What Is It and Is It Any Good?

iPad enthusiasts have been clamoring for more flexible multitasking options for quite some time now. Some have argued that the iPad should be more like a computer, with traditional app management. Well, in iPadOS 16, the iPad has come a step closer to that ideal, thanks to the addition of Stage Manager.

What Is Stage Manager?

Image Credit: Apple

Stage Manager is a new way of multitasking on an iPad. Rather than every app opening in full screen, each app opens in a floating window with a handle on the bottom corner that you can use to resize it. This lets you use multiple overlapping app windows at the same time, which you can resize and move in a variety of ways.

Previously, iPadOS only allowed you to open three iPad apps at once—two in Split View and one in Slide Over—but with Stage Manager you can have up to four apps open at the same time. With an external display (and a compatible iPad) you can even use Stage Manager on each screen to open eight apps at once.

You can also have multiple stages saved with Stage Manager. Each stage, remembers its own arrangement of app windows, allowing you to dedicate each stage to a different task and switch between them with ease.

Stage Manager iPad Compatibility

iPad models on a white background
Image Credit: Apple

Unfortunately, Stage Manager isn’t available on every iPad running iPadOS 16. Even the iPads that do get Stage Manager don’t all get the same features, as only certain models will work with an external display.

Stage Manager is supported on the following models:

  • iPad Pro 12.9-inch (3rd generation or later)
  • iPad Pro 11-inch (1st generation or later)
  • iPad Air (5th generation)

Stage Manager with an external display is only supported on Apple silicon iPad Pro models. This isn’t the first time Apple has limited iPad 16 features to Apple silicon devices.

Stage Manager Limitations on iPad

iPad Pro Connected to Mac
Image Credit: Apple

Stage Manager is available on both iPad and Mac. When comparing the two implementations, however, there are a few limitations on the iPad that aren’t there for Mac.

As we mentioned earlier, Stage Manager on the iPad is limited to four apps without an external display connected, and eight apps with one. In contrast, the Mac version of Stage Manager allows you to have an indefinite number of windows within a stage.

This is likely due to Macs having more memory, as many iPads only have 8GB of RAM. Any less than that could be a sign that you need to upgrade your iPad.

An even bigger limitation with Stage Manager on the iPad is that Apple doesn’t let you freely change your window sizes or placements. Instead, windows snap into a limited number of preset sizes and placements.

So even though it looks like you might be able to move windows wherever you want—as you can on the Mac—they often snap back to their original position when you lift your finger.

Is Stage Manager Any Good?

iPad Pro connected to external display
Image Credit: Apple

Stage Manager is a step in the right direction for the iPad, making it more flexible and helping people to use the iPad as a computer replacement. Being able to open four apps at once is great for productivity on the iPad, and external display support is something that should’ve happened a long time ago.

However, Stage Manager on the iPad is still buggy and, from a developer’s point of view, Apple doesn’t yet offer the proper tools to fix it. It’s also considerably limited by the fixed window sizes and placements and the cap of just four open apps at a time, without an external display.

Going forward, the least Apple needs to do is let users resize and move app windows more freely. At the moment, Stage Manager is a good start, but it’s too hamstrung to completely transform the iPad experience.

Get More Done With Stage Manager on iPad

If you’ve ever wanted to use more than three apps on your iPad, or have been frustrated with the current iPad multitasking system limitations, you might want to give Stage Manager a shot. While it’s not a perfect new feature, it does give you more multitasking options and will definitely be a useful tool for some.

However, with the number of bugs and wonky app behavior in its current implementation, Stage Manager on iPad is a bit hit or miss. From system crashes to certain apps not behaving how you’d expect, the Stage Manager experience can range from excellent to frustratingly buggy.

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