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4 major iPadOS 18 features announced at WWDC 2024 (and which iPads will get it)

With WWDC 2024 wrapping up, we've gathered the best and most useful iPadOS 18 features that Apple announced. Here's what you can expect for your iPad.
Written by Maria Diaz, Staff Writer
iPad Air (2022, 6th generation)
Maria Diaz/ZDNET

iOS tends to get the most attention during Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) each year, but iPadOS doesn't trail far behind. And with new iPad models released just last month, it's safe to assume the tablet's new operating system is eagerly awaited.

Also: Everything Apple announced at WWDC 2024, including iOS 18, Siri, AI, and more

This year, Apple upgraded each of its operating systems significantly, introducing a host of artificial intelligence (AI) features that the company is calling "Apple Intelligence."  AI aside, we have "Assansin's Creed: Shadows"  coming to the iPad, a new Calculator app, Smart Script, and more features for iPadOS 18.

The best iPadOS 18 features announced at WWDC

1. Apple Intelligence on the iPad

Apple announced a ton of new artificial intelligence (AI) features coming to the iPhone with iOS 18 at WWDC today. But the iPad wasn't left behind -- new iPadOS AI features will make the iPad more user-friendly, enhancing productivity and creativity.

Apple is calling its AI features Apple Intelligence, a way to "own" the AI acronym and assert itself in the technology that has taken over the world for the past 18 months. 

Also: You can finally schedule messages on the iPhone. Here's what to know

Siri got a new look, but the makeover also includes what is inside. Talking to Siri now makes the edges of your device light up. Siri can now maintain conversational context, letting you ask follow-up questions within a conversation without clarifying what you're referring to each time.  

Double-tapping at the bottom of the screen lets you type to Siri, allowing you to interact via text like an AI chatbot similar to ChatGPT. With onscreen awareness, Siri will be able to see your screen and understand the context of conversations so you can prompt it to add an address to a contact sent in a message thread. 

Because Siri is also an expert on your device's information, you can ask for an email you got for a bake sale or a photo of your dog wearing a hat with a simple voice or text prompt -- no need to navigate your iPad or iPhone. 

Also: iOS 18's new Game Mode makes your iPhone faster and more performant

iPad users can also leverage generative AI system wide to create text, rewrite, summarize, and make major edits, like changing a tone and proofreading.

Other new Apple Intelligence features on the iPad include redesigning the Photos app, enhanced Siri with gesture control via AirPods Pro, and more. These features will give iPad users a more intuitive tablet with better hands-free control and multitasking capabilities. 

2. A built-in Calculator for iPad

During WWDC, Apple announced that the Calculator app finally will be included as a native app with iPadOS 18. It will also get a redesign, as the Mac Calculator will now resemble the iPhone app, with round buttons instead of square ones, and will feature new capabilities with Apple Pencil integrations.

The iPad Calculator looks like an expanded iPhone Calculator and features history and quick unit conversions. With Math Notes, the Calculator is elevated with an Apple Pencil, as users can use Apple's stylus to write equations, and the Calculator will solve them as soon as they write an equal sign (=). The Calculator supports variables and complex calculations. Users can edit equations, and the Calculator will recalculate the result, hover the Apple Pencil over a variant, and scroll left and right to decrease and increase the unit. 

Also: iPad Pro (2024) review: Apple's most advanced tablet is no MacBook, and I'm okay with that

This may not sound like a groundbreaking feature, but did you know that the iPad has never included a native Calculator app in its 14-year history? While there are various rumors about why Apple never created an iPad Calculator app, one thing is certain: iPad users will now get the same Calculator experience they're accustomed to with other Apple devices.

Until now, iPad users looking for a calculator had to download third-party apps from the App Store, most of which were created by developers striving for the same aesthetics as the iPhone's Calculator app.

A built-in Calculator app eliminates the need to download a third-party app and allows Apple to leverage the iPad's larger screen to offer complex calculations and advanced visualizations. This feature enables everyday users, like students, to use the iPad more effectively for math and science queries. 

3. An intuitive Notes app

The Notes app for iPad also has been redesigned, with Smart Script in Notes for users with an Apple Pencil. Smart Script lets users handwrite with the Apple Pencil and spell-checks on the go as the user writes. Smart Script also works to streamline handwriting as it straightens lines and makes notes more legible in your handwriting.

Also: iPad Pro (2024) review: Apple's most advanced tablet is no MacBook, and I'm okay with that

Smart Script in Notes also lets users erase portions of notes by scratching them out. This feature also draws from the Calculator on iPad, letting users make calculations and graphs like they would in the Calculator. 

4. A Passwords app

Apple has used the iCloud Keychain for years now, a way to store passwords and log in to different sites securely. This feature, however, is saved and accessed in your device's Settings and has not been easily accessible until now.

Also: Forget LastPass: Apple unveils 'Passwords' manager app at WWDC 2024

Apple is making the new Passwords app available for iOS and iPadOS, giving users a more user-friendly way to access, edit, share, and autofill their passwords. Instead of digging through the iPad's Settings to find the iCloud Keychain, users will have a separate app called Passwords, which works much like LastPass and 1Password. 

As a longtime LastPass user and Keychain disdainer, I look forward to testing this app and enjoying centralized password management with an enhanced user interface. I expect the Passwords app for iPad will greatly improve security for many users, making the access and management of passwords more convenient. 

What we didn't get: An 'always on' display

Apple's latest iPad Pro features the company's latest silicon, the M4 processor. This iPad is also the first to have an OLED display, opening it to a new world of possibilities. 

To leverage the iPad Pro's OLED capabilities, Apple could add an "always on" feature by extending the iPhone's Standby Mode to the tablet. Standby Mode is a low-power state that displays essential information on the screen, like time, date, and notifications while charging. 

Also: iOS 18: All the iPhone changes Apple announced at WWDC 2024

The iPad Standby Mode could make significant strides toward reintroducing the tablet as an improved smart display that could eventually work as a smart home hub (especially with its Thread radio). The iPhone's Standby Mode features a helpful Home view of favorite smart home devices, so adding it to the iPad would give an expanded view of the Home widget on the larger screen.

Unfortunately, this feature won't be supported as an "always on" display on other iPad models besides the latest iPad Pro. Instead, it may be supported to display Standby Mode for a few minutes before the display shuts off, as it does with the iPhone 13 and older models.

Which iPads will support iPadOS 18?

As the proud owner of an older iPad (2020), I always look to the compatibility list when a new software update is announced. While all iPad Pro models will get iPadOS 18 when it's released, not all iPad, iPad Air, or iPad mini models will. 

Here are the iPad models that will be updated to iPadOS 18 when available:

  • iPad (7th generation) 2019 and newer
  • iPad Air (3rd generation) 2019 and newer
  • iPad Pro (1st generation) 2018 and newer
  • iPad mini (5th generation) 2019 and newer
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