iPadOS 18 — 3 biggest features I'm excited about

WWDC 2024
(Image credit: Apple)

iPadOS 18 could potentially be the biggest operating system update coming to the best iPads. Announced during Apple’s annual WWDC event, the latest OS promises to deliver several quality-of-life upgrades that could make using your tablet more intuitive. Many of these features are possible thanks to Apple Intelligence, the company’s take on generative AI, though those capabilities will be limited to iPads powered by Apple's M Series silicon.

New iPadOS 18 features such as Math Notes and Smart Script make smart use of the Apple Pencil and could turn the iPad into an indispensable tool. Apple Intelligence could also provide a more personalized user experience. Even if these features aren't revolutionary, they make the iPad seem more compelling.

Here are the three biggest iPadOS 18 features I’m excited about.

Math Notes

iPadOS 18

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple's Calculator app is finally coming to iPadOS 18. And it’s not just a bigger version of the same app that's already on the best iPhones and best MacBooks either. Though the app certainly utilizes the iPad’s screen real estate, the big story here is the brand-new Math Notes features for Calculator.

As Apple demonstrated during WWDC, you’ll be able to write out math problems on an iPad and see them instantly solved in your own handwriting. This should be a pretty useful feature for students who are learning new concepts. 

If you’re creating a budget, Math Notes could also prove beneficial. The new graphing feature allows you to write out or type equations and insert graphs with a simple tap. You’re also able to add multiple equations on the same graph to see how they relate. Math whizzes will no doubt appreciate the new graphing feature.

Though I’m admittedly not great at math, even I’m impressed by Math Notes. It seems like a perfect feature for iPads since it uses the tablet’s large display and the Apple Pencil to great effect.

Smart Script 

iPadOS 18

(Image credit: Apple)

I have pretty atrocious handwriting, which is why I’m stoked about Smart Script. This iPadOS 18 feature cleans up your handwriting in real time to make it more legible. It does this while maintaining your personal writing style, which is pretty darn impressive. This way, you can write as fast as you want and not worry about legibility since Smart Script will clean things up.

If you need to add something extra to what you’ve written, you can start writing and Smart Script will automatically alter the paragraph to fit whatever you're adding. This also applies to pasted text, which gets converted into your handwriting style.

I write for a living, but I don’t much care for writing with a pencil or stylus. However, Smart Script might prompt me to write more by hand if it can make my writing legible.

Apple Intelligence

WWDC 2024

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple Intelligence is also coming to iPhones and Macs, but it’s still worth singling out as a potentially great iPad feature.

According to Apple, this personal intelligence system combines the power of generative models with personal context to "deliver intelligence that’s incredibly useful and relevant." It can create language and images, takes action across apps and generally accelerates everyday tasks. 

All Apple Intelligence features are system-wide and work across every Apple device running either an M-series chip or an A17 or above on iPhone. In the case of the iPad, that means you'll need either an iPad Pro or iPad Air powered by an M1 or later.

I’ve reviewed many “AI laptops” that promised to streamline one’s workflow or act as a virtual assistant. So far, these devices have failed to meet those expectations. That said, I’m not completely ready to write off AI. Perhaps Apple Intelligence could make a real argument for “AI computers.” We’ll have to wait and see.

iPadOS 18 outlook

I’ll have a better understanding of what iPadOS 18 is all about once I’ve tested it —  a public beta arrives by July, according to Apple. 

I don’t expect anything earth-shattering from the operating system, but features like Math Notes and Smart Script could prove very useful. I’m also eager to see if Apple Intelligence makes the company’s computing devices any smarter. If these features work as advertised, then iPadOS 18 should be a worthwhile update for iPads.

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Tony Polanco
Computing Writer

Tony is a computing writer at Tom’s Guide covering laptops, tablets, Windows, and iOS. During his off-hours, Tony enjoys reading comic books, playing video games, reading speculative fiction novels, and spending too much time on X/Twitter. His non-nerdy pursuits involve attending Hard Rock/Heavy Metal concerts and going to NYC bars with friends and colleagues. His work has appeared in publications such as Laptop Mag, PC Mag, and various independent gaming sites.