iPadOS 18 looks great, but it still doesn't fix the iPad's biggest problem

iPad Pro with Stage Manager running
(Image credit: Luke Filipowicz / iMore)

Apple's WWDC 2024 keynote has come and gone, with several huge announcements to show for it. Apple Intelligence showcases the company's step into AI, while the next major software update for the best iPhones, iOS 18, is a huge step up from previous years — bringing lots of customization to your home screen, lock screen, and Control Center.

However, when it comes to iPadOS 18, I can't help but feel that iPad users have been shortchanged once again. Yes, it's great that there's some feature parity with iOS 18 and the upcoming features that Apple Intelligence brings for U.S. English users, such as the new Siri.

Yet there was no mention of improvements to Stage Manager, Apple's latest attempt at fixing iPad multitasking. Instead, the exclusive features of iPadOS 18 are a taskbar that aims to make navigation in apps much simpler and a new Calculator app.

Everything else, you'll also be able to use in iOS 18 and macOS Sequoia — which makes me wonder if iPadOS 18 is the worst software update to come out of WWDC 2024.

Exit stage left

iPadOS 18

(Image credit: Apple)

I want to be clear — the features that Calculator brings to the iPad, as well as the Math Notes that you can use with Apple Pencil and Notes, are fantastic. Users who struggle with sums and equations will benefit massively.

Everything else that's coming to iOS 18 and macOS Sequoia is also welcome — from the much-improved Messages to the new Safari on Mac, there's a lot to like.

Yet, for a major update called iPadOS 18, many users, myself included, were hoping for improvements to Stage Manager. Or at least, a new way of multitasking on iPad. In our review of the M4 iPad Pro in May, iMore's Editor-in-Chief Gerald Lynch remarked, "iPadOS is simply frustrating to use when attempting to do any significant multitasking work, and Stage Manager remains at the heart of this frustration. Though much improved over its debut, Stage Manager still too often wants to second guess you, whether that’s snapping app panes to specific places on the screen, or removing ‘stages’ when opening several new ones."

Fast forward to June 10, and we're in the same position with iPadOS 18. Stage Manager wasn't even mentioned at the WWDC keynote. Nothing has changed.

I find that baffling.

iPadOS 17 Stage Manager with Threads, Safari and YouTube playing

(Image credit: iMore)

If there's anything else that the iPadOS 18 announcement tells me, it's that Apple has a clear vision for the iPad, especially for users who aren't content creators. The iPad is for those who want a bigger iPhone but something less than a Mac.

Once iPadOS 18 is made available later this year, you'll get a great Calculator app, new ways to send Messages with formatting improvements as well as a tab bar to help with navigating an app.

If you're expecting anything more, prepare to be disappointed. Or at the least, start to accept that the iPad is just not meant to be used as a multitasking powerhouse.

We're covering the WWDC 2024 event as it happens. Follow WWDC 2024 LIVE here. Or check out our roundups for all the latest on the newly announced iOS 18iPadOS 18macOS 15watchOS 11visionOS 2, and Apple Intelligence.

iPad Air 6 | $599$569 at Amazon

iPad Air 6 | $599 $569 at Amazon

This price on the iPad Air 6 is now the lowest price we’ve seen on it so far. Featuring an M2 chip as well as a 12 MP front and back camera with Smart HDR 4, it's the best mid-range iPad currently available.

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Daryl Baxter
Features Editor

Daryl is iMore's Features Editor, overseeing long-form and in-depth articles and op-eds. Daryl loves using his experience as both a journalist and Apple fan to tell stories about Apple's products and its community, from the apps we use every day to the products that have been long forgotten in the Cupertino archives.

Previously Software & Downloads Writer at TechRadar, and Deputy Editor at StealthOptional, he's also written a book, 'The Making of Tomb Raider', which tells the story of the beginnings of Lara Croft and the series' early development. His second book, '50 Years of Boss Fights', came out in June 2024, and has a monthly newsletter called 'Springboard'. He's also written for many other publications including WIRED, MacFormat, Bloody Disgusting, VGC, GamesRadar, Nintendo Life, VRV Blog, The Loop Magazine, SUPER JUMP, Gizmodo, Film Stories, TopTenReviews, Miketendo64, and Daily Star.

  • Kal Madda
    Stage Manager works beautifully for me, my iPad is my primary computer, and I use it for professional graphic design work, 3D modeling/sculpting, and all of my other workflow. I don’t think some Mac users will ever be happy with iPadOS, they just want iPadOS replaced with macOS. Also, the new Control Center will streamline many workflows with the ability to pin my custom Siri Shortcuts into it, as well as third-party apps providing controls for their apps. And Apple Intelligence looks like it will be revolutionary for multitasking.
    Reply
  • Just_Me_D
    Kal Madda said:
    Stage Manager works beautifully for me, my iPad is my primary computer, and I use it for professional graphic design work, 3D modeling/sculpting, and all of my other workflow. I don’t think some Mac users will ever be happy with iPadOS, they just want iPadOS replaced with macOS. Also, the new Control Center will streamline many workflows with the ability to pin my custom Siri Shortcuts into it, as well as third-party apps providing controls for their apps. And Apple Intelligence looks like it will be revolutionary for multitasking.
    In your line of work, the iPad Pro is the perfect device. However, for others it’s lacking.
    Reply
  • Kal Madda
    Just_Me_D said:
    In your line of work, the iPad Pro is the perfect device. However, for others it’s lacking.
    I agree, I’m not saying the iPad Pro is perfect for everyone, though it definitely is basically perfect for my workflow. 👍🏻. I understand some people bump into some limitations, and I hope that some of them will be improved over time. I just think Stage Manager works great, but some seem to expect it to work differently in some way. Like to me at least, things like shifting Stages out of the sidebar when you’ve created several new Stages is expected behavior. And snapping windows to a snap grid makes multi-windowing feel more natural in iPadOS, and makes it easier to work with without a keyboard and mouse, at least in my opinion. Besides, the snap grid for windows is very dense, I don’t know what difference it really makes if my app window is an 8th of an inch over more than I dragged it, or whatever. And the perfectionist in me appreciates that app windows automatically align rather than feeling like if I bump an app window, it will never be truly centered ever again, like I do when interacting with macOS’s windowing.
    Reply