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iOS 13.1 does not support iPads. Apple’s mobile operating system has split in half and its iPad tablets now enjoy a dedicated operating system, iPadOS. But why the change – and what should developers expect?

Why Did Apple Branch iOS into iPadOS?

Apple’s original iPad was essentially a big iPhone (albeit, without phone-calls). Since then, it’s evolved into a professional content creation device that’s used for drawing (with the Apple Pencil), photo editing, music creation, and running enterprise business applications.

However, the iPad has been criticized since its initial launch for failing to offer basic, productivity-friendly features – like USB connectivity. Meanwhile, Microsoft’s Surface tablet has crept-up as a credible business device that leverages their suite of enterprise apps – with positive reviews, and growing revenue.

Apple’s launch of iPadOS is a bold move to unleash more of the iPad’s technical potential. It positions the iPad as a device that’s halfway between Apple’s MacBook and iPhone product lines – offering more laptop-style capabilities for business and creative professionals.

Which Features Does iPadOS 13.1 Add to the iPad?

iPadOS includes almost all of iOS 13’s features, including ‘dark mode’, improved performance, and tightened privacy. It’s expected that iOS and iPadOS will continue to share core features, UI style, and release schedules. However, iPadOS will add extra features that enhance the iPad’s content creation and enterprise potential – and some have already landed.

A home screen that’s fit for tablets

iPadOS takes fuller advantage of the iPad’s screen real estate. App icons are smaller, and more can fit on each page. ‘Today Widgets’ can now be added to the home screen – which could offer users an instant view of relevant and timely information from your news, weather, or event app.

Upgraded multitasking capabilities

Users can multitask with the same app in iPadOS, which could be useful for a range of content creation and business applications. Switching windows is also easier, as App Exposé enables users to switch between an app’s open windows, simply by holding down its icon.

Apple’s ‘Files app’ supports external drives

iPadOS and iOS finally add external drive support – arguably the most-requested feature for the iPad since its initial release. Users can plug in a USB-C thumb-drive (directly) or an SD card (using the camera connection kit) and access files inside the Files app, or import them directly into apps like Adobe Lightroom for iPad.

Files for iPadOS also offers high-resolution file previews, markup, image rotation, PDF creation, local storage, zip/unzip, and folder sharing.

Desktop website browsing

Safari for iPadOS loads the desktop version of each website; scaled for the iPad’s display and touch-optimized – which promises to enable web apps like Slack, WordPress, and Google Docs. Safari also includes a download manager – which can save files directly to a USB-C thumb drive.

Playstation and Xbox game controller support

Gamers can connect their Playstation 4 and Xbox One controllers directly to their iPad, iPhone, and Apple TV via Bluetooth, thanks to iPadOS, iOS 13, and tvOS 13. Games designers now have more reason to consider adding controller support, given how much more popular these two consoles are than any ‘Made for iPhone’ game controllers.

‘Sidecar’ transforms your iPad into a second display

Apple (yet again) ‘Sherlocked’ several popular third-party apps, by introducing Sidecar – a feature that enables MacBook users to turn their iPad into a second display, over a wireless or wired connection. Effectively, MacOS users have their first-ever native touchscreen experience.

‘PencilKit’ adds an API for drawing and writing

MarkUp has been upgraded for iPadOS, with a redesigned tool palette that can be used to markup and draw over documents, website pages, emails, and pictures. Users can simply tap the corner of the iPad with an Apple pencil to access Markup.

Developers can use the PencilKit API to offer the tool palette and low-latency drawing features that Apple Pencil enables, in their own iPadOS apps – which allows users to draw, write, annotate, and make notes.

How Could iPadOS Affect Your iOS App on iPads?

Any app can be affected by an operating system update, with the potential for certain features to stop working as expected. iPadOS is a major shift that effectively repositions the iPad’s place in Apple’s product library – so it’s especially important to consider how it might affect your app.

Desktop browsing could stop links loading your app

Salesforce.com has already reported an issue caused by Safari’s desktop browsing experience. After users upgrade from iOS 12 to iPadOS, email links and URLs will take users to the Salesforce desktop experience in a browser, instead of loading the Salesforce.com app – because the deep link mechanism doesn’t know the user is on a tablet.

iPadOS is an exciting step forward for professional content creators and enterprise users, who often complained that the iPad’s excellent hardware wasn’t leveraged fully by iOS. However, developers will have to pay close attention to the differences between iOS and iPadOS, in order to ensure their app performs on both operating systems.

Alex Napier Holland

Tech Business Writer