With iPadOS 16, Apple announced several new features exclusive to iPads based on the M1 chip, such as Stage Manager to run applications in Windows and also virtual memory swapping for the first time on an iOS device. Interestingly, while memory swapping would be one of the requirements to have Stage Manager, it turns out that the base model iPad Air 5 lacks this capability.
For those unfamiliar, virtual memory swapping is a feature often used by computers to reallocate some of the storage as virtual RAM when the computer’s actual RAM is already fully utilized by the system and the apps. Even Macs swap memory, and this feature will now be available on iPad for the first time with iPadOS 16.
According to Apple, iPadOS 16 allows the most demanding applications to use up to 16 GB of storage as temporary RAM. And of course, in the middle of Stage Manager feature limitation controversy to iPad models with the M1 chip, Apple claims that running iPad apps on Windows requires lightning-fast virtual memory swapping, which is theoretically only possible with the M1 chip.
But here’s the thing. As noted by the developer Steve Troughton-Smith on Twitter, the base model iPad Air 5 is not compatible with virtual memory swapping. This is probably because the 64 GB of internal storage is not enough for memory swapping. As Apple discreetly suggests on its sitememory swapping on the iPad requires at least 128GB of storage on top of the M1.
That’s completely understandable, but then comes the question: why does Apple keep saying virtual memory swapping is a requirement for Stage Manager when the 64GB iPad Air 5, which supports Stage Manager load, clearly doesn’t have virtual memory swapping?
Since the announcement of iPadOS 16 at WWDC 2022, many users have criticized Apple’s decision to limit Stage Manager to iPads with the M1 chip. Apple’s PR team was quick to invite company executives to speak publicly about how the feature requires advanced hardware, but some previous-generation iPad Pro owners remain skeptical of those requirements. .
Stage Manager allows users to run up to eight apps simultaneously on the iPad. Additionally, it enables support for an external display which can also be used to interact with multiple applications in Windows.
The M1 chip requirement for Stage Manager is somewhat understandable. The M1 iPads have at least 8GB of RAM and they’re certainly more powerful than other iPads, but it looks like Apple could have made the effort to bring Stage Manager to other iPads somehow and it chose not to.
Here’s what Craig Federighi, head of software engineering at Apple, said in a recent maintenance:
Only the iPad M1s have combined the high DRAM capacity with super high capacity, high performance NAND which allows our virtual memory swap to be super fast.
Federighi points out that Stage Manager was only made possible through virtual memory swapping, which is not available on the base model iPad Air 5. He also claimed that M1 is responsible for animations and shadows when using Stage Manager. Meanwhile, Intel Macs less powerful than an iPad will get Stage Manager with macOS Ventura – does Apple know how bad Intel GPUs are for rendering animations?
The 9to5Mac take
As underlined by my 9to5Mac colleague Ben LovejoyApple could have brought Stage Manager with some limitations to older iPad Pro models, or even the 4th generation iPad Air.
Working with a windowed interface isn’t just about how many apps you can open simultaneously. Personally, I rarely have more than four apps open at once on my Mac, but I still like being able to organize them however I want. Some with larger windows, others with smaller ones.
If you think about the current state of multitasking in iPadOS 15, each iPad model can already run up to three apps simultaneously without performance issues. You can have two apps working side by side with Split View and an additional app working with Slide Over – not to mention Picture-in-Picture and Quick Note.
I’m pretty sure the iPad Pro A12X and A12Z and owners, who surely bought these iPads with the promise that “their next computers would not be computers”, would be more than happy to have Stage Manager with a limit of three to four apps instead of eight. iPads can already do this without much RAM, memory swapping or the powerful M1 chip for rendering animations and shadows.
But what do you think? Could Apple have optimized Stage Manager to work with non-M1 iPads? Let me know in the comments below.
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