Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) 2021 saw the unveiling of the next-gen iOS 15 and iPadOS 15. A plethora of new features were announced, with a focus on strengthening an already prosperous ecosystem. iPadOS 15 finally brings with it improved multitasking controls, app widgets on the home screen, and several other helpful features users were looking forward to. However, after a long list of ambitious reveals, some new features went under the radar. So after using the iPadOS 15 beta build for a couple of weeks, we have compiled an extensive list of the best iPadOS 15 features.
New iPadOS 15 Features You Should Try Right Now (July 2021)
Let’s not beat around the bush and directly dive in to check out some cool new iPadOS 15 features that you should try on your iPad. Use the table of contents below to jump to the feature you would like to learn more about.
1. App Library Comes to iPad
Starting with the home screen of the iPad, the newest addition is a crisp app library that many users (including me) had been looking forward to for some time now. It was first introduced with iOS 14 last year, and it has now made its way to iPads. In iPadOS 15, all of your apps will have a new home. The apps will be neatly categorized into folders and classified based on their use case.
Built for the disorganized lot among us, you can access the app library either from the dock or via a swipe left on the home screen. It will come in handy when using the new multitasking features, allowing you to select the desired app quickly through the app library.
2. Add Widgets on the Home Screen
Yeah, you are no longer restricted to the “Today View” to access your favorite widgets. You can now place widgets anywhere on the home screen, and they come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The aim of widgets is to give a more personalized experience to iPad users by displaying relevant information that they can even customize according to their needs. iPhone users themselves have a collection of widgets they can use to make the most out of their devices.
Moreover, iPadOS 15 also introduces bigger versions of widgets for apps like Apple TV+, Contacts, and more. They use more real estate but help keep track of the latest offerings. New widgets for the App Store, Mail app, Game Center, and Find My are also available in iPadOS 15. To know what new widgets to place on the home screen, users can rely on the Suggestions tab on the widget screen to get a taste of the latest stuff.
3. New Multitasking Controls
One of the most talked-about changes in iPadOS 15 has to be the new multitasking controls on iPad. Previously, users had to hold an app, bring up the dock, and then combine it with the second app to multitask. iPadOS 15 introduces a new multitasking menu, which appears at the top of every app and is represented by three tiny dots. By clicking it, you can now go into Split View or Slide Over mode with ease.
Using Split View throws the existing app to the side and brings you to the home screen. You can then select the second app either from the new app library or the home screen itself. Tapping the second app divides the screen into 2 halves, and a bar in the middle allows adjustment for the real estate.
The Slider Over option opens the app into an overlay window that appears over other apps open on your screen. You can hover around the entire screen or even hide.
Multitasking also brings a new Shelf feature, which shows multiple windows of the same app at once. The Shelf displays these windows at the bottom for quick access. There are also new keyboard shortcuts to access all these multitasking tools.
4. Notes Organisation and Collaboration
Apple is trying to rival Google Docs and Notion as the Notes app has received a suite of collaboration features. You can now categorize your notes according to various tags (use a # symbol and keyword) and even put them in specific tag folders. When it’s time to find them, the new Tag Browser comes to the rescue and makes the task a breeze.
Moreover, you can now tag other people in the Notes app to collaborate with them. The tagged user will be notified and get access to the file. While you could previously share Notes app folders, the new “Activity View” shows any recent editing changes alongside the notes. With the addition of these features, Notes has become a more powerful tool, and we can see an uptick in its usage when iPadOS 15 rolls out to all users later this year.
5. Use Quick Note in iPadOS 15
iPad users can now bring up a Quick Note in iPadOS 15 by swiping diagonally from the bottom right corner using an Apple Pencil or their finger. The Quick Note works like a sticky note that can be moved around (even across apps) and helps record your thoughts at that moment.
The Quick Note works across the entire iPad system and can store quick links to get back to where you were. For instance – add a quick contact link to get back to messages while you are browsing through mails. All your Quick Notes are stored in the native Notes app and can be quickly accessed from there. So yeah, this is a handy tool that enhances the convenience and productivity of users.
If you are interested in learning how to use Quick Note in iPadOS 15, check out our in-depth guide on this feature. We have explained how to invoke a Quick Note using four methods and what all you can do with it.
6. Reduce Distractions with Focus Mode
Several companies are trying to push for mental awareness and work productivity, and Apple is among them. It has added a new Focus mode feature in iPadOS 15 to help reduce distractions while trying to work or play. The Focus mode essentially stops and filters notifications and apps based on the user’s activity.
You can choose from among Work, Personal, Do Not Disturb modes, or make your own custom Focus for Gaming, Reading, and more. We have explained what is Focus Mode in iOS 15 and how to create custom Focus modes in the linked guide. Focus also ties in with “Notification Summary“, another new feature that you can enable to get a bundled set of non-urgent notifications at certain times during the day. Thus, you are not bombarded by constant dings while trying to work or relax.
Another handy Focus Mode feature is that you can choose to display only a select few Home Screen pages with limited apps and widgets. It goes a long way towards not being distracted as you can remove social media apps like Facebook and Twitter or games like PUBG Mobile or Among Us from the home screen at work. Focus Modes are shared across devices, so setting a routine on your iPad will automatically enable it on your iPhone, Mac, and Apple Watch as well.
7. Apple Live Text
With the power of Deep Neural Networks and On-Device Intelligence, Apple’s new Live Text feature in iPadOS 15 enables you to highlight and extract text from all of your photos. This feature has already been available on Android devices for years, thanks to Google Lens, but it is not as integrated into the operating system as Live Text is on iOS 15 and iPadOS 15.
Live Text can not only highlight text in simple images or recognize objects but also turn handwritten notes into emails or messages. Another huge addition to Live Text is what Apple is calling Visual Look Up. It enables Live Text to read text from many different sources, including landmarks, books, art, and even locations like a storefront.
Live Text can further leverage the power of AI to identify a phone number and display options for calling from the photo or camera app itself. Here’s an in-depth explainer on what is Live Text and how to use it on your iPhone and iPad. Plus, Live Text is a helpful feature and one that will rival the likes of Google Lens. To find out which is better, go through our comparison of Apple Live Text vs Google Lens.
8. Major Improvements in FaceTime
For friends who love watching stuff together, Facetime is making the entire process much easier in iPadOS 15. You can listen to music and watch movies and TV shows together on a FaceTime call. You can even share your screen on a FaceTime call, thus, making the video calling app an alternative to Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams.
The in-built support for Apple Music and Apple TV will ensure ample content is available to users at all times. Apple has partnered with popular streaming services, including Disney, HBOMax, Tiktok, and others, to let you binge-watch content with friends over FaceTime. This new FaceTime feature in iPadOS 15 is called SharePlay.
Furthermore, if you have Apple TV, you can always swipe and send the content to the big screen while you also continue to chat with your friends or family. What’s more interesting is that FaceTime is also coming to Android and Windows users in the form of a web app. So users can now make a Facetime call between an iPhone and Android device.
9. Safari Gets a Complete Makeover
Apple’s browser has gotten a beautiful facelift that divides content neatly in iPadOS 15. Tabs are now designed in a pill-like form and don’t take up a lot of real estate. Multiple tabs now look even better, and switching back and forth between them doesn’t take effort. Moreover, the tabs now assume the color of the website you are on to make them easier to spot.
As for users who like a clutter-free browsing experience, you can now use tab groups in Safari on iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 to better manage open tabs in the browser. So feel free to create multiple tab groups and come back to them when you feel like it.
Besides a visual overhaul, Safari has gotten a few other tweaks that further enhance the browsing experience. This includes:
- Play content in 4K – You can now play YouTube videos in 4K resolution on Safari. While playing 4K videos will consume more memory, it’s a great addition to have nevertheless.
- Quick Reader Mode – A quick way to access reader mode in iPadOS 15 is to hold down the three dots button on an open tab. The Reader Mode will immediately open up, and you can enjoy your content without any distractions.
- Close Multiple Tabs at Once – You can now close multiple tabs at once in Safari with ease. All you have to do is press and hold a single open tab and select “Close Other Tabs“. This way, all tabs except for the one you have open will be closed.
However, the bigger news is that you can now install Safari extensions on your iPhone and iPad. While the selection might be limited at the moment, we expect more new additions in upcoming updates. With the design overhaul and faster loading times, Safari has received a big boost this year.
10. Faster and More Secure Siri
Siri is getting significantly faster and more secure with the iPadOS 15 update. Siri will now process and store most audio requests entirely on the iPad by default. This on-device processing will make sure Siri’s responses are almost instantaneous, and you will be able to use it even without an internet connection.
Apple’s demonstrated the improved Siri experience during the WWDC 2021 keynote, and the voice assistant handled multiple requests without any lag under a minute. However, remember that offline Siri will be available only on iPad and iPhone models with the A12 Bionic chip and later. That means you cannot use it on iPhone X or older iPhones. Plus, some data will be sent to Apple if you opt to improve Siri dictation.
However, even before the update drops, Siri has a lot of cool tricks you can try out on your iOS and macOS device. Also, check out some cool offline Siri tips and tricks from the linked article.
11. Universal Control
One of the most impressive changes Apple showed off during the iPadOS 15 unveiling is the seamless Universal Control feature. It gives you the power to use a single mouse and keyboard across multiple Apple devices at the same time. So you can use the touchpad and keyboard on your Macbook Pro to control your iPad. Productivity fiends will welcome this feature with open arms.
The lack of any lag during the demonstration was mind-blowing. Universal Control was working like a charm and here’s hoping that it continues to do so. However, if you are a Windows or Linux user looking for a similar feature, go follow our guide on how to use macOS Monterey Universal Control on your PC.
12. Translate App Now Available on iPadOS 15
For users who had to rely on third-party offline translator apps on their iPads, there’s good news for you. The Apple Translate app is now available on iPadOS 15 and is a big step in bridging the gap between cultures. While some users already use Google Translate, Apple’s translate app blends natively into the ecosystem and delivers a painless experience.
Translate works as you would expect it to. You can translate spoken or written language into other languages instantly, and the app even detects the language based on speech. The Auto Translate feature ensures you don’t have to click any button and translation happens as you speak. The face-to-face view splits the iPad’s screen down the middle, enabling two people to sit across each other and talk while the app translates away.
However, a more important feature is the option to select and translate text on iPad by merely holding down on it – be it any app or image across the system. It even applies to handwritten texts and photos.
13. Mail Privacy Protection
Apple has been pushing the envelope on privacy for some time now with granular privacy controls and the “Ask App Not to Track” option taking the helm. The Cupertino giant has now gone two steps further with the addition of enhanced privacy for Mail on iPadOS 15.
According to Apple, the emails we receive may contain hidden pixels that allow the sender to learn information about us. This information contains how many times a mail is opened, whether it was forwarded, and even the receiver’s IP address. This data is used to build a profile of the user.
Mail Privacy Protection prevents email senders (including Apple) from tracking you. The Mail app will ensure this by downloading content in the background for privacy and then routing all the data through multiple proxy servers to hide the receiver’s IP address. Apple will further assign a random IP address that only gives a general location (instead of an exact location) to the sender. While you can choose to turn it off, Mail Privacy Protection is one of the most important privacy features in iPadOS 15.
For users who currently use services like Gmail and are looking for alternatives, here are some more secure Gmail alternatives you can use.
14. iCloud+ Subscription
Apple’s cloud storage solution, iCloud has been bolstered with new protection tools that arrive as part of the iCloud+ subscription. This new paid tier includes several security improvements that take Apple’s initiatives towards user privacy even further. The new features in iCloud+ include Private Relay, Hide my Mail, and expanded HomeKit Secure Video.
Private Relay focuses on making the web browsing experience more secure in Safari on iPadOS 15. It isn’t essentially a VPN service. You can learn what is Private Relay, how it works, and how to enable it on your iPhone and iPad from the linked in-depth explainer. While not fully there, Google Chrome users can get Safari-like privacy features on their browser.
Hide My Email lets users create unique, random email addresses that will forward emails to their actual inbox without revealing their identity. This feature will be helpful when it comes to fighting email spam. However, if you are an Android or Windows user, you can get iCloud’s Hide my email feature on your devices right now.
HomeKit Secure Video Recording will let users connect more cameras in their Home app wherever applicable. iCloud will store these recordings in an encrypted format for secrecy. Furthermore, this storage footage won’t count towards your storage plan and will only be available in the highest tier.
All these features come at no additional cost over your existing iCloud subscription plan. Moreover, all existing paid iCloud users will automatically be upgraded to iCloud+ in the coming months.
15. App Privacy Report
Hidden under the Privacy settings lies another great new feature of iPadOS 15. Called App Privacy Report, this feature lets you enable the option to record background app activity to get a better insight into how your data is used. While you could always check app privacy details on the iOS App Store, App Privacy Report makes things much easier.
The recorded app activity is accessible in the form of a 7-day summary of whenever apps access data like location, camera, microphone, and even the websites you visit. This data is stored and analyzed, and a report then displays which app shares how much of your data with other companies.
16. Code on Your iPad Using Swift Playgrounds
Budding coders looking for ways to learn how to code will be extremely delighted to find out the updates coming to the Swift Playgrounds app in iPadOS 15. Swift Playgrounds is Apple’s education app that enables you to learn how to code with the help of interactive lessons. With the latest update, Swift Playgrounds will enable you to build apps with SwiftUI on your iPad.
Swift Playgrounds in iPadOS 15 will also support auto-code completion, the ability to see how your app works in real-time, and more. There’s also the option to submit the app you develop to the App Store right from your iPad.
17. Shared With You
Shared with You is a new way to categorize whatever content you receive from your friends on your iPadOS 15 device. This feature scans your entire iPad to find pieces like music, movies, shows, photos, and articles your friends have shared with you. It then classifies them as such and shows them within relevant apps. For instance – Links that my friends shared with me can be found under a separate “Shared with You” tab in Safari.
Since this feature works system-wide, whatever media files, documents, and links you receive are always at your fingertips. There is no more going to Messages to grab that one link, you can simply open the desired app and find them all in one place.
18. Apple Maps Improvements
The company has made navigation even friendlier with improvements to Apple Maps. The number of upgrades coming to maps includes 3D map navigation, more detailed roads and streets, and improved transit information. iPadOS 15 users will be able to see greatly enhanced details for their favorite places in Apple Maps, including elevation and better labeling of districts. Roads will also get new labels and colors, along with a better night-time mode with what Apple calls “Moonlit glow“.
iPad users will also be able to see popular landmarks and road conditions in 3D, so they have a better idea of what turns to make. Following in Google Maps’ footsteps, Maps will also include Augmented Reality support in the mix. Users will now be able to see AR walking directions in real-time by pointing their cameras toward popular streets. These features will slowly roll out to all users as the year goes on.
Windows and Android users looking to get into Apple Maps can check out our guide on how to use Apple Maps on their Windows and Android.
19. Smarter Spotlight in iPadOS 15
Spotlight has always been a catch-all solution for finding what you are looking for on your Apple device. Whether you are a Mac user looking for Spotlight tips and tricks or want to use Spotlight search anywhere on your iPhone, there’s a lot you can already do with this feature. But, Apple’s Spotlight is now getting even better at finding what you are seeking. The popular search feature will now be able to sift through the images in the Photos app and even web images. Moreover, you can now find specific messages from your recent conversations and shared photos.
Moreover, Spotlight will even work in tandem with Live Text and deliver results to specific searches like a public transit map or a screenshot of a recipe you may have taken a while back.
20. Improved Accessibility Features
Before the WWDC 2021 event, Apple announced several new accessibility features for the Apple Watch, iPad, and iPhone. The upcoming iPadOS 15 update will integrate these tools on your tablet. The VoiceOver screen reader will now be able to use on-device intelligence to better identify objects within images, including other people, text, and much more. You will now also be able to customize the text size of apps selectively.
Moreover, users will now be able to control their entire iPad using only their eyes with the support of third-party eye-tracking hardware. Sound Actions will let users customize the “Switch Control” option to work with mouth sounds.
Hidden Features in iPadOS 15 You Should Know About
While most of the landmark changes were announced in the iPadOS 15 showcase, you can find some hidden features listed below.
21. Low Power Mode
Taking on after iPhone, Apple has finally added the Low Power Mode in iPadOS 15. The low power mode is a much-needed feature that you will find in the battery section in the Settings.
If your iPad is low on battery, you can toggle on this feature, and background activity, including downloads and mail fetch, will be limited until you plug in your device for charging. The battery icon will turn yellow, which is an indication that the feature is on. Low Power Mode is a welcome update to the iPad.
22. Progress Bar in iPadOS 15 Files App
The native Files app has been an important way for iPad users to transfer and manage their files. Earlier, when you used to copy or move any files, you could not see its progress. That has changed with the iPadOS 15 update. Now, whenever you move a file in iPadOS 15, you will see a progress bar on the top right.
Moreover, the transfer details aren’t in your face, and you can continue to browse around the app in the meantime. You can also click on the progress bar to see the file size and estimated time remaining.
23. Click and Drag Selection
This one is for professional users or students who use a mouse with their iPad. Besides the new multitasking keyboard shortcuts, iPad users can now click and drag multiple items simultaneously, like they would on a Mac. You can then further perform actions with your selection, like sharing and deleting, among others.
24. System-wide Drag and Drop
While both “Click and Drop” and “Drag and Drop” features may sound the same, but they work differently. The latter will allow you to drag images and text from anywhere on your iPad and drop them somewhere else. This feature was first introduced with iOS 11 in 2017. But, if you are new to iPadOS, let me explain how the drag and drop feature works.
For instance – If you have a specific image on Wikipedia that you want to tweet, long-press and hold the image in Safari, you will see it start to float. Then, open Twitter and drop the image in a new tweet. Drag and drop works perfectly across several apps in iPadOS 15.
25. Use iPhone Apps in Landscape Mode
Yeah, you read that correctly. You can now run iPhone apps on the iPad in landscape mode! So all those annoying moments when Instagram on the iPad refused to rotate and budge will be history once iPadOS 15 drops for all users in fall 2021.
26. Play Audio from Multiple Sources
A sneaky little feature that could very well be a temporary bug is that now you can play audio from multiple sources at the same time. So if you are the type of person who wants to listens to a song on Apple Music while watching a tutorial in Safari, this hidden feature will be helpful to you.
27. Edit Files Widget
While you could already edit widgets on your iPad, the much welcome ability to let them sit on the home screen is amazing. Moreover, you now have more control when editing certain widgets.
The Files widget, in particular, now has a bigger size and a folder location setting. So you can now choose the folder you want the widget to display on the home screen. This ensures you have only the most relevant files handy on the home screen.
28. New Smart Stack UI in iPadOS 15
One of the changes in the widget ecosystem was the inclusion of an option to create a smart stack, where widgets auto-rotate through the day to display timely information. However, the new iPadOS 15 update brings a tiny UI change in the stack editor option, where instead of a list, you will now see widgets in the same stacked order as the home screen.
The smoother animations look nice and more controls like “Smart Rotate” and “Widget Suggestions” are available at the bottom of the editing stack.
29. Improved Magnifying Glass
Talking about other meaningful changes, Apple has brought back the quick magnifying glass in iPadOS 15 to help view something in a large form. Holding down on text in the Notes app now brings up a small rounded magnifying glass that quickly shows the text in a larger form. The magnifier is smoother and slightly bigger than before and is again a welcome addition.
30. Turn off Quick Note
As discussed above, iPadOS 15 now includes a new Quick Note feature by default. It lets you bring up a note with a swipe gesture and jot down your thoughts quickly. But if you are left-handed like me or don’t want anything to do with Quick Note, you can choose to turn it off. This setting is present in the “Apple Pencil” section and allows you to turn off both the left (Screenshot) and right corner swipe gesture.
Unfortunately, for some reason, Apple has not yet allowed the option to swap these two gestures but could very well arrive in a future beta update.
Experience Cool New iPadOS 15 Features Right Now!
And that’s our list of all the top iPadOS 15 features announced at WWDC 2021, along with a few hidden ones we found while using the iPadOS 15 developer beta. iPhone and iPad users can now download and install the iOS 15/ iPadOS 15 public beta with ease. So go ahead and try out the upcoming iPadOS 15 update before the stable release, and let us know any other cool features that you discover. Share your findings with us in the comments section below.