Apple has recognised that iOS has been constraining the power of the iPad and has officially forked from iOS to create an all-new iPad operating system. iPadOS will deliver a new Home Screen with a tighter icon arrangement and a new Today View that puts your favourite apps and most needed information all in place. And features like Split View, Expose, a better Files app and the ability to connect external storage blur the line between Apple's tablets and PCs further.
By splitting the iPad from the iPhone, Apple is making a direct play against the Microsoft Surface Pro and other convertible tablets.
The new Slide Over feature lets you switch between applications of interact with another app while keeping your main program live. For example, you could use Slide Over to respond to a message in WhatsApp while keeping your email or browser session open. And many of Apple's inbuilt apps have been given a once over so they better support Split Screen.
Split Screen allows you to run two apps side by side. Now, Split Screen works within more apps so you can view an email on one side of the screen while reading another on the other side. This in-app ability to use Split Screen was limited before but has now extended to more apps.
The new Home Screen will be the first thing most people see. Close inspection shows that Apple has taken the Widgets screen introduced a coupe of iOS versions ago (that's accessed by swiping right from the first panel of icons on the Home Screen) and placed it on home screen. To accomodate that, they have tightened up the spacing between icons - something that was long overdue.
The Files app gets a makeover with support for folder sharing using iCloud Drive. If someone shares a folder to you over iCloud you'l see that shared folder in Files. Hopefully, the same support will come to Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive and other file sharing services.
But the big ticket addition is that iPadOS now supports external drives. You can plug in USB drives, SD cards or log into an SMB file server from within the Files app. Over the last few iOS releases we've seen Apple give more access to a file system within iOS and this is the next step.
Files also gets a new Column View so you can see previews of files without opening them with support for Quick Actions so you can mark up, rotate and create PDFs. iPadOS also introduces local storage, zip and unzip, and new keyboard shortcuts.
There's a laundry list of other new features. As expected, Dark Mode is there and Safari on the iPad is now recognised as a desktop browser so you don't get pushed to a mobile version of a website when viewing a page on a larger iPad. Maps and Photos are also tweaked and there's better text editing and performance improvements.
How do you get iPad OS
If you can't wait the developer preview of iPadOS is available to Apple Developer Program members at developer.apple.com starting today.
Membership of Apple's developer portal costs $99 per year.
For those that are patient, a public beta program will be available to iPadOS users later this month at beta.apple.com.
iPadOS will be available this Spring as a free software update for iPad Air 2 and later, all iPad Pro models, iPad 5th generation and later and iPad mini 4 and later.