Why the best iPadOS 16 features are limited to M1 iPads | Cult of Mac

Why the best iPadOS 16 features are limited to M1 iPads

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Why the best iPadOS 16 features are limited to M1 iPads
You can't have iPadOS 16's Stage Manager multitasking system without one of the capabilities of the M1 processor.
Graphic: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac
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iPadOS 16 gives Apple tablets some powerful new capabilities, but there have been protests that these are limited to iPad models with the M1 processor. Apple promises this isn’t a trick to force people to upgrade their computers.

The iPad-maker says that only the M-series processors can deliver enough RAM to display eight applications at once.

No Stage Manager for you!

Apple first raised then dashed the hopes of many iPad users during the keynote of its Worldwide Developers Conference. It unveiled Stage Manager, which brings resizable, floating app windows to iPadOS 16. Then can the announcement that it was only for M1-powered tablets.

The same goes for full external display support. This long-awaited feature is also M1 only.

There was a lot of disappointment about the limitation, along with some head scratching. There were also many accusations that the limit is only there to get people to buy newer, more expensive iPads.

Best iPadOS 16 features require advanced M1 memory capabilities

Apple itself is partially to blame for the confusion. It explained why Stage Manager only works on the M1, but not very clearly.

During the iPad section of the WWDC22 keynote, Craig Federighi, SVP of software engineering, talked up the M1 chip, then said, “iPadOS 16 adds support for Virtual Memory Swap, meaning your iPad storage can be used to expand the available memory for all apps, and deliver up to 16 GB of memory to the most demanding apps.” He then said this provides “the foundation for a big leap forward in user experience.” And that big leap forward is Stage Manager.

Cult of Mac‘s D. Griffin Jones spoke with an Apple engineer at WWDC22 who made a more direct connection. Jones  was told that Virtual Memory Swap is the reason Stage Manager can handle eight applications simultaneously, and only the M1 is capable of displaying so many at once.

Beyond the advanced memory swap capabilities, M1-based Pads have at least 8GB of RAM, more than any other Apple tablet. Some have 16 GB. That contributes to their ability to display all those applications when running iPadOS 16.

Answering the M1 iPad question

Back in 2021, almost as soon as Apple announced the first iPad Pro models with an M1 processor, people began wondering why. The chip is designed for Macs – it seemed overkill for iPadOS. Turns out Apple had a long-term plan.

While at WWDC22, Jones also talked to someone who helped create Stage Manager who said that the new multitasking system had been in development for “a while. A long while.”

Apparently, somewhere in that process it became clear that a very powerful processor would be needed. And so Apple started designing iPads around the M1. And now in 2022 we all learned the reason.

According to Apple, all this means that if you want Stage Manager and full external display support, your only options are the iPad Air (5th generation), iPad Pro 12.9-inch (5th generation) and iPad Pro 11-inch (3rd generation). But there are also reports that the 2022 iPad Pro models will have the just-announced M2 processor.