iPadOS 14 has just gone into Public Beta. So, if you’re even thinking about giving it a test-drive before it goes into general release this fall, then this video for you.
I’ve also already done a complete iOS 14 preview, and have macOS, watchOS, and all the AirPods, HomePods, and Home stuff coming your way, so hit that subscribe button and bell right now, and you won’t miss anything.
iPadOS 14 Public Beta
You can get on any or all of Apple’s software testing programs, via beta.apple.com .
Just remember that beta means beta, so don’t put it on your primary iPad if that’s something you need to rely on day to day. Because there will be bugs, apps that don’t work, and all sorts of other stuff along the way.
And always make sure you backup before you beta, just in case you decide you really want to go back.
iPadOS 14 Compatibility
If you’re running iPadOS 13 on your iPad, you’ll be able to run iPadOS 14 on that very same iPad.
That includes every iPad from the 2014 iPad Air 2, the 2015 iPad mini 2, the 2017 iPad, and all the iPads Pro.
As always, Apple’s commitment to software updates is just, really, unmatched.
iPadOS 14 Cursor — Redux
Now, at first blush, it may seem that the iPad didn’t get as much attention or as big an update as the iPhone this year. That Apple is continuing their more like every other year cadence for the iPad.
And that’s… kinda sorta true. But only kinda sorta.
Obviously, the iPad didn’t get the new Home screen experience the iPhone did. Which is… More on that in a hot take minute.
And it also didn’t get anything in the way of a fix to the still fussy, fiddly multi-window mechanics from last year.
But, the iPad is getting not just everything coming in iPadOS 14, but most of what’s coming in iOS 14 as well.
That includes all the new features in Messages, Memoji, Maps, Privacy, Accessibility, App Clips — though without NFC options, obviously — Camera, Photos, and more.
No Translate app, though, which is just Kevin Sorbo levels of disappointing.
But, the iPad also just got a monstrous update back in March, which the iPhone did not get.
An update with trackpad, mouse, and cursor support. An update that, if Apple had waited and kept it for WWDC, would have made the 2020 iPad Pro release way less impactful but, hot damn, would it have spiced up iPadOS 14.
Sure, that was then and this is now and what have you done for my iPad lately, right?
Well, Apple did use iPadOS 14 as away to provide way more insight into how, exactly, this now cursor system works.
Specifically, how the initial, round cursor is meant to better fit touch screen devices than the traditional, more precise, but also far more finicky arrow pointer.
How it doesn’t just morph into button shapes to give you visual confirmation you’re on target, but also magnetically snaps to them and between them, to help you more confidently differentiate and actually hit your target.
Also, if the system thinks you’re trying to reach something further away than a small trackpad swipe will allow, it’ll throw and snap the cursor to what it thinks is your most likely target.
Similarly, instead of making you guess if your arrow pointer is at the bottom of the top line or top of the bottom line, and only letting you know if you got it right or wrong after you go to the trouble of dragging it out, it’ll remove the ambiguity before you even start by snapping between lines as well.
All this to say, cursor support on the iPad is way, way smarter and more sophisticated than it might have appeared at first glance… or swipe.
And, while, sure, some of that might be to work around the lack of affordance in modern iOS and precision in touch-first computing devices, it’s also kinda low-key brilliant and I’d love to see some of the considerations here get taken all the way back to the Mac.
iPadOS 14 Widgets
One of the biggest flagship, tentpole… whatever features in iOS 14 is the new home screen experience nearly two years in the making.
And iPadOS 14 gets… none of it. Well, a little. But not really.
iPadOS 14 is getting the new widget design. Derived from the SwiftUI Apple Watch complications, they look great, the information density is terrific, they’re super easy to take in even at a glance, and you can stack and smart stack them so you can fit a bunch into the same-sized space and the right one will usually just pop up for you at the right time.
They don’t have the in-widget interactivity of the previous versions, though. See my iOS 14 preview for details and diatribes.
But, the iPadOS implementation also has an extra strike in its widget box: Unlike on the iPhone, where you can drag and drop these shiny new toys right onto the Home screen, on the iPad they’re still locked and key-thrown-away into what’s basically Schrödinger’s sidebar. The Today view.
Which means you have to swipe them over from the Home screen or Notification Center, or pin them on the Home screen but only in landscape mode… and it’s… just a whole thing. Or an un-whole thing, more like it.
There’s also no App Library. Which is the new end-of-Home screen screen on the iPhone that auto-magically Marie Kondo’s all your apps into intelligent folders for you. It’s delightful and it’s just totally MIA on the iPad.
Now, it’s been suggested that the iPad screen is big enough and the icon grid can be made dense enough that you don’t really need arbitrary widget placement or the App Library.
And, hey, we’re the ones who kept asking for the iPad to get its own OS and be treated differently anyway. So… whoops.
But, my guess is that the iPad is different enough now for things like how the small, medium, and large widgets would fit on the wider grid, handle both the more dense and bigger icon versions, and how they’d react to the grid reorganize on rotation, that Apple just hasn’t had the time to implement it all yet.
Hard deadlines and work from home being hard deadlines and work from home and all.
But, hopefully, after piloting it on the iPhone this year, and seeing all the demand for it, we’ll get it on the iPad next year.
And if that’s what you want, drop a like below so that demand can really be seen.
iPadOS 14 App Interfaces
Like the iPhone, the iPad is shedding its full-screen takeovers, the ones for phone and FaceTime calls, Siri and search, for what Apple’s calling compact interfaces.
So, now, instead of a call… well… screen-spreading across your display, you’ll get banner notifications. Or, in Siri’s case, a swirling, pulsating powerball at relative bottom right as opposed to absolute bottom center. I covered the good and bad of both in my iOS 14 Preview, so make sure you check that out.
Where the iPad scores a decisive presentational victory, though, is Search. New. Universal. Search.
Swipe down on the screen or hit command space on the physical keyboard and now you have the glory that has basically been macOS don’t-call-it-spotlight-search-anymore for years.
Results start to appear from the first character you type, you can launch apps from the moment they pop up, you can do knowledge-based searches — which is basically type-to-Siri. And you can search not just the web but inside apps as well, which is terrific.
It’s only Apple apps right now, of course, but come general release this fall, hopefully a ton more text and data-centric apps will open wide to the feature as well.
And I love this, because there have been many years where new iPad ideas and conventions have been taken back to the Mac. So, it’s great to see the iPad pulling more of the new and better Mac ones over as well.
Including Sidebars, which are among just the Mac-iest of Mac interface conventions.
You can find them, freshly minted, in Mail, Notes, Files, Calendar, Photos, and a bunch of other built-in apps.
Like so many of the more complicated, more traditional computer trappings Apple’s been adding to iOS over the years, they’re not all up jammed in your face by default. You have to tap one of the new, crisp, clean toolbar buttons to reveal them. Which, I think is great.
It shows that even as Apple is increasingly evolving the iPhone an iPad to better fit the needs of the tiny but incredibly vocal, legit adorable minority of us nerds, they’re not abandoning the vast majority of mainstream users. The one’s that find traditional computer complexity not just off-putting but alienating. You know, the ones the iPad was literally designed for.
Because we nerds already have a ton of computing options and everyone else shouldn’t lose their best one just so we can hoard up another.
Anyway… sidebars. Yes.
For those of us nerds used to the Mac, they’re great. Along with the new pull-down menus, not only do they provide for far better consistency between the iPad and newly redesigned macOS platforms, come later this year when Apple Silicon Macs start to ship, and they can run iPad apps natively, right alongside Mac apps, it’ll provide far better consistency on that platform specifically as well.
Don’t you just love it when a serendipitous plan comes together?
iPadOS 14 Notes
I went over a bunch of built-in app updates in my iOS 14 preview. Things like @ mentions and reply threads in Messages, and cycling directions and skyline scanning in Maps. Link to all that in the description. But there’s also a lot more in this update.
Notes has a new drop-down that tries to make the most relevant actions pretty much instantly available to you for any given note.
The pinned notes section is now collapsible so if you, like me, have just a ton of stuff pinned, you can tap it away now so you can get to everything else without having to grunt scroll all the way past it every single time you want something else.
Document scanning is sharper and with better cropping, and search is smarter, with top hits, and what Apple calls elevated results for attachments, including images, PDFs, and web pages.
Still no plain text mode that I can find, though, which is the one thing that keeps it from being just perfect for me.
iPadOS 14 Reminders
You can now assign Reminders to anyone you share a list with, which is both great and how dare you.
I mean, we’ll see how many relationships can withstand “you were clearly the DRI on canceling Quibi!”
There’s a new details menu so you can more easily and quickly send out assignments as well, and also add flags, dates, times, and locations.
Reminders will also now offer you smart suggestions for those locations and dates, and lists you may want to move tasks to, as well as pulling potential reminders for you based on your email.
I’m always wary of to do feature creep, because I never want a task manager to just become one more task to manage, but so far, Apple is maintaining a decent balance.
And some fun. There are also almost a dozen new symbols and full emoji support so you can really personalize your reminders, and take your reminder assignments game to the next level. Emoji impatient Judge Judy tapping furiously on watch… 👩⚖️⌚️
iPadOS 14 Safari
Yeah, there’s no iPad version of the Translate app, which is depressing given how much emphasis Apple places on the universality of their apps.
Except for, you know, Calculator and Weather. And I’d still love to know who’s holding the Kompromat over the PM for those omissions.
But, Safari will now translate web pages directly, which is great for anyone who doesn’t want to just shovel yet more free behavioral data at Google.
It currently supports English, Spanish, Simplified Chinese, French, German, Russian, and Brazilian Portuguese — which means I can finally figure out what all my Brazilian jiu-jitsu coaches were yelling at me for all those years…
Safari will now show you more and better tabs, with favicons on by default so you can more easily find the one you’re looking for at a glance.
Using cryptographic derivation, which I think basically means getting something usable from a secret while still maintaining that secret, Safari will also check to see if any accounts you’re storing in Apple’s keychain system may have been hacked or otherwise compromised, and prompt you to change your password or switch to Sign in with Apple, if available.
You can also tap the options button and then Privacy Report to see everything all the cross-site trackers on all the websites you go to have been up to. It’s… a lot.
And yeah, we totally did find out if anyone can hear data harvesters scream in their hearts.
iPadOS 14 Game Center
Game Center is getting is biggest update since Apple shaved off the green felt and… pretty much everything else along with it a few years ago.
There’s a new in-game dashboard that gives you all your and all your friends’s progress in one easy-to-see, easy-to gloat over place. And you can tap in to get to your profile, achievements, leaderboard, even get friend recommendations.
Game Center is also integrated right into the App Store now, both into the Games and Arcade tabs and the actual game app pages.
That means you can see which games your friends are playing, so you can join them… or totally dodge them. Like Ally…
iPadOS 14 Augmented Reality
You can tell how seriously Apple takes ARKit by how relentlessly they’ve been improving it year after year. And ARKit may just be the biggest, most audacious update yet.
Reality Kit is getting video textures, so you can map a movie screen to your wall, facial expressions to head model, ripples to a river, pretty much anything you want to animate.
If you have the latest iPad Pro with LiDAR, the new depthy API will let virtual objects behave far more naturally with the real world. That includes things like virtual clothing try-ons, video and photo editing, and effects.
Location Anchors let you drop AR experiences not just into the real world but into precise real-world places in the real world.
Basically, you pick a famous area or landmark, or just, you know, your house, and then Apple pulls the all the rich, detailed data from the new Maps they’ve just launched in the U.S. and are continuing to roll out in Canada, Ireland, and the U.K., and the AR experience can just lock right in.
Sort of like… the opposite of the Matrix?
And then you can move around the virtual objects and see them in a way that’s just far, far closer to how real objects would look in the same situation.
It’s mind blowing to think of Gundam or a Valkerie landing in your driveway, but it’ll be even more mind blowing when we no longer have to hold up an iPad or iPhone to see it.
iPadOS 14 Pencil
As big as the trackpad and cursor update was last march, as much as it helped make the iPad work more like a traditional computer for everyone who wants to use the iPad as a traditional computer, I am exponentially more excited about the Pencil updates coming this fall.
You can draw a shape and if you pause at the end and keep the Pencil-tip down, the iPad will convert it into the perfect, geometric Platonic Ideal of that shape.
And that works for straight lines with and without arrows, curves with and without arrows, outline arrows, continuous lines with 90-degree angles, squares, rectangles, circles, ovals, hearts, triangles, stars, clouds, thought bubbles, and hexagons.
No octagons or sexy shapes. Sorry. So sorry.
For hand writing, it’s just a quantum leap forward. Like from Sam to Archer to Pride-sized leap.
First and most importantly, the iPad will just treat hand writing like typed writing.
Using machine learning models they’ve been building and training for years, they can just identify writing — you know, as opposed to abstract doodling — down to the individual strings and characters that compose it.
It doesn’t learn or get better at understanding your personal handwriting, it’s just been trained on an incredibly wide rang of hand writing samples. And, as someone who’s typed for so long I can barely fill out a cheque any more, it’s been identifying my writing amazingly well so far.
For things humans don’t typically write, but may write on an iPad, things like URLs, Apple even created machine learning models to produce writing samples for the other machine learning models to learn from.
It’s just machine learning all the way down in the most brilliant, terrifying way imaginable.
Because the iPad can identify your hand writing, you can now select it the same way you’ve always been selecting typing text. Just double tap and then you can move them change the color, even copy them and paste them as hand writing or as typed text.
And, if what you write triggers a data detector, like a phone number, email address, physical address, or web address it’ll even be turned into links so you can tap on them to go to FaceTime, Mail, Maps, and Safari. It’s great.
There’s a new shortcuts palette so, when you’re writing and drawing, you don’t have to put your Pencil down just to do brief, other actions on the iPad.
Just tap the pallets, then tap an action, and the actions vary by app so you almost always find exactly what you need.
Then there’s scribble.
Instead of just understanding hand-writing as if it was typed text, Scribble turns hand-writing into typed text.
It’s designed for text fields that expect you to type, but lets you subvert those expectations, not in a Last Jedi way, but in a way that gives everyone what they want. Go ahead, at me. I got The Mandalorian.
But, basically, you get to write with the Pencil and the text field gets the typed out result. As long as you start in the field, your text will go into the field.
In addition to generating typed text, you can also use scribble to edit it.
You can circle a word to select it and, if a word offends you, you can take up your pencil and scratch it out to delete and end it.
iPadOS 14 To Be Continued…
iPadOS 14 will continue in developer and public beta until this fall when it should go into general release for everyone.