The tablet market isn’t what it once was. With the average smartphone now offering consumers a much larger display than in years past and some consumers opting for cheaper Chromebooks, the need for a dedicated tablet to complement a phone and/or laptop has been diminished. That said, some consumers still prefer the streamlined usability of tablets, especially those offered by Apple, which has effectively cornered the market. According to Interpret’s New Media Measure®, iPad ownership in the US alone (including the iPad mini) has grown in consecutive quarters and now stands at 47% among tablet owners. Apple’s iPad revenue grew 21% during the company’s fourth quarter.
Operating from a position of strength allows Apple to further innovate while being less concerned with risk. For the upcoming iPadOS 16, launching this fall, Apple will be introducing a number of new iPad features, some of which will make the tablet more Mac-like (although many critics would argue that a tablet will never be able to fully replace a laptop). Perhaps the most notable addition is what Apple calls Stage Manager, which effectively boosts the iPad’s multitasking capabilities by allowing users to open overlapping windows for the first time on an iPad. The feature also enables resizing of windows, faster access to apps and windows, and gives users the ability to group apps together so that a set of apps can be accessed at any time straight from the iPad’s dock.
Stage Manager is, somewhat controversially, one of several new features that will only become available on the newer iPad models powered by Apple’s M1 processor. Other features that are tied to M1-only iPads include external display support (including drag and drop between an iPad an external display), a Reference Mode (for photo/art professionals who need to deliver reference color for color standards and video formats), enhanced accessibility modes with the iPad’s magnifier, and a virtual memory swap to expand the available memory of the tablet for more demanding apps.
For owners of older iPads, there are still numerous enhancements coming with iPadOS 16, including improvements to Family Sharing, Photos, Mail, Live Text, Live Caption (for FaceTime calls), the ability to lift images straight from photos or videos, and more. Some of Apple’s tweaks are more subtle than others, but the one thing Apple always emphasizes is interoperability between its devices across the iOS ecosystem, making the iPad a safe bet for any existing iPhone or Mac owners who may be in the market for a tablet.