Apple does its best to explain Stage Manager’s limitation to iPad M1 models

Apple does its best to explain Stage Manager's limitation to iPad M1 models
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Apple has announced some major changes coming to iPadOS 16, with a particular focus on multitasking upgrades powered by the new Stage Manager feature. At consternation However, for some iPad users, these new multitasking features are exclusive to the latest iPad Pro and iPad Air M1.

Why is this the case? Apple tried to give us some sort of explanation…

The two main multitasking upgrades with iPadOS 16 are Stage Manager and better support for external displays. Here’s a rundown of exactly what Stage Manager does on the iPad Air and iPad Pro:

  • Resizable windows: Resize your windows to give them the ideal size for your task;
  • Central app: Focus on the app you’re working with without going full screen;
  • Quick access to windows and applications: The windows of the applications you’re working in are displayed prominently in the center, and other applications are arranged on the left side in order of recent use;
  • Overlapping windows: Create overlapping windows of different sizes in a single view, giving you control to organize your ideal workspace;
  • Group apps: Drag and drop windows from the side or open apps from the Dock to create sets of apps you can always come back to.

External Display Support iPadOS 16 supports connecting to up to 6K resolution displays with a fully desktop-optimized interface, again powered by Stage Manager.

External display support and Stage Manager, however, are both limited to the latest iPad Air and iPad Pro with an M1 chip inside. All previous generation iPad Air and iPad Pro models are excluded from using these features.

When asked for an explanation for this limitation, Apple explained to Digital trends that this is the new Memory Swap feature in iPadOS 16. As Apple announced at WWDC, Memory Swap in iPadOS 16 allows iPadOS to use your iPad’s built-in storage to increase the amount of RAM available to the system.

Digital trends Explain:

We contacted Apple to ask why Stage Manager is limited to M1-powered iPads, and got a reasonable response. According to the company, Stage Manager is limited to M1 chips, mainly due to iPadOS 16’s new fast memory swap feature, which Stage Manager uses extensively. This allows apps to convert storage to RAM (efficiently), and each app can request up to 16GB of memory. Since Stage Manager allows you to have up to eight apps running at once – and because each app can request 16GB of memory – this requires a plot of resources. As such, the new window management feature needs M1 for smooth performance.

The 9to5Mac take

Apple’s explanation here doesn’t seem to address the elephant in the room. According to the company’s website, Memory Swap is available at:

  • iPad Air (4th generation) with a minimum of 256 GB of storage
  • 12.9-inch iPad Pro (5th generation)
  • 11-inch iPad Pro (3rd generation)

I have a base model iPad Air M1 with 64GB of storage, and even though it apparently doesn’t support memory swapping, I can still use the scene manager and external display features .

iPad Air 4 with 256GB supports memory swapping and cannot use Stage Manager or external display features.

The difference is clearly in the amounts of RAM, with the M1 iPad Air 5 and iPad Pro offering 8GB of RAM (up to 16GB in higher storage tiers), compared to the iPad Air 4’s 4GB of RAM. To me, that sounds like if the iPad Air 4 can leverage memory swapping, it could take advantage of Stage Manager.

Since iPadOS 16 is still in developer beta, that could all change before a public release in the fall. In the meantime, it’s a confusing situation, especially if the iPad Air 5 doesn’t support memory swapping as reported on Apple’s website today.

We’ve contacted Apple for further confirmation of this.

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