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iPadOS 17: Release date, features, compatibility, beta, more

Updated Sep 20th, 2023 9:11AM EDT
iPadOS 17 new Lock Screen
Image: José Adorno for BGR

iPadOS 17 is Apple’s newest operating system for its iPad models. After tightening the integration between iPad and Mac with Stage Manager and Freeform app with iPadOS 16, Apple offered a few design changes with the new system. Here’s what you need to know about the company’s new iPadOS update.


iPadOS 17 shares several of the features available for iOS 17. Even so, Apple has focused on some new tricks for the iPad, such as a revamped Lock Screen, interactive widgets, a new Health app, and more. These features are coming to the iPad mini, iPad Air, iPad Pro, and base-model iPad users in general.

Lock Screen, interactive widgets, and Live Activities

Interactive widgets on iPad via iPadOS 17.
Interactive widgets on iPad via iPadOS 17. Image source: Apple Inc.

After iOS 16 brought a revamp to the Lock Screen, it’s time for iPadOS 17 to follow. You can make the iPad’s Lock Screen more customizable by adding a custom look for it. There are stock wallpapers like Astronomy and Kaleidoscope, or you can choose a photo from your library.

This system also brings an all-new motion effect for Live Photos, making your Lock Screen feel more customizable and dynamic when you wake the iPad and jump into your Home Screen.

iPadOS 17 also introduces Live Activities, which helps you stay on top of things happening in real time, such as a food order, a flight, a game score, and more.

In addition, with widgets on your Lock Screen with iPadOS 17, you can see information like the weather, time, date, battery levels, or upcoming events at a glance on your iPad, iPad Air, iPad mini, or iPad Pro. There are also interactive widgets on your Home Screen, which let you play music, turn off the lights, and more, right from a widget. These changes could even tease the long-rumored OLED iPad Pro, expected to be released in 2024.

FaceTime and Messages improvements

For FaceTime, when users call someone who is unavailable, they can share a message in audio or video that can be enjoyed later with iPadOS 17. In addition, the app adds Reactions such as hearts, balloons, fireworks, and more.

Messages app, for example, lets you create Live Stickers, and a new drawer in the keyboard puts all of a user’s stickers in one place for easier access across iPadOS. An expandable menu can be accessed with a simple tap to display iMessage apps. In addition, a new catch-up arrow indicates where the user last left off in the conversation, and replying inline is as simple as swiping on a text bubble.

Lastly, iPadOS 17 also filters messages by known and unknown senders.

Stage Manager and Freeform updates

iPadOS 17 improves last year’s Stage Manager feature. While it was first delayed when Apple introduced it during the WWDC 2022 keynote, the company is making sure to ship the new features on day 1. With this update, Stage Manager offers a more flexible layout when moving and resizing windows (especially with an external display), so you can set up your workspace just how you want it. In addition, you can use the built-in camera in your external display for FaceTime and conference calls for the first time.

That said, the new operating system allows access to third-party webcams and microphones connected to the iPad Pro. It gives users more options than ever in their workflows, as they don’t need to rely on Apple’s own camera or mics.

Freeform on iPadOS 17, for example, adds new drawing tools, such as a watercolor brush, calligraphy pen, highlighter, variable-width pen, and ruler. With Shape Recognition, users can hand draw a shape like a square and watch a perfect version snap into place. In addition, users running Freeform on iPadOS 17 can finally see what your collaborators are working on with Follow Along. It shows what they see as they move around the infinite canvas.

Health app now on a larger display

iPadOS 17 brings a new Health app for iPad.
iPadOS 17 brings a new Health app for iPad. Image source: Apple Inc.

The Health app comes to iPad with iPadOS 17 by optimizing all the data on a larger display. You can see rich details in favorites, review trends and highlights, and use interactive charts. You can create medication reminders, track your menstrual cycle, and log symptoms right from your iPad running iPadOS 17.

In addition, you can now reflect on your state of mind with new features for mental health. Access standardized assessments often used in clinics to understand your current risk for depression and anxiety and if you’d benefit from a discussion with a healthcare provider.

Autocorrection and Dictation are more intelligent than ever

Apple says Autocorrect on iPadOS 17 received a comprehensive update with a transformer language model for word prediction. It also received a refreshed design to better support typing, and sentence-level autocorrections can fix more grammatical mistakes.

Users can receive predictive text recommendations inline as they type, so adding entire words or completing sentences is as easy as tapping the space bar, making text entry faster than ever. Dictation also has a new speech recognition model to make it even more accurate.

Safari and Passwords

Safari has lots of new features. iPad users will be able to create a profile to keep their browsing, history, extensions, Tab Groups, cookies, and favorites separated for topics like Work and Personal.

Apple says Search in Safari with iPadOS 17 is also more responsive and shows easier-to-read and more relevant suggestions. Another feature is web apps that come to your dock. You can launch a web app to get an app-like experience with a simplified toolbar.

Apple is also enhancing private browsing by letting you lock your private browsing windows when you’re not using them. It completely blocks known trackers from loading on pages and removes tracking added to URLs as you browse.

For Passwords, Apple now lets you share a set of passwords with your trusted contacts. You can create a group and choose a set of accounts to share. Passwords stay up to date for everyone in the group, and you can remove someone at any time.

PDF and Notes

Working on PDF files in Notes on iPad.
Working on PDF files in Notes on iPad. Image source: Apple Inc.

iPadOS 17 improves enhanced AutoFill for PDF. The system picks saved information from Contacts to fill out a PDF or scanned document faster.

You can also view a full-width PDF right in the Notes app and click between pages. You can even keep more than one PDF in the same note for easy access to related documents. In addition, you can start a document in the Notes app and finish in Pages by clicking the Share button.

Lastly, you can quickly add links on the Notes app from one note to another. Apple says it’s a powerful way to “connect research notes, reference a recipe, or even create wikis for your team.”

Use your iPad to play Nintendo Switch games and more

Nintendo Switch sitting on a bed
Nintendo Switch sitting on a bed. Image source: Nintendo

With iPadOS 17, the iPad now supports more accessories connected with its USB-C port. That said, you can turn your iPad into a monitor to play Nintendo Switch, PS5, and Xbox games.

Before you can get started playing Switch and PS5 games on your iPad, you’re going to need a couple of things:

  • A USB-C capture card
  • An iPad with USB-C
  • A capture card application
  • A Nintendo Switch or PS5 with an HDMI cord

Once you have all these things, it’s time to start.

First, plug your console into the wall and set it all up. Next, you will plug your capture card into the console you are trying to play using an HDMI cord. In this example, we’ll use a Nintendo Switch.

Once the capture card is connected to the Switch, you will plug the USB-C end into the iPad’s USB-C port. Make sure to plug it directly into the iPad. From here, open the capture card app (several people recommend Capture Pro, currently only available in TestFlight) on your iPad and turn on the Nintendo Switch. Once everything has powered up, you should see the Switch’s home screen on your iPad, allowing you to get started and select the games you want to play.

Journaling app for mental health

Another feature Apple announced as a “new experience” is a Journal app. Using on-device machine learning, it will display personalized suggestions that inspire a user’s journal entry.

Suggestions are intelligently curated from recent activity, including photos, people, places, workouts, and more, making it easy to start a journal entry, and scheduled notifications can help build a journaling habit. It will be available at a later date, probably with iPadOS 17.1.

New emojis

New iOS 17 emojisImage source: Emojipedia

Every major iPadOS update offers new emojis. For example, Apple released 20+ emojis for iPadOS 16 with iPadOS 16.4. Unicode has previewed the 100+ new emojis that could land with iPadOS 17 later next year. According to an Emojipedia blog post, there are a total of 108 new emojis when you include skin tone modifiers and gender variants that could be available with Unicode’s Emoji 15.1 update.

The draft list includes a Lime, a head shaking vertically, a phoenix bird (Moltres, for Pokémon fans), and four new gender-neutral family emojis intended to be represented via silhouettes. ll of these figures will be sent for approval this September. We could see them on the iPhone with an upcoming iPadOS 17 update if they get approved. 

AirPods Pro 2 feels much better with iPadOS 17

Apple AirPods Pro 2Image source: Christian de Looper for BGR

With iPadOS 17 available, Apple also upgraded AirPods Pro 2 with several new features thanks to a firmware update. Here they are:

Adaptative Audio: AirPods Pro 2 offers Adaptative Audio, which Apple says “dynamically blends Transparency mode and Active Noise Cancellation together based on the conditions of a user’s environment to deliver the best experience at the moment.”

Conversation Awareness: Another feature that comes alongside Adaptative Audio is conversation awareness. AirPods Pro 2 owners can easily start a conversation while listening to a song. This function reduces background noise and amplifies the voice of the person in front of you.

Mute or unmute: When on a phone call, pressing the stern sensor of your AirPods Pro 2 will mute/unmute your voice. Previously, pressing the stern would hang up the call.

Automatic Switching: The company states that the “connection time between a user’s Apple devices is significantly faster and more reliable.”

Personalized Volume: This feature relies on machine learning so your AirPods Pro 2 can “understand conditions and listening preferences over time to automatically fine-tune the media experience” and protect your ears in the long run.

Just Siri: Users can say “Siri” instead of “Hey Siri” now.

More iPadOS 17 features

There are even more new features with iPadOS 17:

  • AirDrop transfers: AirDrop transfers continue even if you step away. The content you share over AirDrop will be sent securely and in full quality over the internet if you leave the AirDrop range and both you and your recipient are signed in to iCloud;
  • Find My: Share AirTag or Find My network accessories with up to five other people. Everyone in the group can play a sound to pinpoint the location of a shared AirTag when they’re nearby.
  • Apple Maps: Save an area of a map to your iPad and explore it while offline. View information like hours and ratings on place cards and get turn-by-turn directions for driving, walking, cycling, or riding transit.
  • Lockdown Mode: The expanded Lockdown Mode increases security to help protect against sophisticated cyber-attacks – including the Apple Watch as well;
  • Photos: The People album is better than ever at recognizing your favorite people and includes the cats and dogs that are part of your family too;
  • Apple ID: Securely sign in to your iPad using a nearby device or any email address or phone number listed in your account on iPadOS 17.

Accessibility features confirmed before WWDC 2023

Apple iOS 17 accessibility features May 2023
Apple iOS 17 accessibility features May 2023 Image source: Apple

In a press release, Apple announced “new features for cognitive accessibility, along with Live Speech, Personal Voice, and Point and Speak in Magnifier.” These will be available “later this year,” which means they will release alongside iPadOS 17.

One of the most exciting features is Personal Voice, a new feature that allows users to recreate their voice by recording around 15 minutes of audio. Apple says the feature was made to assist those who may be at risk of losing their voice.

Personal Voice works with Live Voice, another feature announced. Live Voice will allow users to type what they want to say and then have that spoken for them on a phone or FaceTime call. If you use Personal Voice, the person on the other end of the call will hear your actual voice, even though you simply typed a response.

The company also revealed Assistive Access, which introduces a customized experience for the Phone FaceTime, Messages, Camera, Photos, and Music apps. Apple says that the feature offers a “distinct interface with high contrast buttons and large text labels, as well as tools to help trusted supporters tailor the experience for the individual they support. For example, for users who prefer communicating visually, Messages includes an emoji-only keyboard and the option to record a video message to share with loved ones.”

Delayed features

Even though iPadOS 17 is full of new features, a few of them won’t be available at launch. Here’s what’s coming at a later date.

Apple Music Collaborative Playlist: Later this year, you’ll be able to invite friends to collaborate on playlists. They will be able to add, reorder, and remove songs. In addition, you’ll be able to react to the song choices in Now Playing.

AirPlay in your hotel room: AirPlay will be available later this year in supporting hotel rooms.

Journal app: Apple says this app lets you “capture your thoughts on life’s big events or everyday activities. Add details to any entry with photos, music, audio recordings, and more. Mark important moments and revisit them later to find new insights or set new goals.”

iPadOS 17 release date

After previewing iPadOS 17 during the WWDC 2023 keynote on June 5, Apple released the first beta for developers to try out the upcoming features. In July, a public beta of the iPad operating system was made available to consumers. The official release date of iPadOS 17.0 was September 18; Apple announced it after the iPhone 15 event.

Compatible iPad models

Apple's iPad lineup as of March 2022
Apple’s iPad lineup as of March 2022. Image source: Apple Inc.

Apple has been pretty generous with the iPad models supporting iPadOS 16, including some that use the A9 chip released in 2015. With iPadOS 17, on the other hand, the company cut off the iPad 5 and the first-gen iPad Pro for this upcoming operating system.

Here’s the list of iPads that will support iPadOS 17:

  • iPad Pro (2nd gen or newer)
  • iPad Air (3rd gen or newer)
  • iPad mini 5 and iPad mini 6
  • iPad (6th gen or newer)

Official iPadOS 17 download

Since September 18th, users can download iPadOS 17. Its beta is available for developers registered on the Apple Developer Program and public beta testers in the Apple Beta Software Program if they want to try upcoming new features before everyone else.

Can I download iPadOS 17 beta?

Yes. Enroll your developer Apple ID and follow these steps:

  • On your iPad, open the Settings app
  • Tap on General and Software Update
  • Tap on Beta Updates and enable iPOS 17 Developer Beta

How to download iPadOS 17 public beta?

A public test version has been available since July 12. Users need to enroll their IDs in the Apple Beta Software Program. After that, follow these steps:

  • Open Settings;
  • Go to General, then Software Update;
  • In Beta Updates, select iPadOS 17 Public Beta;
  • Download the public beta version.

José Adorno Tech News Reporter

José is a Tech News Reporter at BGR. He has previously covered Apple and iPhone news for 9to5Mac, and was a producer and web editor for Latin America broadcaster TV Globo. He is based out of Brazil.

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