My favorite iPadOS 16 feature won't work with my iPad — and I'm not happy

iPadOS 16 at WWDC 2022
(Image credit: Apple via YouTube)

Update: iPadOS 16 beta just fixed biggest complaint — Stage Manager is coming to older iPad Pros.

The iPadOS 16 announcement at WWDC 2022 had me really excited for one particular reason: Stage Manager. Except now I know I won't be able to use it on my own iPad, I'm now just incredibly annoyed.

In case you missed the reveal, Stage Manager gives you a desktop-like interface with up to four resizable windows on screen and other apps in reach down the side of the display. It also lets you use the iPad with an external display to extend the desktop even further, allowing you to use another four windowed apps in tandem.

I had written recently about how I was hoping the iPad could become a better laptop replacement with some new software, and Stage Manager looks to be just the thing I was looking for. A Mac or PC still offers greater flexibility when it comes to the number of open apps and how your windows look. But since I don't do any particularly intensive tasks with my iPad, Stage Manager seemed more than adequate for having a text editing app, browser, task manager and a chat app open, the core of my daily workflow.

But then my dreams were thrown in the fire when I read the fine print on the iPadOS 16 announcement (opens in new tab). Stage Manager is to be available on iPads using the Apple M1 chip only, which are the iPad Pro 2021 (12.9-inch), iPad Pro 2021 (11-inch) and the iPad Air 2022.

I recently bought a refurbished iPad, specifically an iPad Pro 2020, the last one before Apple introduced the M1 chip. That means my clever money-saving decision has cost me the feature I was most looking forward to. Congratulations to me, I've played myself.

This move is not totally unexpected, as Apple often keeps a few features in every software update just for its newest hardware, be that for legitimate power and performance reasons or just to tempt you to upgrade. However, this does mean a lot of users are excluded from one of the most prominent new iPad abilities.

iPadOS 16 is going to be available for the 2017 iPad and most newer models, but Stage Manager will only be available on precisely three models, the ones I named above. It feels a little underhanded to introduce this feature along with others that will work on any compatible iPad. 

Maybe Apple would have been better off not announcing Stage Manager for iPad with the iPadOS 16 announcement, and instead introducing it as a feature for a future M1-powered iPad (say the iPad Pro 2022 that's been rumored) that happens to be backward compatible with select models.

I'm particularly annoyed by this since I am incredibly tempted to buy a MacBook Air 2022. I've been wanting a Mac for a long time, but after the WWDC keynote ended, I managed to talk myself out of making any rash buying decision by focusing on how I would soon be able to use my iPad in a more laptop-like way. Except that is not to be. Just as well the new Air doesn't go on sale for a bit yet, it'll give me time to gather the willpower to put my wallet away.

Let's concentrate on the positive news instead. iPadOS 16 offers much more than just Stage Manager after all. It also includes passkeys for enhanced security, updates to Live Text, a feature I love from iOS 15/iPadOS 15, and a Weather app, something that's been a notable absence from the iPad home screen for some time.

Richard Priday
Senior Writer

Richard is a Tom's Guide senior writer based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.