iPadOS 14- The wonderful features to explore

Keyboard, mouse and trackpad support for games

iPadOS 14 is built on the same foundation as iOS – but it has unique, powerful capabilities best suited to the larger display of the iPad. It also includes almost all iOS 14’s new features. Apple has already launched a beta version of iPadOS 14 for developers to test, so they can ready their apps. Apple’s public beta testing group, which anyone can join for free, will then get to test the software next – sometime in July. When the developer and public beta testing has wrapped up later this year, iPadOS 14 will officially release alongside iOS 14 and the new iPhone models.

iPadOS and iOS will get more distinct as time goes on, with the iPad receiving more computer-like features and we’re certainly starting to see them diverge. It’s fair to say that things are at the beginning of the process and it’ll be really interesting to see how the iPad evolves over the next few years. 

Apple is enabling iPad games developers to include keyboard, mouse and trackpad support in future titles. During its WWDC keynote, it revealed that iPadOS 14 will introduce support for additional gamepads, including Xbox One Elite 2 Wireless Controller and the accessible Xbox Adaptive Controller.

It has now been revealed that expansion will include keyboards, mice and trackpads.

An online WWDC session, called “Bring mouse and keyboard gaming to iPad”, explained how developers can add support and introduce new types of games to Apple’s tablets.

“Level up your iPad games and add in keyboard, mouse and trackpad controls. Discover how to use the Game Controller framework to augment your existing titles, bring over games from other platforms, or dream up entirely new interaction experiences,” read the session’s description.

“Learn how to integrate keyboard and ‘delta’ mouse coordinate events for player motion, and disable pointer system gestures like the Dock or Control Center to take full advantage of full screen gameplay.”

This could mean you’ll get mouse options on simulation games – you always find it works better. Or even more PC-like controls for first-person shooters.

Of course, not everyone will have a Magic Trackpad or Bluetooth mouse, so it’s unlikely you’ll get many (if any) games designed specifically around accessory controls. But it has great potential for the future. Also makes sense for a time when Apple Silicon Macs appear, along with native support for iOS and iPad OS apps. After all, you don’t have a touchscreen on a Mac.

 iPad models that support iPadOS 14

iPadOS 13 is compatible with the iPad Air 2 later. Here’s a list of devices, so you can double-check whether your model will be supported:

  • iPad Pro 12.9-inch (fourth generation)
  • iPad Pro 12.9-inch (third generation)
  • iPad Pro 12.9-inch (second generation)
  • iPad Pro 12.9-inch (first generation)
  • iPad Pro 11-inch (second generation)
  • iPad Pro 11-inch (first generation)
  • iPad Pro 10.5-inch
  • iPad Pro 9.7-inch
  • iPad (seventh generation)
  • iPad (sixth generation)
  • iPad (fifth generation)
  • iPad mini (fifth generation)
  • iPad mini (fourth generation)
  • iPad Air (third generation)
  • iPad Air 2

iPadOS 14 Features

Phone/video call alerts: In this new feature you can quickly tap to answer the call or simply flick it to dismiss and get right back to work just as you would with any other notification.

Siri: Siri now appears at the bottom of the screen when activated. Apple says it quickly gets out of the way when launching other apps or controlling music. Search has been downsized too, so you don’t need to hide the app you’re using – a small search bar appears over your app or the home screen without hiding it completely. It’s now better at searching your iPad for apps and documents, as well as browsing the web for answers to questions. Also there is automatic translations in Safari, so if a web page isn’t in your language, you can easily translate it to your native tongue. 

Design updates for stock apps including sidebars: The basic apps are getting a design update including the Photos app to ensure it makes even better use of the iPad’s large display. Photos has a new sidebar and you can drag and drop photos into albums on the sidebar just as you would on the Mac. Files and Music get similar treatment, with a much more computer-like experience.

Sidebar views: In the Music app, you can rapidly flip between screens like playlists or album view. The new sidebars are shown across many apps, including Photos, Files, Notes, Calendar, and Apple Music, consolidate navigation into a single place, making it easier than ever to navigate within an app while keeping content front and centre. Additionally, streamlined toolbars and new pull-down menus provide access to app controls all in one place. 

Scribble with Apple Pencil: In terms of Apple Pencil support, Apple has introduced a new feature called Scribble. Its aim is to make handwriting as useful as text on screen and so iPadOS 14 will automatically understand handwriting and convert it into text. The same principle applies for shapes, so if you’re in a drawing or sketching app the device can ‘see’ shapes you try to draw, as well as lines, and convert them into more precise shapes to neaten things up. It’ll even recognise phone numbers, dates, and addresses and offers the ability to take actions like tapping a written number to make a call, adding an event directly to Calendar, or showing a location in Maps.  Scribble will initially offer support for English, Traditional and Simplified Chinese including mixed Chinese and English.

iOS 14’s data widgets: Like iOS 14, the latest iPad software has the Windows Phone-like data-rich widgets. These are going to be very useful and are similar to what Apple has already established with the Today view. They’ll also show up in the column on the left of the home screen on iPadOS. 

Spotlight Search: There’s also a new Search with a compact design like Spotlight search on the Mac. It’s now a  floating search on the screen. Again you can search the web or for contacts, files and within some apps. 

Low Battery Mode: iPadOS is getting something that should help you extend the battery life of your tablet, whether you have a huge iPad Pro or tiny iPad Mini – low battery mode. iPhones have had low battery mode for a while now, and it reduces the functions of background apps, cancels Siri and reduces some visual effects, and now iPadOS 14 brings the function to iPads.

iPadOS 14’s low battery mode doesn’t actually turn off Siri like it does on iPhones, and it does tweak some other settings. It’s possible newer builds of iPadOS 14 will see tweaks to this mode before the public release as Apple works out how best to configure low battery mode on its tablets compared to phones.

ARKit 4: ARKit 4 delivers a new Depth API that allows developers to access even more precise depth information captured by the new LiDAR Scanner on iPad Pro. Developers can use the Depth API to drive powerful new features in apps, like taking body measurements for more accurate virtual try-on or testing how paint colours will look before painting a room, according to Apple.  ARKit 4 also introduces Location Anchors for iOS and iPadOS apps so apps can use the higher resolution data of the new map in Apple Maps to pin AR experiences to a specific point in the world.

Enhanced privacy: As in iOS 14, all apps will now be required to obtain user permission before tracking. App Store product pages will feature summaries of developers’ self-reported privacy practices, too. 

iPadOS Home App: Apple’s Home app is used for all your smart home needs (if you have a smart home, that is), and in iPadOS 14 it’s getting some new features to make it even more useful.

Adaptive Lighting, for lights, changes how bright and what color your lights put out throughout the day, and presumably this works similar to the TrueTone display of iPads and iPhones which similarly tweaks the screen RGB makeup depending on where you are.

Facial recognition is apparently going to be a bigger deal in iPadOS 14’s Home app too, so your kids (or strangers) won’t be able to fiddle with the settings when you’re not looking. Finally, there’s set to be more automation features, so you don’t have to tweak your smart home settings yourself throughout the day, and can put them all on a timer instead.

iPadOS 14 is going to be releases shortly so you need to be ready for the update and check your tablets compatibility.