It doesn’t matter what tech Apple packs into the 2022 iPad Pro if it can’t get iPadOS 16 right
Stage Manager needs managing – and even a next-gen M2 chip won’t help with that
The latest Apple rumour is iPadOS 16 won’t rock up until October – a month after iOS 16 for iPhone. People are arguing about the reasons why. One claim is Apple’s revamped iPad Pros are also delayed and so iPadOS 16 must wait for them. We’re now apparently at the point of rumours within rumours: Rumourception, if you will. Leonardo DiCaprio could turn up at any moment.
So what’s coming to the next iPad Pro, a device already refined to within a millimetre of its life? Besides the 11in Pro possibly getting a mini-LED display (OK) and both sizes getting reverse charging (whatever), the big change will be an M2 chip instead of an M1. Which is totally unnecessary, unless iPadOS and apps can let you take full advantage of it. There’s also the rumour within the rumour within the rumour (eat your heart out, Christopher Nolan) of a 14.1in iPad Pro for 2023. Which is totally unnecessary, unless iPadOS and apps can let you take full advantage of it. You can spot the theme.
The snag is, Apple has long held the iPad back. The bold promise of the original iPad was it being a device that could transform into anything. But Apple stopped short of letting it transform into a traditional computer, and had to be dragged kicking and screaming into integrating full cursor support. Even then, an iPad won’t work in optimal fashion with an external screen, merely mirroring what’s on the iPad’s display. So you’d best be a fan of black bars when using such a set-up – even one involving Apple’s Studio Display.
At Apple’s developer event in June (WWDC 2022), it looked like things were set to change. A crack appeared in Apple’s strategy of having people ‘transition’ between devices, where Apple would encourage you to buy a shop full of Apple kit and then make cooing noises as your cursor flitted between their displays. Most normal people are happy with just one computer though. And many hoped it could be an iPad. Apple, finally, appeared to acquiesce.
Apple execs talked of ‘desktop class’ apps and full external display support. But desktop-grade apps – Logic; Final Cut; Xcode – remained conspicuously absent. And the external display bit is part of Stage Manager, which requires an M1 chip and currently exists in iPadOS betas as somewhere between ‘dumpster fire’ and ‘grudgingly acceptable’ on the quality scale. It’s buggy. It’s finicky. It complicates matters by welding a second multitasking system to iPadOS.
It wastes a ton of screen space, but turning off space-munching components requires a trip to Control Centre or Settings. Its reliance on the cursor and manual dragging and fiddling to fine-tune the position of windows – rather than ‘snapping’ them to half a screen or full screen with keyboard commands, as in Split View – feels archaic and inefficient.
In short, it’s not good enough. It won’t matter if there’s an M2 in the next iPad Pro if Apple can’t get the software right. Hence many rumours downplaying Rumourception and placing the blame squarely on Apple frantically whacking Stage Manager with a mallet until it’s in broadly the right shape.
If a delay does happen, it’ll be a nightmare for developers and sub-optimal for users who’ll have a month or more of OS updates being out of sync. But it has the advantage of giving Apple more time to get things right. And that might mean when new iPad Pro models do rock up, Apple will finally make good on letting them be the best computers they can be in every sense, rather than holding back key functionality to try and convince people to buy Macs as well.