iPadOS 15 review: Nice improvements, but where’s the ambition?

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iPadOS 15 review
Improvements are nice, but just not enough.
Image: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac

Apple somehow created the world’s greatest and most disappointing tablet operating system. iPadOS is by far the best you’ll find for larger touchscreens, and yet, it leaves us wanting so much more.

This year’s iPadOS 15 release is an incremental upgrade over its predecessor. It improves upon the split-screen multitasking system, adds some new features like Focus mode, and finally allows us to put widgets anywhere.

But it’s still iPadOS as we know it, and it’s still holding back iPad Pro. We could be doing so much more with the hardware, especially now that the newest models pack even-speedier M1 chips. But Apple won’t let us.

Here’s our full iPadOS 15 review. It lays out what’s good about the new operating system — and explains why we think it’s time for a little more ambition.

iOS 15 kills one of Do Not Disturb’s best features

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Do Not Disturb
Sad face.
Photo: Apple

Do Not Disturb is still available inside iOS and iPadOS 15, despite the introduction of a brand-new and infinitely more powerful Focus mode. But the feature is now missing a key settings option that didn’t carry over from iOS 14.

Users have quickly discovered that Apple’s newest update kills the ability to activate Do Not Disturb only when a device is locked — one of its best features for many iPhone and iPad users.

How to create and customize Focus modes in iOS and iPadOS 15

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Create and customize Focus modes in iOS 15
Keep your iPhone quiet when you're busy.
Image: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac

iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 ship with a brand-new feature called Focus mode that lets you set up different notification profiles based on your activities. You can have one for work, one for play, one for sleep, and more.

Here’s how to create and customize new Focus modes on iPhone and iPad.

The best widgets apps for iPadOS 13’s new Home screen

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Dark Mode on iPadOS
The new Home screen widget panel on iPadOS 13.
Photo: Apple

In iPadOS, the old Today View has shuffled over a little, and now lives right on the Home screen. You can pin widgets there, and they will be permanently shown on the left edge of the Home screen (in landscape, at least — in portrait they will act more like a temporary Slide Over panel).

This changes how we use widgets. Instead of being temporary, quick-info panels, or shortcuts for app functions, widgets are now always visible, and always available to tap. A weather widget can be checked with a single glance, for instance. Ditto countdown timers. And — best of all — Shortcuts can be triggered with a single tap.

Let’s take a look at some great widgets for the iPadOS Home screen.

How to use iOS Spotlight like a launchbar for your iPad

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Let these shortcuts take care of your morning routine, so you can focus more on important things, like breakfast.
Let these shortcuts take care of your morning routine, so you can focus more on important things, like breakfast.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Every morning, after I park my iPad in its desk stand, I start writing the same way: I play the same music playlist; I start the Focus app, which reminds me to take breaks; and I create a new Ulysses sheet to start typing in. And I do all of these almost without touching the screen.

You’d be surprised at how much you can do on the iPad with just the keyboard. Today we’re going to see some cool examples, plus a bonus Good Morning shortcut.