Science & Technology

Apple backtracks, will extend Stage Manager multitasking support to older iPads

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True external display support is coming to M1-powered iPads in iPadOS 16.
Enlarge / True external display support is coming to M1-powered iPads in iPadOS 16.

Apple

When Apple delayed iPadOS 16 in August, one of the primary culprits was the new “Stage Manager” multitasking feature. Stage Manager was meant to extend a new multi-window multitasking model to the iPad, but developers and people who cover Apple for a living have been complaining about stability and unpredictable behavior for months, problems that were still present even in recent betas. Controversially, the feature also required a recent M1-powered iPad Pro or Air to work.

In the beta of iPadOS 16.1 shipped today, Apple is narrowing Stage Manager’s scope and adjusting its system requirements. According to an Apple statement provided to Engadget, the company “worked hard to find a way to deliver a single screen version [of Stage Manager]” for users of the 2018- and 2020-model iPad Pros.

These models have less RAM and a less-powerful processor than the M1 iPad Pros and the fourth-generation iPad Air. But with their four efficiency cores and four performance cores, both the A12X and A12Z chips were clearly dry-runs for the M1, and they’re still powerful enough to run iPadOS and its apps well—it’s nice to see them pick up support for Stage Manager, too.

Stage Manager was also designed to extend to external displays, replacing the basic screen mirroring that most iPads can do now. Apple says that external display support will remain exclusive to M1-and-newer iPads, and that it’s being delayed to an iPadOS update “later this year.”

Apple software engineering SVP Craig Federighi said in an interview earlier this year that Stage Manager was only happening on M1 iPads because those models have extra RAM and faster flash memory (for swapping to the iPad’s storage when RAM is full) that were necessary to make the feature run smoothly. But Federighi was also specifically talking about a version of Stage Manager with eight apps running at once, four on the iPad’s display, and another four on an external display. Limiting Stage Manager on older iPads to one display—and thus, to a total of four apps, instead of eight—was apparently a workable compromise for performance on older devices.

The public version of iPadOS 16 should be released sometime in October. The developer beta that adds Stage Manager to older iPads is out now, and the public version should be available within a couple of days.



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