Apple announces iPadOS 15 with homescreen and multitasking improvements

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Weeks after introducing its most powerful iPad Pro devices yet, Apple today announces the latest version of iPadOS — and there’s a clear focus on making Apple’s tablets with more capable productivity machines.

As rumor has it, iPadOS 15 will make the home screen more customizable and allow for more flexible placement of widgets. You can now paste them anywhere you want, a capability that came on iOS 14 last year. But iPadOS 14 didn’t offer the same functionality, and widgets could only be placed in the Today View sidebar, despite the tablet’s huge screen space.

Apple is also bringing the App Library to iPadOS. Just like on the iPhone, you can keep a less cluttered home screen by archiving the apps you rarely use into an automatically organized section of folders. On iPads, the app library is in the dock.

Multitasking is also getting some much-needed sophistication. New icons make it easier to enter split view mode, and Apple also mentioned a “shelf” feature that makes it easier to mix up different tasks. It’s a major change in how multitasking currently works on iPadOS, and it seems like a big improvement.

Multitasking becomes more intuitive in iPadOS 15.
Image: Apple

QuickNote is a new convenience that lets you add notes to web pages and other parts of iPadOS for easier return.

Finally, the standalone Translate app is now also coming to iPadOS.

New tricks shared with iOS 15 on iPhone

iPadOS 15 will also share many of the new features and experiences coming to iOS 15. FaceTime calls will now support spatial audio for a more lifelike, natural sound. A speech isolation feature will let your voice cut through background noise and a “broad spectrum” option will pick up more sound than before. Portrait mode also comes to FaceTime, resulting in a background blur that keeps the focus on your face.

Apple is introducing a new SharePlay feature for FaceTime that allows people to share media — music, movies, etc. — together during a group call. SharePlay leverages iOS features like picture-in-picture, iMessage and more for a seamless experience across multiple devices at once.

The new iPad software update includes new tools designed to help you focus, such as revamped notifications that are easier to identify and a notification overview section that summarizes your less-than-essential notifications. You can also customize which notifications you see at different times of the day, so you can separate work and personal notifications. Focus preferences are synced across Apple devices.

Memories in the Photos app can now sync with songs with automatic filters and effects applied based on the mood of the song, and Spotlight search also gets some deeper search capabilities.

Live Text is a feature that uses on-device intelligence to let you select text from photos you’ve taken and those in your camera roll. It supports seven languages.

The M1-powered iPad Pros are on par with Apple’s latest iMac, MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro and Mac Mini in sheer performance. Their release has only fueled Apple to develop iPadOS into a platform that can take advantage of all that power for those trying to use the devices as laptop replacements. Using an iPad is a great experience that can get frustrating on a regular basis as you run into software limitations.

Some users’ pre-WWDC wish lists included multi-user support, a more advanced Files app, better support for external displays, and professional apps like Final Cut and Logic making their way to the iPad. Apple didn’t address many of those wishes in today’s keynote, so we’ll have to see what other improvements iPadOS 15 has in store as it enters beta in the coming weeks.

Developing… we’re adding more to this post, but you can follow us with our WWDC 2021 live blog to get the news even faster.