Apple’s big iPad software upgrade is out now, and if you have an iPad (fifth-gen or newer), an iPad Pro, an iPad mini (fourth-gen or newer), or an iPad Air (second-gen or newer), then you can now download and install iPadOS 15. There’s a lot that’s new, and here’s what you should check out first.
Note: We’ve included some iPad features here that Apple has announced and has since delayed, like SharePlay for FaceTime. The missing features should appear in a software update this fall, so make sure you stay current with the latest version of iPadOS to take advantage.
Apple has made multitasking on the iPad a bit more intuitive with iPadOS 15. You’ll notice three dots at the top of the screen in the status bar: Tap those to switch between full-screen mode, Split View mode, and Slide Over mode. The new menu means it’s more straightforward than it used to be to use two apps at once.
Another iPad multitasking change is a new center window overlay that works in apps like Apple Mail and Apple Notes. If you press and hold on an email in your inbox or a note in your list, you’ll see an Open in New Window option appear: Select this, and the chosen item shows up in an overlay in the middle of the screen, like a desktop window.
Apple’s own apps get neat new features in the company’s annual software upgrades. This year Notes gets a new Quick Note feature, a new activity view for shared notes, and the ability to add tags for organizing your notes in new ways. Add a tag in a note by preceding it by a hashtag, and they’ll all be listed in the main Folders pane on the left of the Notes app.
Apple still wants you to think of the iPad as a laptop replacement, and as far as iPadOS 15 is concerned, that means keyboard shortcuts. You’ll need to attach an actual physical keyboard to your tablet to get them to work—press and hold the Cmd button on the keyboard to see a list of supported shortcuts, including Cmd+Space to search.
iPadOS follows iOS by getting support for widgets on the home screen amongst the app icons rather than a separate section. They work just as they do on iPhones: Press and hold on a blank area of the home screen to bring up the + (plus) icon in the top left corner, then tap it to see the widgets that are available, based on the apps that are currently installed.
The App Library makes the jump from iPhones with iPadOS 15. As on iOS, you can find it by swiping right through all of your home screens. The App Library means you don’t necessarily have to have an icon for every single app cluttering up the iPad home screen interface, with the library storing your apps in category-based folders.
iPadOS 15 will later this fall include an update with a new SharePlay feature, which lets you watch movies and shows or listen to music and podcasts when you’re on a FaceTime call with other people in your contacts list. If you want to organize a virtual movie-watching party over the web then FaceTime will soon be one of the apps that you can use to do it.
Speaking of FaceTime, you can now switch to a grid of faces if you’re on a call with several people at once. It looks almost exactly like Zoom, which was no doubt Apple’s intention, and you even get the same visual effect where the current speaker’s box lights up. Also new in FaceTime is a Portrait Mode that blurs the background behind you during calls.
The Memories feature that surfaces photos and videos from your library gets a few improvements in iPadOS 15—open up the For You section in Photos to take a look. There’s a new, more immersive interface for the feature, and you also get a personalized pick of songs selected from Apple Music to accompany the slideshows.
Like iOS 15, iPadOS 15 has a new feature called Focus, which works on top of the existing Do Not Disturb feature. It lets you set custom rules for notifications that you can then quickly switch between based on where you are and what you’re doing. Open the Focus menu in Settings to configure your various profiles.
If someone sends you a photo or a link over Messages on one of your Apple devices, then you’ll now be able to quickly find it in the Shared With You section inside the relevant Apple app (so Photos for your shared pictures, and so on). With the launch of iPadOS, it works with Photos, Safari, Apple News, Apple Music, Apple Podcasts, and the Apple TV video app.
iPadOS 15 comes with a useful new way for managing notifications: You can group alerts from less important apps into summaries that are delivered when you want them to be delivered, rather than being pinged immediately. To set this up, go to Settings on your iPad. Select Notifications then Scheduled Summary to choose when the notifications arrive.
Apple usually adds new Memoji options for users to play around with in each new software upgrade, and that’s the case with iPadOS 15. Included in the new customizations now available to you are multicolored headgear, additional accessories, and accessibility options such as cochlear implants, oxygen tubes, and soft helmets.
Apple Maps on the iPad gets a host of visual improvements with the arrival of iPadOS 15. Try zooming into cities like San Francisco and London to see the extra detail added to landmarks, road features, and even individual trees. Away from the major urban centers, the look of mountain ranges, deserts, forests, and oceans have also been updated.
iPadOS 15 can recognize text in photos now, which is handy for copying phone numbers or translating menus. The iPad can also identify art, landmarks, nature, books, animals, and more in saved images, through a feature called Visual Look Up. To use it, open an image in Photos, and look for a star over the info button at the bottom (the small “i” in a circle).
Spotlight gets an upgrade with the introduction of iPadOS 15. Initiate a search with a swipe down on the home screen, and as soon as you start typing out your query, you’ll see a rich cascade of results covering both what’s on the web and what’s on your iPad. You can also search through your photos, and the text in your photos, through Spotlight.
If you pay Apple for some iCloud storage space then you automatically get iCloud+ when you upgrade to iPadOS. Among the bonus features that iCloud+ brings with it is iCloud Private Relay, which protects your online communications from outside snooping, a little bit like a VPN. You’ll find it in Settings: tap your name and then iCloud to see the option.
Text translation is now better integrated into the overall iPad experience. Not only is the Translate app that Apple develops now available for Apple tablets as well as Apple phones, but you can also translate highlighted text—it appears alongside the other usual options that pop up. Translation also works in text that’s identified and selected in photos.
Universal Control is a feature that works with macOS Monterey (coming later this fall) and iPadOS 15 that lets you use a Mac to control an iPad. When you use a Mac running Monterey next to an iPad running iPadOS 15, you can move your trackpad or mouse cursor over to the side of the Mac screen to hop over to the iPad. Your devices will have to be on the same wifi network and using the same Apple ID, but once it’s available, you can drag and drop files and seamlessly work between your two devices.