As first reported by Macrumors, Apple may be gearing up to release OLED models for some of its MacBook and iPad line. And according to some internal code in iPadOS 16, stage manager does appear to have been tested on older iPad models.

OLED coming to MacBooks and iPads

Reliable display industry analyst Ross Young claims that the next generation of MacBook Air in 2024 may ship with an OLED panel. Though does further suggest that the device may be branded as something other than a MacBook Air.

Young also states that OLED is coming to the both the 11 inch and 12.9 inch iPad Pro. The devices along with the rumoured MacBook will adopt a new display technology called a ‘two-stack-tandem structure’. The technology enables much greater brightness levels, an often cited weakness of OLED panels. It would also draw less power to further improve battery life on these devices.

Furthermore these panels may also take advantage of LTPO technology. We first saw Apple adopt LTPO in the Apple Watch Series 5. This enables the devices always on display thanks to its ability to refresh at just 1hz. While the iPad Pro has variable refresh rate technology, it bottoms out at 24hz at present. A move to 1hz could enable always on display functionality as is heavily rumoured for the iPhone 14.

Stage Manager on older iPad models

There has been some level of controversy in recent days from disgruntled owners of pre-M1 iPad models. These devices will not support Apple’s recently announced windowing system, Stage Manager. Apple cites that the reason for this is because the M1 contains technology that older devices do not support. That includes a faster GPU, faster I/O with thunderbolt 4, faster read/write speeds of the onboard flash storage, more RAM at 8GB minimum and support for ‘Virtual Memory Swap’.

The latter point has been a point of contention at the M1 iPad Air with 64GB of storage does not support Virtual Memory Swap. The feature requires 256GB of storage and yet the 64GB M1 Air does support Stage Manager. Many users believe that this is evidence that Apple could enable Stage Manager on older devices. Some allege this is to sell more M1 iPad models. Or int he alternative, encourage quicker upgrades when the next iPad Pro is released.

Apple’s head of software, Craig Federighi, stated that Apple did test the feature on older hardware. But went on to add that the experience was compromised and didn’t deliver the level of responsiveness or quality that Apple wants to deliver. Evidence backing up Federighi’s claim has been uncovered by 9to5 Mac. In code for iPadOS 16, a hidden internal testing mode was discovered called “Chamois”. This is a codename for Stage Manager on legacy devices that lack an M1 Chip.

“We began some of our prototyping involving those systems and it became apparent early on that we couldn’t deliver the experience that that we were designing toward with them,” he said. “Certainly, we would love to bring any new experience to every device we can, but we also don’t want to hold back the definition of a new experience and not create the best foundation for the future in that experience. And we really could only do that by building on the M1.”

Craug Federighi, Apple SVP of Software

The AppleTLDR take

I don’t buy the argument that Apple is just trying to upsell people. Making your customers angry isn’t a great way to sell new hardware. Apple aren’t idiots and they aren’t tone deaf. They’re well aware that some people will be disappointed that a major new feature is not supported on their device. And let’s keep in mind that the M1 iPad Pro is not a new device. It’s been on sale for well over a year.

There are definitely some inconsistencies in Apple’s explanation. The Virtual Memory Swap argument for one. But I suspect that this was down to a poor or perhaps unintended explanation from Federighi. If we examine his words he strongly suggests that Virtual Memory Swap creates the ideal experience but doesn’t outright say it is a ‘requirement’ as some are suggesting has been the case.

β€œTo avoid any of those delays, we need lots of main memory, lots of RAM and we also need, to the extent we use virtual memory swap, we need it to be incredibly fast virtual memory swap. And M1 combines both those factors: it has more main memory and the storage is fast enough that the virtual memory swap can meet our performance requirements.

CraiG Federighi via the Independent

It’s an interesting choice of words, “to the extent we use virtual memory swap”. What this implies is that while Virtual Memory Swap ‘can’ play a role in creating the most responsive experience, it isn’t the primary factor that enables Stage Manager. I’d wager that the higher amounts of physical RAM, the faster flash storage and crucially the GPU performance of the M1 play larger roles.

Could Apple offer Stage Manager on older devices? I think the fact that this code exists in iPadOS 16 would suggest yes. But likely a compromised experience. Perhaps the responsiveness just isn’t good enough and not enough apps can be kept active in memory without performance penalties and consequences to battery life. The RAM in older iPads is slower and less power efficient too.

As much as the concerns that folks have had about this are valid, I don’t think this is some ‘conspiracy’. And I don’t buy the argument that iPadOS is too bloated to offer the feature on older devices. I take Apple at their word primarily because they don’t like to make a habit of intentionally upsetting customers. But I also suspect that they want to create a great experience and not spend engineering time, money and resources on supporting a fleet of older devices with a subpar experience.

If you choose wisely, you can save yourself an enormous amount of work compared with trying to do everything

Steve Jobs

Featured image: Jeremy Bezanger via Unsplash

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