire States Building.

And there’s video textures in Reality Kit, so you can map a movie screen to your wall, facial expressions to lego head, ripples to a sink, pretty much anything you want to animate.

iPadOS 14 Accessibility

Headphone accommodations in accessibility let you customize exactly the audio experience you want, amplifying soft sounds, adjusting frequencies, even making a personal profile. Anything you need to hear as much as you possibly can.

iPadOS 14 and Apple Pencil

So, confession, true facts, for real, all of that: As much as I love the trackpad and cursor support we just got, I love the new pencil support we’re getting even more.

See, trackpad and cursor make the iPad more like a traditional computer. Pencil makes it more like a traditional notebook.

First, if you draw a simple shape, like a circle, oval, square, rectangle, triangle, star, pentagon, heart, single or double ended straight and curved arrow, cloud, or word bubble… it’s the same as always. But! If you pause at the end with the Pencil tip still down, it’ll be converted into a smooth geometric shape. More complicated shapes will either be simplified to one of the more basic shapes or ignored completely — yes, you heard me you TTP types.

Next, Apple is treating hand writing like typed writing, which means they’re using machine learning systems to identify writing from doodling and other types of pencil marks, and recognizing the individual characters and strings that compose it. They’re even run machine learning models to generate uncommon samples, like hand written URLs, to train the recognition models. I both love and fear this stuff so much.

Also, you can hand write something, select it, copy it, paste it as is or as typed text, change color, move it, whatever. If what you write triggers a data detector, like a phone number, email address, physical address, or web address — all the addresses — they’ll even be turned into links so you can tap on them to go to FaceTime, Mail, Maps, and Safari. It’s great.

If you’re using a Pencil, you shouldn’t have to put it down to do other things with your iPad. That means, one, you get a floating palette that contains the most common functions of whatever app you’re in so you can quickly pencil tap them. And, two, you can now Scribble into any text field you could previously type into.

Scribble on iPad is similar to Scribble on the watch, just at iPad scale. So, instead of one character at a time, you can just write and Scribble will just covert it to type right behind you. As long as you start in the field, even if you stray out of it. You can also circle words with the pencil to select them or scratch them out to delete them.

iPadOS 14 and You

iPadOS 14 is currently in developer beta. It'll go into public beta in July and be released for everyone this fall.