iPadOS 16.1 is now available with its most controversial feature

Stage Manager, the iPad’s new multitasking feature in iPadOS 16, has been frustrating beta users all summer.

Originally Published: 
iPad Pro running iPadOS 16
Raymond Wong / Inverse

After a summer of frustrating beta testing from developers and consumers, Apple is finally releasing iPadOS 16 (skipping straight to 16.1) for iPads today, October 24. The free iPad software update includes Stage Manager, a new multitasking feature, that has been riddled with bugs.

Originally planned for release alongside iOS 16 for iPhone in September, Apple wisely delayed iPadOS 16.1 to give its developers more time to polish Stage Manager. The multitasking addition has been criticized by iPad evangelists and general users for its confusing operation.

Announced as a bold new way to run multiple apps in windows that more closely resemble what you get on desktops like macOS and Windows, Apple has done little to make Stage Manager more intuitive to use. The only “fix” for Stage Manager at the release of iPadOS 16 is simple enough: Don’t use it.

Stage Manager on more iPads

When the first iPadOS 16 beta was released in June, Stage Manager only worked on iPads with an M1 chip (2022 11- and 12.9-inch iPad Pros and 2022 iPad Air 4). Here’s how Apple SVP of software engineering Craig Federighi defended this limitation at the time:

Stage Manager is a fully integrated experience that provides all-new windowing experience that is incredibly fast and responsive and allow users to run 8 apps simultaneously across iPad and an external display with up to 6K resolution. Delivering this experience with the immediacy users expect from iPad's touch-first experience requires large internal memory, incredibly fast storage, and flexible external display I/O, all of which are delivered by iPads with the M1 chip.

Federighi insisted Stage Manager needed newer hardware with faster component performance. Well, that’s not the case anymore — sort of.

Stage Manager in iPadOS 16 supports iPad Pros from 2018 and 2019 with A12X and A12 Z Bionic chips. The one catch? On these older iPad Pros, Stage Manager doesn’t support an external monitor — this feature will only work with M1-powered iPads and the new M2 iPad Pros.

One powerful-enough iPad that is not getting Stage Manager is the sixth-generation iPad mini 6 (2022). Even though it has an A13 Bionic chip, its small 8.3-inch display handicaps it from the benefits of Stage Manager — app windows and text would be even more difficult to see and touch. The 10th-generation iPad also isn’t getting Stage Manager despite having an A14 Bionic chip, though it has a 10.9-inch display that’s the same size as the iPad Air 4.

External monitor support delayed

While only available for M1 and M2 iPads, Apple is delaying external monitor support until an update coming later this year. This is not surprising considering how janky the feature has been in the beta versions. It’s better for Apple to squash any crippling bugs than to ship a subpar experience.

Per Apple’s iPadOS 16.1 announcement:

In an update for M1 and M2 iPad models later this year, Stage Manager will unlock full external display support with resolutions of up to 6K, so users will be able arrange the ideal workspace, and work with up to four apps on iPad and four apps on the external display simultaneously.

Highlights shared with iOS 16

Aside from Stage Manager — which you absolutely do not need to use to enjoy an iPad — iPadOS 16 ships with many of the same features in iOS 16 (read my review here). There’s a great new Apple-made Weather app, useful Messages features such as editing and unsending iMessages, and additions to the Mail app for unsending and scheduling emails. Other notable iPadOS 16 features include Live Text support for still frames in videos, more SharePlay integration in Messages, a redesigned Home app, iCloud Shared Photo Library, and more.

One feature from iOS 16 I do pine for on iPadOS 16.1 is the iPhone’s customizable lock screen, but alas, we can’t have everything.

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