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iPadOS gets closer to a computer

Search on iPadOS 14 looks and acts like Spotlight on Mac, while Siri and calls no longer take up the whole screen.

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Apple last night previewed iPadOS 14, with new features and designs that take advantage of the capabilities of the iPad’s large multi-touch display. iPadOS 14 introduces a new compact design for incoming FaceTime and phone calls, Siri interactions, and Search to help users stay focused on the task at hand.  

“With iPadOS 14, we’re excited to build on the distinct experience of iPad and deliver new capabilities that help customers boost productivity, be more creative, and have more fun,” said Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering. “With new compact designs for system interactions and new app designs specifically tailored to iPad, even better note-taking capabilities with Apple Pencil, and more powerful AR experiences, iPadOS 14 delivers an amazing experience that keeps it in a class of its own.”  

Incoming FaceTime and phone calls now appear as a lightweight banner so they don’t take up the entire screen. Users can either tap to answer the call or flick to dismiss and get right back to work. Siri now appears at the bottom of the screen when activated, allowing users to reference information onscreen while making a request, and it gets out of the way when launching other apps or controlling music.  

An incoming call alert displayed on iPad Pro.

Search on iPad has been rebuilt for iPadOS 14 and is now the one place to find almost anything on the device, from locating and launching apps to accessing contacts, files, and quick information. With a new compact design, users can start a search from anywhere, without having to leave the app they’re in.  

The new Search window in iPadOS 14 displayed on iPad Pro.

Redesigned sidebars across many apps, including Photos, Files, Notes, Calendar, and Apple Music, consolidate navigation into a single place, streamlining navigation within an app with a familiar desktop interface feel.  

iPadOS 14 adds Scribble to iPad with Apple Pencil, allowing users to write in any text field — where it will automatically be converted to typed text — allowing actions like replying to an iMessage or searching in Safari possible with handwritten text. All handwriting and conversion to text happens on device, keeping it private and secure. When taking notes, Smart Selection uses on-device machine learning to distinguish handwriting from drawings, so handwritten text can be selected, cut, and pasted into another document as typed text.  

A handwritten search displayed on iPad Pro.

Data detectors now work with handwritten text to recognise phone numbers, dates, and addresses, and offer users the ability to take actions like tapping a written number to make a call, adding an event directly to Calendar, or showing a location in Maps.  

Scribble will initially offer support for English, Traditional and Simplified Chinese, and mixed Chinese and English, so users can write English and Chinese words together without needing to switch languages.  

iPadOS 14 will be available later this year for iPad Air 2 and newer. 

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