iPad owners were likely surprised in 2019 by the release of iPadOS, a brand-new operating system designed specifically for Apple’s tablet line. While the iPhone and iPad had shared an operating system for nearly ten years at this point, the iPad would now receive iPadOS updates while the iPhone would receive iOS updates. Of course, this prompted a common question: what is the difference between iPadOS and iOS?
A quick glance at iPadOS and iOS reveals that they are very similar. However, there are some significant differences between them. Whether you use iPads and iPhones at work or at home, it’s important to understand what sets them apart.
iPadOS reflects the iPad’s laptop-like capabilities
iPadOS provides unique capabilities that speak to how many businesses use iPads. In other words, iPadOS-exclusive features bring the iPad up to par with laptops and desktops while maintaining the iPad’s distinct flavor. These include multitasking capabilities, Apple Pencil and handwriting support, and business-focused native iPad apps.
The ability to display multiple apps on-screen at once is one of the most significant iPadOS vs iOS differences. Naturally, this takes advantage of the iPad’s larger screen when compared to an iPhone. Multitasking allows two apps to share the screen (via Split View) or to open one app on top of another (via Slide Over). This would be quite cluttered on an iPhone, but on an iPad, each app has enough screen space to be usable.
The Apple Pencil accessory is only compatible with iPads, not iPhones. As a result, the Apple Pencil is only supported by iPadOS, but it can do more than just handwriting. Scribble, which interprets handwriting to serve as a valid input for any text field, was introduced in iPadOS 14. Some pencil-based gestures can be used in place of more complex gestures. Anyone with an Apple Pencil, for example, can circle a word on-screen to highlight it.
While features like Scribble and Split View can improve app functionality, it’s also worth noting that iPads have their own set of apps. Many iPad apps are designed specifically for the iPad to take advantage of the extra screen space. Some apps, in fact, are iPad-only and can only be downloaded on iPadOS. Granted, this is not a built-in feature of the operating system. Nonetheless, it is worth noting because it is so important in how people use devices.
It’s also worth noting that Apple makes converting iPadOS apps to macOS apps simple with a tool called Mac Catalyst. Indeed, Mac Catalyst allows developers to use the same source code for iPadOS and macOS apps, allowing apps to be developed for both platforms concurrently. While Mac Catalyst adapts iPadOS apps to support macOS interface elements automatically, developers can add additional macOS elements such as the ability to summon and use the Preferences window.
Exclusive iOS features are defined by size and mobile connectivity
As one might expect, the iPadOS vs iOS comparison also includes some iOS-only features. Because the iPhone is smaller and more portable than the iPad, iOS-exclusive features capitalize on this size distinction. Apple Watch pairing, CarPlay functionality, and a selection of iPhone-only apps are among the new features.
It’s worth noting that only an iOS device can connect to an Apple Watch. In other words, if you want to use and manage an Apple Watch, you’ll need an iPhone. While the iPad can monitor Apple Watch fitness data indirectly, it cannot pair directly with WatchOS. This is most likely due to the portability of both the Apple Watch and the iPhone.
Furthermore, only iPhones are compatible with Apple’s CarPlay feature. Specifically, on some car models, iOS devices can sync with the car to display a pared-down version of iOS on the touchscreen. This speeds up the process of making calls, finding directions, playing music, and other tasks. While many people will most likely bring iPads with them in their cars, they will need to find an alternative to CarPlay.
Finally, many first-party apps are only compatible with iOS and not with iPadOS. This includes essential tools such as the Health app and Apple’s Translate app, which allows for quick translations while traveling. Because these apps do not rely on any hardware features unique to iPhones, their exclusivity could easily change in the future.
iPadOS and iOS are far more similar than they are dissimilar
When comparing iPadOS and iOS for use at home or in the office, there are many similarities. They have nearly identical aesthetics and run the majority of the same apps. Most importantly, both can be managed by businesses using Apple Business Manager or Apple School Manager.