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When Apple debuted actual widgets in iOS 14 last year, it left the iPad out of the party, but now it seems like it’s planning to fix that later this year with the debut of iOS/iPadOS 15, which not only promises a redesigned Home Screen, but also several other systemwide design enhancements.
The news comes from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, who cites “people with knowledge of the matter,” as revealing that iOS 15 will also feature another big change to how notifications are handled, as well as an updated Lock Screen.
If true, this could represent one of the biggest overall design changes we’ve seen in the past few years. While Apple has tweaked the Lock Screen a few times in recent years, the last time it got a major revamp was back in iOS 10 — the same year that Apple introduced the basic widgets that would eventually become what we now see in iOS 14.
Unfortunately, those widgets have been mostly confined to the iPhone. Although iPadOS 14 supports the same widgets, it confines them to what’s basically a modestly enhanced version of the “Today” sidebar that was introduced in iPadOS 13.
True Widgets on iPad
To be fair, there were probably some pretty good reasons why it was more difficult to bring widgets to iPadOS, and of course Apple tries to make sure it does things as well as it possibly can. We kind of suspected that iPadOS 15 would rectify this omission, and according to Gurman’s sources, that’s exactly what’s happening.
Calling it “the most significant update to the device’s Home Screen since first launching the product in 2010,” Gurman notes that Apple plans to let users place widgets anywhere on the Home Screen, up to and including replacing the entire app grid with nothing but widgets.
This will be a welcome change for iPad power users, especially with the extra screen real estate that’s available, and we’re already excited by the possibilities. What’s less clear right now, however, is whether this means that the other major iOS 14 Home Screen feature — App Library — will be making it to into iPadOS 15 as well. It certainly seems possible, but so far Gurman’s sources haven’t offered up any details on that one.
From what Gurman has been able to glean from his sources, it looks like Apple is also planning to make the iOS notification system even more flexible, allowing users to customize notification preferences based on their current status.
This will be handled through a new menu, accessible from the Control Center and the new Lock Screen, that will let users specify whether they’re driving, working, sleeping, and more. You’ll also be able to specify a custom category of your choosing.
It would essentially be a more customizable version of the Do Not Disturb, Do Not Disturb While Driving, and Sleep Mode features that Apple already offers, and would likely tie into them in some way as well. For instance, Do Not Disturb while Driving might be replaced with a simple “Driving” status setting, with different behaviour dependent on whether the main Do Not Disturb feature is active or not.
This would also extend to automatic replies in much the same way that the Do Not Disturb while Driving currently works, allowing users to send responses based on whatever status happens to be active, such as sleeping, exercising, or in a meeting.
Along a similar vein, Apple is continuing to enhance iMessage to make it even more of a social network that would be more on par with WhatsApp. That’s said to be in the early stages right now, however, so it may not come in iOS 15.
Naturally, there are also more privacy features coming in iOS 15, including a new section that will actually show users which apps are silently collecting personal data behind their backs. Apple hopes this will cut down on third-party apps that hide special trackers that collect personal data without the user’s knowledge or active consent.
When’s It Coming?
At this point it’s fair to say that most of these features are already locked in, since Apple is expected to take the wraps off iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 in a little over six weeks when it takes the virtual stage at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference on June 7.
As usual, a first developer preview beta of iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 will likely be made available to developers that same week, with a public beta to follow a few weeks later to allow any enthusiastic early adopter to jump right in — at their own risk of course.
For everyone else, it’s safe to say that we’ll see iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 (and watchOS 8, tvOS 15, and macOS 12) this fall, likely starting in September around the anticipated time of the “iPhone 13” release.