iPadOS 18: Everything you need to know about the latest iPad software

iPadOS 18
(Image credit: Apple)
WWDC 2024

WWDC 2024

(Image credit: Apple)

1. iOS 18what's next for iPhone?
2.
iPadOS 18 — will Apple finally unleash the power of iPad?
3.
macOS 15 — what's new for Mac?
4. Apple Intelligence — what will it be able to do?

iPadOS 18 is coming to an iPad near you in the Fall. Unveiled at WWDC 2024 and currently available as the iPadOS 18 developer beta, the latest and greatest in tablet software elevates the iPad like never before. Arguably, it's still not spicy enough to really stretch the legs of Apple's best iPads, such as the potent M4 iPad Pro, but the advent of Apple Intelligence, powerful on-device AI, should be enough to get the wheels turning. 

AI was a huge focus of the iPadOS 18 announcement, but that's not all. iPadOS 18 is more customizable than ever, with updates to Control Center, tools for arranging apps and widgets, and new colors to let you tint your icons to your liking. 

Beyond that, standout features include the new Calculator app replete with Math Notes, a Photos app overhaul, and more. Here's everything you need to know about iPadOS 18. 

iPadOS 18: Apple Intelligence

AI

(Image credit: Apple)

Let's start with the big one: Apple's foray into AI, Apple Intelligence. There are some massive upgrades coming to iPadOS thanks to AI, beginning with improvements to Siri.

Coming as a free update later this year, Apple Intelligence improves Siri in a number of ways. For one, Siri is now more deeply integrated into the system experience, denoted by the whole screen flashing with color as the digital assistant is conjured. From there, Siri can use Apple Intelligence to bring forward context-aware suggestions to your queries, using data searched around your device. Siri will be able to process more complicated requests, for one, as well as ones that relate to other messages, emails, and even events from around your iPad.

You can ask Siri about a feature when you don't know the name, and Siri will find the feature and talk you through how it works. Thanks to on-screen awareness, you'll be Siri will be able to see what's happening on screen and tailor its responses. There are going to be more new actions that Siri can take in third-party apps — the list really does go on.

But there's more to Apple Intelligence than just the Siri improvements. Apple has woven its new models around iPadOS, making it easier to use different functions no matter where you are. Apple Intelligences language model will enable some smart writing tools, which will help you and your writing around different apps. You could be sending an email around, and you want to make sure that it sounds good to the person who'll be receiving it — Apple Intelligence can reword your email depending on what you want it to sound like. In the mail app again, your emails can be summarised in the preview window, so you know what's in it.

Finally, there's new image manipulation and creation tools. You can use the Photo editor to make your photos look amazing, letting you enhance the colors and remove unwanted subjects from the background. Then, there's Genmoji which creates a new emoji based on prompts that you type in straight to the keyboard. There's loads more to the AI that will be coming to iPadOS 18, and this is just scratching the surface. If you want to learn more about Apple Intelligence, check out our hub.

Apple Intelligence isn't available in the current beta, but will launch in beta form when iPadOS 18 is made available to the public later this year. 

iPadOS 18: Calculator app and Math Notes

iPadOS 18

(Image credit: Apple)

On the surface, the new Calculator app for iPad (many years in coming, it must be said) looks just like the app that you'll find built into your iPhone. Dig a little deeper, however, and you'll find the math lovers (or people who hate math and don't want to have to do it themselves) dream.

There's a new part of the app called 'Math Notes', and there are some cool features built in. 

Ostensibly, it's a calculator that you use with your Apple Pencil, drawing your sums on the screen so that the calculator can work them out for you. Math students rejoice, your prayers may have been answered. Or not, given your professor might start confiscating everyone's devices now so that they can't cheat in the math tests.

Then, you can add variables into the equation, so that you can create more complex math solutions, and even generate graphs with variable results. Those variables can be changed in real-time so that the graph will change too — pretty cool if you know your hypotenuse from your acute angle. 

This will also be built into the Notes app — although there's more to the Notes app as well...

iPadOS 18: Smart Script and the Notes app

iPadOS 18

(Image credit: Apple)

You know when you take handwritten notes, and all your writing looks awful? Yeah, me too. Thankfully, Smart Script is here to make everything better. It will use machine learning to get a good picture of what your handwriting looks like, and then tidy it up so that it's properly legible, but also so that it still looks like your own writing. This all happens in real time too, so you can watch and the iPad phantom changes your handwriting as you write. Spooky.

BUT WAIT! There's more: Smart Script will also let you scribble out unwanted text, as well as copy and paste your writing to other parts of iPadOS. You can even copy text into your document, and Notes will make it look like your writing. Sweet.

There are improvements for typed notes as well — you can now organize notes with drop-down menus, and highlight some of your notes in different colors.

iPadOS 18: More iPad customization

iPadOS 18

(Image credit: Apple)

Just as with iOS 18, there are going to be a bunch of different ways to customize your iPad thanks to iPadOS 18. For one, there's a new dark mode that brings a whole new look to the OS, making it all dark and moody like a Norwegian murder mystery TV show.

You can adjust the tint of icons as well, either to match the prevailing color of your background or a color of your choosing. That could bring your device together in a very unique and visual way, and it's a welcome kind of customization for iPad.

In addition, there are new ways to customize your control center, letting you add different controls from other apps. You can have different panes for different controls as well so that you can together things like media controls into one pane, and then home controls in another. You can sort through with a downward swipe, or press and hold to swipe through them in one solid motion.

iPadOS 18: UI improvements

iPadOS 18

(Image credit: Apple)

On the top of a range of different iPadOS, there will be a new 'Tab bar' which will make for easier navigation of different apps. You can sort through the various different tabs (which, of course, can be customized), or tap on the bar itself for a sidebar that pops out of the side of the screen.

This maximizes the space that the app can fill, for that true 'full screen' experience.

iPadOS 18: Photos

iPadOS 18 Photos

(Image credit: Apple)

Another update coming from iOS 18, the new photos app is coming to iPadOS 18. That means all the layout improvements that are coming across, including the improved photo grid that dominates the app, and the new collections portion at the bottom of the screen.

Those collections are customizable as well, letting you choose what collections you want to surface first, before all the others. They are automatically built by the photos app as well, gathering together different photos of trips, people, and more so that you don't have to do it yourself. You still can create your own collections of course, but it's nice that the app will do it for you.

There are new autoplay features as well, creating fun slideshows of your memories when you swipe off the main photos page. This is called the carousel view, and you'll find it by swiping to the left on the Photos app in iPadOS 18.

iPadOS 18: Everything else

iPadOS 18

(Image credit: Apple)

There were loads more from the show as well, like message improvements and a huge upgrade to Safari. The message enhancements are all from the iOS 18 fold, including RCS messages and message formatting. That means you'll be able to make your text bold, italicized, and more. Tapbacks have also been improved, with the option to use every single emoji out there — including the Genmoji that you've made yourself.

Safari has also been improved, with distraction-free browsing. That will allow you to see summaries on different web pages of the information that you need, such as locations, prices, contact details, and more. That could be on a hotel website or a restaurant site.

iPadOS 18: Release date

iPadOS 18

(Image credit: Apple)

iPadOS 18 developer beta is available now with the public beta arriving in July. The first official release won't be available until September or October of this year. Apple will usually roll out iPadOS either alongside some new hardware, or possibly in tandem with iOS 18 later this year. 

iPadOS 18: Compatible devices

  • iPad Pro models from 2018 and later (3rd Gen)
  • iPad Air models from 2019 and later (3rd Gen)
  • iPad mini models from 2019 and later (5th Gen)
  • iPad models from 2020 and later (8th Gen)

The iPadOS 18 compatibility list means that Apple is dropping support for three iPads that supported iPadOS 17. The 10.5-inch iPad Pro, the 2nd-gen 12.9-inch iPad Pro, and the sixth-generation iPad. 

Tammy Rogers
Senior Staff Writer

As iMore's Senior Staff writer, Tammy uses her background in audio and Masters in screenwriting to pen engaging product reviews and informative buying guides. The resident audiophile (or audio weirdo), she's got an eye for detail and a love of top-quality sound. Apple is her bread and butter, with attention on HomeKit and Apple iPhone and Mac hardware. You won't find her far away from a keyboard even outside of working at iMore – in her spare time, she spends her free time writing feature-length and TV screenplays. Also known to enjoy driving digital cars around virtual circuits, to varying degrees of success. Just don't ask her about AirPods Max - you probably won't like her answer.