Well, it was last year strange.
For the first time since I started writing annual reviews of Apple’s two mobile operating systems – iOS and iPadOS – I’ve published a review without the iPad part. Or rather: me It had to Post it a month later given the mess Apple found itself in with iPadOS 16’s Stage Manager and its awkward and unfinished debut.
I don’t want to go into details of that whole saga again and how we got to a shipping version of Stage Manager for iPadOS 16 that didn’t meet my expectations. Spoiler alert: As we’ll see later in this review, Apple listened to feedback and fixed the most glaring issues with Stage Manager in iPadOS 17, striking a balance between Guided Multitasking and the free-form window mode that had been missing since it debuted last year . Stage Manager for iPadOS 16 will remain another blip in the iPad’s long history of ill-fated multitasking features. There is no need to talk about it again.
However, I want to explain why the last 12 months have been different than usual for iOS and iPadOS, other than the fact that I haven’t been able to work on my iPad Pro for the first half of 2023.
After iOS 16 launched with Lock Screen widgets and after Apple finished work on the last big-ticket item on its iOS 16 roadmap (Live Activities for the Lock Screen and Dynamic Island, which launched in late October), it seemed like the entire Apple community was starting to think… In just one product for the next six months: the headset. What would later be known as Vision Pro and visionOS platform had become the Topic of conversation in Apple-related publications, podcasts, and YouTube channels. In the lead-up to WWDC 2023, the anticipation surrounding the upcoming headsets has overshadowed anything related to other platforms.
And this is true. As I explained in the story I wrote after I was able to try out the Vision Pro at Apple Park, the excitement was justified. It’s always rare for Apple to introduce a new hardware product with an associated software platform; But to do so with an amazing experience unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before in my life is truly something special. Apple has been working on VisionOS and Vision Pro for years, and we were all thinking about it and waiting for it at WWDC. The company delivered.
This context is essential because the VisionOS/Vision Pro development timeline explains what’s happening with iOS and iPadOS 17 this year. Both operating systems are briefcase-style updates with a host of welcome improvements for different areas of expertise. I’ve said for years that modern iOS updates need to be a little bit of everything for everyone; This has never been more true with iOS 17, albeit for a different reason this time around: most likely, because Apple hasn’t had enough time to deliver big ones either. Vision-Change promotions on iPhone this year.
iOS and iPadOS will take a bit of a secondary role in 2023, happily taking the spotlight on a new software platform that hasn’t been launched yet, but that developers around the world are already testing in person.
To be clear, I’m not complaining. iOS and iPadOS 17 may not have a clear, industry-defining support feature, but in their approach to offering various improvements, they are fun and interesting to cover. Of the two, iPadOS is the one that suffered the most from the lack of development resources and its strategy can be easily summarized as follows:It’s iPadOS 16, but we fixed Stage Manager“And that, again, under the circumstances, is perfectly fine with me.
While Apple has been busy with VisionOS this summer, I’ve been having fun exploring iOS 17’s suite of app updates and, as we’ll see in this review, extensive upgrades to one system feature: widgets.
As always every year: let’s dive in.
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