At WWDC 2019, Apple confirmed that iPads won’t be getting the iOS 13 update it had just announced, instead its tablet line is getting its own distinct operating system called iPadOS.Apple wants to distinguish the tablet experience from iPhone, which should be exciting to both developers and iPad owners. It “builds on the same foundation as iOS,” per Apple’s announcement post, but expect iPadOS to grow more into its own operating system in time.iPadOS brings a variety of critical improvements to the tablet UI, both in making better use of screen real estate and by introducing new gesture controls. In short: iPad users won’t just run an up-sized iOS anymore.
iPad OS release date
Apple has set an iPadOS release date for “Fall 2019”, which means we’ll likely see the update hit iPads in September.September has been, in previous years, the month where Apple rolls out its new software to the public to coincide with the new iPhone launch, and we expect the same activity around the iPhone 11 this year.
The new iPadOS home screen
Today View alongside a tighter grid of apps on the new iPadOS home screen. Image Credit: Apple
The first enhancement Apple’s made to iPadOS is on the home screen. The grid of app icons is tighter, allowing you to fit more on the screen, reducing the amount of dead space on the display.With a tighter grid of apps, there’s now an option to show Today View alongside them, for a more useful overview screen.It can be added to the Home screen for quick access to widgets with a simple swipe from the left side of the screen, and you can switch out the widgets pinned here to display the ones most relevant to you.
iPadOS has a new way to multitask
Slide Over in iPadOS in action, with a side view of Messages over Safari. Image Credit: Apple
Multitasking also gets an upgrade on iPadOS is a few ways. First up, you’ll be able to use Split View to see two app windows at a time from the same app, or two different apps. iPadOS uses a drag-and-drop interface here, making switching between apps and windows easy.Slide Over lets you quickly pull up an app in a side window, over the top of another app – allowing you to quickly check things such as emails, messages or reminders without having to exit the current app you’re using.Dragging up from the bottom of the screen will allow you to move between apps in the Slide Over panel.Apple has also brought the Mac’s Exposé feature to iPadOS, allowing you to get an overview of all your open apps – making it easy to jump between them, and close down any you no longer need running in the background.
USB drive and SD card support comes to iPadOS
USB drive and SD card support arrives in iPadOS. Image Credit: Apple
External storage fans rejoice! iPadOS will allow you to plug in a USB drive or SD card reader into your iPad, and the Files app will be able to read the plugin and allow you to easily manage data between the iPad’s internal storage and the external drive.Files gets a Column View to take better advantage of the iPad’s wide screen, and the iCloud Drive allows folder sharing, and will show content from a USB drive or SD card if they’re plugged in.There’s good news for photographers too, as support is being built into iPadOS which allows you to plug your camera directly into your iPad and import images to some of the top editing apps such as Lightroom.
iPadOS performance boost
Your current iPad could get a performance boost when iPadOS arrives, with Apple claiming that its tablet-specific operating system is quicker than iOS 12.It says Face ID unlocks are up to 30x faster, while apps launch up to 2x faster than on iOS 12, while the apps themselves should be smaller in download size (by up to 50%), taking up less of that precious storage storage space.
Desktop-class websites with iPadOS
The Safari web browser is also improved with iPadOS, because it’s no longer purely tied to iOS and a mobile ecosystem. That’s right, you’re no longer just viewing mobile sites, as iPadOS views websites in a modified desktop view that’s a bit cleaner and optimized for touch.It doesn’t just work with Apple’s websites either, the likes of Google Docs and WordPress web apps will work better with Safari on iPadOS.Apple’s browser will also get a download manager, 30 new keyboard shortcuts and improved tab management when iPadOS lands later this year.
Gestures galore on iPadOS
One of the bigger features across the whole of iPadOS are the new gestures. The ones we’ve seen are pretty simple: three-finger pinch to cut, three-finger splay to paste, three-finger swipe to ‘undo.’ Easy.In some apps, you’ll also be able to two-finger pinch the keyboard to shrink it to iOS mobile-size and move it around. Plunk it next to the side of the screen and boom, you can type on it with one thumb. Add to that the new gestures for the home screen and multi-tasking, and there may be a learning curve required to get used to all the new interactions which come with iPadOS. 
Markup and much more on iPadOS
Markup also gets an update, which now lets you mark up entire webpages, documents and emails. A simple swipe up from the corner with an Apple Pencil launches markup and brings up the newly-redesigned tool palette, which can be dragged around to reposition.And speaking of the Pencil, Apple has reduced the latency of its input from 20ms to 9ms, which means you’ll get a more natural, pen-like experience when using it.Plenty of new features that are coming to iOS 13 are also headed to iPadOS, like Dark Mode, custom Fonts, the new Photos organized by machine learning, and the SwiftKey-like slide-and-type QuickPath keyboard feature.
Will your iPad get the iPadOS update?
Apple has confirmed that the “iPad Air 2 and later, all iPad Pro models, iPad 5th generation and later, and iPad mini 4 and later” will all get the iPadOS update when it releases later this year.So which iPads are missing out this year, after getting iOS 12 in 2018? Well it’s the end of the update road for the original iPad Air, iPad Mini 2 and iPad Mini 3.The following iPads will get an update to iPadOS later this year.
iPad Pro 12.9 (2018)iPad Pro 12.9 (2017)iPad Pro 12.9 (2015)iPad Pro 11 (2018)iPad Pro 10.5 (2017)iPad Pro 9.7 (2016)iPad Air (2019)iPad Air 2iPad (2018)iPad (2017)iPad Mini (2019)iPad Mini 4