Windows on iPad: Confusion about stage manager support on tiny Air

According to Apple, the new multitasking feature with floating windows absolutely needs “Virtual Memory Swap”. But the entry-level iPad Air lacks that.

Windows on iPad: Confusion about Stage Manager support on tiny Air

The Controversy over Apple’s new window feature on the iPad continues. Software boss Craig Federighi recently claimed that only tablets with an M1 chip would have the performance required by Apple for the Stage Manager feature. He explicitly mentioned the new system function “Virtual Memory Swap” (VMS). As it turns out, however, VMS is not available at all on all Stage Manager-capable iPads.

iPad Air 5 in the smallest version without Virtual Memory Swap

Virtual Memory Swap is part of iPadOS 16 and should be useful especially for professionals. VMS allows individual apps to be assigned up to 16 GB of RAM. The flash memory in the iPad is also used “for the most demanding apps”. Apple emphasizes that the available RAM for all apps can be expanded in this way. According to Federighi, VMS will be used with Stage Manager, among other things, to allow quick switching between up to eight apps.

However, as Apple writes in the fine print on iPadOS 16, Virtual Memory Swap only works on devices with one Minimum of 256 GB Flash. This would mean that the entry-level version of the iPad Air 5 with 64 GB was dropped. But that’s exactly what the new window controls, in which windows can be freely moved and resized, according to Apple. “Available on iPad Air (fifth generation), iPad Pro with 12.9 inches (fifth generation) and iPad Pro with 11 inches (third generation)”, says the leaflet for iPadOS 16 succinctly. All of these iPads have the M1 chip.

Just a marketing ploy?

How usable Stage Manager, which, in addition to window control, also has a new type of interface (with old roots) for switching between Apps offers on the smallest Air 5 remains to be seen. However, it is supported despite the lack of VMS. The discrepancy was noticed by the well-known developer and leak expert Steve Troughton-Smith. “Strange piece of information,” he commented on Twitter.

In the Stage Manager controversy, Apple has to be accused of only bringing the feature to current iPads with an M1 chip for marketing reasons. The fact that new functions are only reserved for the current devices is nothing new for the group – and of course it also drives purchases. Federighi, on the other hand, claims that Stage Manager was tested on iPads without an M1 chip and was dissatisfied. “It became apparent early on that we couldn’t deliver the [stage manager] experience that we wanted to design here,” said the software boss in another interview. “Of course we’d love to bring such a new experience to any device we can.”

Switches for Apple

Interestingly, Apple seems to have a way of doing it themselves, Stage Manager to activate it later on unsupported iPads: In the code of the beta version of iPadOS 16 there should be a switch for this, as 9to5Mac has found. However, this does not seem to be accessible to users – at least it has not been possible so far. According to the report, the code states that “Chamois” – as Apple calls Stage Manager internally – can also be activated for “Legacy Devices”.

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