iPadOS 14: The Complete Guide for iPad Users

Apple iPadOS 14

iPadOS 14: Overview

Apple introduced iPadOS 14 at WWDC 2020 and released it to the public on September 16 for all compatible iPads. It builds on the productivity-oriented features that last year’s iPadOS 13 brought to the table and pushes the iPad another step closer to being a true laptop replacement. Loads of redesigns and improvements throughout the OS, combined with refinements to user interfaces in native apps, make it easier than ever to get work done in Apple’s premium tablet.

That’s not all — iPadOS 14 revolutionizes how you go about using the Apple Pencil with “Scribble,” where you can now write instead of type, anywhere. The OS update also brings a slew of settings and options geared toward privacy and security. Furthermore, there are new accessibility settings geared toward the visual and the hearing impaired.

Let’s take a closer look at the various additions, improvements, and tweaks that iPadOS 14 introduces below.

Contents

  1. Major Improvements and Additions
  2. Enhancements to Native Apps
  3. Apple Pencil Features
  4. General Improvements and Features
  5. Privacy Features
  6. Accessibility Settings
  7. iPadOS 14 Compatible Device List
  8. iPadOS 14 Public Beta Program
  9. iPadOS 14 Release Date
  10. How to Use iPadOS 14 Features

1. Major Improvements and Additions

Redesigned and Resizable Widgets

With iPadOS 14, widgets have been completely redesigned from the ground up. They now come in three different sizes — small, medium, and large — and sport the ability to display varying levels of detail. For example, the Weather widget can show current precipitation levels, daily weather forecasts, and weekly forecasts, depending on the selected size.iPadOS 14 Redesigned Widgets

Furthermore, you can place a Smart Stack of widgets that automatically cycles and displays relevant widgets based on usage patterns, allowing for reduced clutter in Today View. The Smart Stack also lets you cycle through the list of widgets manually.

Unlike in iOS 14, however, you can’t push these widgets into the Home screen and have them show up alongside regular app icons. iPadOS 14 also lacks other major iOS 14 Home screen additions such as the App Library and the Edit Pages screen (which lets you hide entire Home pages).

Compact & Smarter Siri

Siri has received a radical redesign in iPadOS 14. She no longer takes up the entire screen on your iPad, but instead shows up as a glowing orb to the lower-left corner of the screen, listens in as you speak, and then responds accordingly with compact notifications.iPadOS 14 Siri

To top that off, Siri is much smarter and comes up with more facts and answers to queries. For example, you can now ask her to record and send audio messages or share your E.T.A. with others.

Compact Call Notifications

Similar to Siri, iPadOS 14 will no longer display incoming FaceTime or iPhone calls in full-screen mode. Instead, they show up as compact notifications, where you can then choose to either accept or decline. This also extends to third-party VOIP apps such as Skype. You can also dismiss calls without rejecting them by swiping the notifications upward.iPadOS 14 Call Notifications

Universal Search

iPadOS 14 features an immersive and streamlined form of the Search functionality, now re-branded as Universal Search. It lets you search for anything, be it apps, websites, documents, photos, and so on, with better suggestions and faster access to relevant results.

Universal Search is also aesthetically different — rather than taking up the entire screen, it now shows up as a floating search bar, putting it more in line with Spotlight Search on the Mac.iPadOS 14 Universal Search

Default Browser and Email Client

Hate having Safari and Mail as the default browser and email client? Not to worry. iPadOS 14 does away with that by allowing you to set your preferred third-party browser or email app as the default.

Sidebars in Native Apps

iPadOS 14 has introduced major UI revisions to native apps such as Photos, Music, Shortcuts, and Voice Memos. The most prominent is the inclusion of a dedicated sidebar that makes navigating these apps a breeze. In the Photos app, for example, you can quickly use the sidebar to switch between libraries, albums, and media types.iPadOS 14 Photos App

Find My ‘Other’ Devices

The Find My app in iPadOS 14 no longer restricts you to locating Apple devices only. Apple has released a draft specification that allows third-party accessories and products to participate in a network accessory program, which means that it’s now possible to use the Find My app to discover other important non-Apple devices as well.

However, recent reports indicate that Apple will place more restrictions on third-party devices that intend to use Find My. This could end up as a hindrance to the overall user experience.

Superior Augmented Reality

If you use an iPad Pro equipped with a LiDAR sensor, you can expect improved augmented reality apps with ARKit 4 for iPadOS 14. It introduces a brand-new Depth API that allows for precise depth measurements, making interactions with virtual objects more immersive.iPadOS 14 Augmented Reality

ARKit 4 also features support for locations anchors, where you can place augmented reality experiences in popular cities and landmarks around the world. ARKit 4 will also feature expanded support for front camera AR experiences on devices equipped with the A12 Bionic chip and later.


2. Enhancements to Native Apps

Safari

Last year, Safari received a much-needed update that made it function as a desktop browser. In iPadOS 14, Apple has taken that a notch higher with improved JavaScript rendering performance, native means to translate web pages, support for Scribble (more on that later), and tight integration with Universal Search.iPadOS 14 Safari Translate

The iPad’s native web browser also supports numerous privacy-oriented features, such as an integrated Privacy Report that helps you monitor site trackers, security recommendations for weak, duplicate, or vulnerable passwords, and support for Face ID and Touch ID logins on supported websites.iPadOS 14 Safari

Files

The Files app plays a huge role when staying productive on the iPad, and iPadOS 14 has made it better in terms of usability. You now have a unified menu that lists together all view and sort options, a collapsible side-bar that provides more screen real-estate while working with files and folders, and other subtle UI enhancements.iPadOS 14 Files

iPadOS 14 also introduces support for encrypted APFS external drives. Last year’s iPadOS only supported unencrypted APFS volumes.

Music

Prefer listening to music on the iPad? If so, you are in for a real treat with iPadOS 14. The Music app now sports a dedicated sidebar that puts it more in line with its counterpart on the Mac, allowing for quick navigation through albums and playlists.

The app also sports a full-sized media player, with live lyrics or the Up Next list taking up the otherwise vacant screen real estate for an immersive experience. iPadOS 14 Music

The Music app also comes with various subtle enhancements, such as a new Listen Now tab that pumps out better recommendations, an Autoplay mode that keeps the app playing even after the end of an album or playlist, and improved search filters.

Maps

iPadOS 14 gives you even more reason to embrace the native Apple Maps app with a number of improvements. Maps now let you effectively plan cycling routes with the inclusion of bike-friendly lanes, paths, and roads. The same goes for electric vehicles, where it’s possible to calculate the E.T.A. by taking charging stops into account. Maps also notify you of congestion zones in major cities, allowing you to plan routes around them if needed.iPadOS 14 Maps

That aside, the Maps app comes with a host of real-time details — for example, it lets you know whenever you approach speed cameras or red-light cameras along a route, complete with information on where individual cameras are located. The app is also more reliable, providing accurate locations and orientations even in urban areas with poor GPS connectivity.

Messages

The Messages app in iPadOS 14 looks the same as it did before, but there are numerous under-the-hood improvements. You can now pin up to nine conversation threads to the top of the screen, perform inline replies and mentions to cut through the noise in group chats, and set images or emojis as group photos.iPadOS 14 Messages

A new Notify Me option, enabled via the Messages Settings, will also bypass muted conversations and send you notifications whenever someone mentions you in a group chat. You can also filter your messages using categories such as Known Senders, Unknown Senders, Promotions, etc.

Photos

The Photos app in iPadOS 14 comes with a sidebar that lets you easily switch between albums and media types quickly, allowing for painless navigation. You can drag and drop photos directly into the various categories and albums on the sidebar, making photo management faster. Zooming in and out of image thumbnails is also smoother and immersive.

Other noteworthy features include automatically stabilized Live Photos, the ability to add captions to photos, and Memories with better selections, music tracks, and transitions.

Voice Memos

The Voice Memos app in iPadOS 14 comes with smart folders that intelligently categorize your recordings. It also lets you create folders to organize recordings manually, and even lets you mark recordings as ‘favorites.’iPadOS 14 Voice Memos

To top things off, Voice Memos now offers a new Enhance Recording feature to improve the sound quality of recordings with just a single tap.

Home

The Home app supports on-device Face Recognition for compatible video doorbells and cameras that can identify friends and family. You can also define Activity Zones within any camera’s view that then notifies you if motion is detected within the area.iPadOS 14 Home

Furthermore, Adaptive Lighting for compatible HomeKit-enabled lights can help adjust the color temperature automatically throughout the day.

Shortcuts

The Shortcuts app in iPadOS 14 is now improved and streamlined, automatically categorizing shortcuts by functionality. For example, shortcuts that work in the Share Sheet or Apple Watch can be filtered by tapping the relevant smart categories underneath the My Shortcuts tab.

The Shortcuts app also sports a number of new automation trigger types — these include Email, Sleep, Message, Battery Level, Close App, and Charger.


3. Apple Pencil Features

Write Anywhere with ‘Scribble’

Scribble is a major Apple Pencil-related addition in iPadOS 14 that totally changes the way you use it. You can now write in any text field using your Apple Pencil as opposed to using the onscreen keyboard — Scribble then converts your handwriting to typed text automatically.iPadOS 14 Scribble

For example, you can use Scribble to fill in web addresses and forms in Safari or queries in Universal Search, allowing for a seamless experience. Scribble also comes with multiple unique gestures — scratch to delete, circle to select, and so on — that make it incredibly easy to use.

Handwriting Recognition

iPadOS 14 brings advanced handwriting detection capabilities to the Notes app. You can highlight and select handwritten text similar to typed text. You can even copy and paste your handwriting to other apps, and they should show as actual text. Similar to Scribble, the Notes app can also convert your handwriting into typed text as you write along.iPadOS 14 Handwriting

Draw Shapes Accurately

The Notes app now lets you add precise shapes using your Apple Pencil. At the end of a drawing, simply keep holding the Apple Pencil, and the Notes app will detect and adjust the shape automatically. This makes drawing lines, circles, rectangles, pentagons, and so on, incredibly convenient.iPadOS 14 Shapes

Check out this guide for an in-depth on the various new Apple Pencil-related additions in iPadOS 14.


4. General Improvements & Features

iPadOS 14 comes with numerous general improvements and features. We’ve hand-picked a few of the best below — you can check the complete 100+ iPadOS 14 feature list here.

Download App Clips

App Clips are stripped-down and light-weight versions of apps that you can quickly download and use in a hurry. They are more geared for iPhone users on the go, but that hasn’t stopped iPadOS 14 from supporting them as well.

AirPods Switch Automatically

Start using the iPad, and your AirPods will automatically switch to it. This should prevent you from having to manually connect to them whenever you swap back and forth between an iPhone, an iPad, or a Mac.iPadOS 14 AirPods

Quick Access Home Controls

The Control Center in iPadOS 14 stays largely the same. But one notable inclusion is the dedicated Home control area — accessories and scenes will show up there for quick access whenever you add any via the Home app.

Disable Share Sheet Suggestions

iPadOS 13 started displaying suggested contacts within the Share Sheet. If you didn’t like that, you can now disable them by going to Settings > Siri & Search and turning off the toggle next to Share Sheet Suggestions.

Redesigned Image Picker

iPadOS 14 comes with a revamped image picker for faster searching and selecting when accessing your photos through other apps.

Watch YouTube in 4K

iPadOS 14 supports Google’s VP9 codec, which means that you can finally stream YouTube in full 4K glory. While watching a video, open the Quality, and then pick the 2160p setting.

iPadOS 14 YouTube

Jiggle Apps From Anywhere

It’s now possible to jiggle your apps by long-pressing any vacant area on the iPad’s Home screen. Previously, you had to tap and hold an app to start jiggling them.

Guides in Apple Maps

Guides in Apple Maps provide a curated list of interesting places to visit in a city, created by a selection of trusted resources. Guides are a great way to discover hot new restaurants, find popular attractions, and explore new recommendations from respected brands.iPadOS 14 Guides

You can also save Guides for offline usage — if the guides get updated with new information, Maps will update saved Guides accordingly.

Reduce Screenshot Opacity

iPadOS 14 features a nifty slider on the screenshot markup screen to reduce image opacity. Particularly useful when you want to emphasize Apple Pencil annotations in noisy screenshots.

Double-Tap to Drag

If you use a trackpad with your iPad, go to Settings > Accessibility > Pointer Control > Double-Tap to Drag, and then select either Without Drag Lock or With Drag Lock. You can then start dragging items (such as the Home screen icons) with a simple double-tap as opposed to tapping and dragging.

Rename Bluetooth Devices

You can now rename any Bluetooth device connected to your iPad by heading into the Bluetooth options in the Settings app.

AirPods Charge Notifications

Your iPad will quickly remind you to recharge your AirPods once they fall to 10% of the remaining battery.

Keyboard and Mouse Support for Games

iPadOS 14 is supposed to implement keyboard, mouse, and trackpad support for video games. This could revolutionize the gaming experience on the iPad.

Third-Party Family Sharing

In iPadOS 14, Apple now allows third-party subscriptions to support Family Sharing.

Facetime Eye Contact

Apple brings back last year’s Attention Awareness feature (which was only present in certain beta versions) and re-introduces it as Eye Contact. As the name suggests, FaceTime will automatically adjust the video feed in a way as to make it seem as if video call participants are looking directly at each other instead of at their cameras.

Make Key Photo

The Photos app now lets you quickly set any photo in an album as its thumbnail. Simply tap and hold an image, and then tap Make Key Photo.iPadOS 14 Make Key Photo

FaceTime in 1080p

Another FaceTime-related enhancement — iPads with supported front-facing cameras (such as the iPad Pro 2018/2020) can now FaceTime in the 1080p resolution.

Back Button History

Long-pressing the Back button on any native app will reveal your history, helping you quickly jump back to previous pages.

Mirrored Selfies

If you prefer taking selfies with your iPad, then you’re going to love mirrored selfies. Just turn on the feature via the Camera Settings, and Camera will capture your selfies exactly as they appear on the viewfinder.

Spatial Audio

AirPods Pro will now allow for an immersive surround-style audio experience when connected to an iPadOS 14 device. Dubbed Spatial Audio, the technology behind this feature will continuously monitor the position of your head and re-calibrate audio output accordingly.iPadOS 14 Spatial Audio

New Emoji Picker

If you use a Smart Keyboard with your iPad, tap the Globe key to bring up a nifty emoji picture wherever your cursor currently is at.

Video Resolution Control

iPadOS 14 now lets you change the video resolution directly from within the camera app itself. Simply enable the Video Format Control option from within the Camera Settings, and you are set to go.

Search for Apps in Storage Menu

iPadOS 14 lets you filter apps by name in the iPad Storage screen (accessible via Settings > General). Incredibly useful when you’ve got lots of apps installed.

New Memojis

iPadOS 14 comes with a host of new memoji stickers, hairstyles, headwear, and face coverings. It also features additional age options for an enhanced customization experience.iPadOS 14 New Memojis

Create Folders in Shortcuts App

Aside from the visual overhaul in the Shortcuts app, you can now create your own folders to categorize shortcuts. Just tap the Folder icon to the bottom of the Shortcuts sidebar to set up new folders.


5. Privacy Features

Aside from the various privacy-related additions in Safari, iPadOS 14 also comes with an array of additional features throughout the OS that allow for an exceptionally private and secure experience on the iPad.

App Store Transparency

The App Store in iPadOS 14 sports a new section labeled App Privacy for all listed apps that reveal the exact forms of data used to track you. This should help you make better decisions as to which apps you should install on your iPad. You can also use the information to take appropriate measures to prevent privacy-invasive apps from running amok.iPadOS 14 App Store

Clipboard Notifications

iPadOS 14 snitches any app reads data from your clipboard. This is a seemingly insignificant yet vital improvement to user privacy. Popular apps such as TikTok and LinkedIn have already been caught red-handed in the act of reading the clipboard.

Security Recommendations

In addition to Safari’s password monitoring capabilities, iPadOS 14 features a separate Security Recommendations panel (accessible via Settings > Passwords) that alerts you of compromised, duplicate, and commonly used passwords.

Where possible, iPadOS 14 also allows you to upgrade existing login credentials to Sign in with Apple.iPadOS 14 Sign in with Apple

Permission to Track

Apps now require your explicit permission to start tracking you across websites and other apps. You will receive a notification that provides you with the option to allow or restrict any app from tracking you. You can also manage permissions by heading over to Settings > Privacy > Tracking.

Camera/Microphone Indicators

iPadOS 14 notifies you whenever apps access the camera and microphone of your iPad using colored status indicators. A green-colored dot indicates an active camera, while an orange-colored dot reflects a live microphone. You can also view the name of the app using your camera feed or microphone audio by bringing up the Control Center.iPadOS 14 Microphone

Limit Access to Photos

Third-party apps often require permission to your photos library to read or write images. iPadOS 14 limits potential privacy implications by limiting access to select photos or albums, making it much safer to use third-party apps on your iPad. You can configure photo library permissions by visiting Settings > Privacy > Photos.

Precision Location Tracking

iPadOS 14 brings a new feature to manage apps that make use of aggressive location services. Dubbed Precision Location, the feature lets you determine between letting an app have your exact location or your approximate location. You can enable or disable Precision Location for apps by going to Settings > Privacy > Location Services.iPadOS 14 Precise Location

Local Network Privacy

Apps can no longer track you by connecting to or pinging other devices in a local network without your permission anymore. Unless an app really needs to find and communicate with other devices to function properly, there’s simply no reason to provide this permission. You can manage this feature by going to Settings > Privacy > Location Tracking.

Encrypted DNS

The stable iPadOS 14 release is set to support encrypted DNS that take advantage of both the DoH (DNS-over-HTTPS) and DoT (DNS-over-TLS) protocols. Strip away the jargon, and these protocols allow apps to perform and receive DNS queries and responses in an encrypted format for increased privacy. This helps prevent bad actors and malicious code from interfering and hijacking network traffic.iPadOS 14 DNS Encryption

Mask MAC Address

iPadOS 14 comes with a nifty Wi-Fi security feature that prevents network providers from tracking your iPad. Enabled by default, the Use Private Address setting within the Wi-Fi settings of any connection helps your iPad throw out randomly generated MAC addresses. This serves as an anti-tracking measure whenever you connect to different Wi-Fi networks.


6. Accessibility Settings

iPadOS 14 comes with a handful of accessibility settings geared toward the hearing and the visually impaired, allowing for an improved experience on the iPad.

VoiceOver Recognition

VoiceOver Recognition has received multiple improvements. It now uses on-device intelligence to recognize elements in apps and services that don’t have native support for the functionality. It can now also speak out text within images, read out descriptions of photos and images on the internet, and detect user interface controls for better navigation.

Headphone Accommodations

When enabled, Headphone Accommodations will prompt the iPad to amplify soft sounds for more clarity on headphones with an H1 chip (such as the AirPods 2 and AirPods Pro).iPadOS 14 Headphone Accomodations

Reduce Loud Sounds

Dubbed Reduce Loud Sounds, this feature will automatically lower the headphone volume over any specified decibel level. If you are sensitive to loud sounds or want to protect your hearing, go to iPad Settings > Sounds & Haptics > Reduce Loud Sounds to activate the feature.

Sign Language Prominence

Group FaceTime calls on the iPad will automatically give more prominence to the tiles of any person using sign language.iPadOS 14 Sign Language

Sound Recognition

Sound Recognition actively listens and notifies you of certain sounds — fires, sirens, certain animal sounds, or even general household sounds. You can select the sounds that you want to be notified of (go to Settings > Accessibility > Sound Recognition). You can also add a Sound Recognition toggle to the Control Center to manage the feature.

Read: Top 35 iPadOS 14 Tips and Tricks


7. iPadOS 14 Compatible Device List

iPadOS 14 is set to support all iPad models that supported iPadOS 13. So if you have an iPad Air 2 (which is the oldest supported model), you can keep hanging onto it for least another year. The complete list of supported models is as follows:

  • iPad Pro 12.9 (2020)
  • iPad Pro 11 (2020)
  • iPad Air (2019)
  • iPad (2019)
  • iPad mini (2019)
  • iPad Pro 12.9 (2018)
  • iPad Pro 11 (2018)
  • iPad (2018)
  • iPad Pro 12.9 (2017)
  • iPad Pro 10.5 (2017)
  • iPad (2017)
  • iPad Pro 9.7 (2016)
  • iPad Pro 12.9 (2015)
  • iPad mini 4 (2015)
  • iPad Air 2 (2014)

8. iPadOS 14 Public Beta Program

Apple started seeding the iPadOS 14 Public Beta on July 9th, 2020. Compared to the previous iPadOS (and iOS) Public Betas, this year’s release has been generally stable. Features work well, crashes are few and far between, and battery drain issues have been at a minimum.

If you want to try out the many features in iPadOS 14, you can enroll in the Public Beta program and install the iPadOS 14 Public Beta on your iPad right now. However, it’s best to back up your iPad to a Mac or PC before you decide to proceed.

Check out this guide for a complete walkthrough of installing the iPadOS 14 Public Beta on the iPad.


9. iPadOS 14 Release Date

Following the first-ever online-only WWDC 2020 event, Apple released the iPadOS 14 Developer Beta, and then followed up with the Public Beta two weeks later. After eight beta builds, Apple released the stable build of iPadOS 14 on September 16th.

Here’s how to install iPadOS 14 on your iPad or iPad Pro right now.


10. How to Use iPadOS 14 Features

Check our how-to guides and explainers for an in-depth take on the various additions and features in iPadOS 14.

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