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Which iPad tablets are compatible with iPadOS 16?

Apple held its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) this week. During the keynote, its executives showed off iPadOS 16, the next major version of its tablet operating system, featuring a host of new collaboration and multitasking capabilities.

As usual, many features in iOS 16 for the iPhone are also making their way onto the iPad, including shared photo libraries for families and powerful live text and visual lookup features. However, iPadOS 16 also gets its own unique set of productivity tools to edge Apple’s tablet closer to a more laptop-like experience.

An iPad and an external display using Stage Manager in iPadOS 16.

All that extra power means Apple has to leave a few older iPad models off the list of compatible tablets this year. Although iPadOS 16 will still run on every iPad Pro model that Apple has released — going back to the original 12.9-inch iPad Pro from 2015 — it spells the end of the line for its entry-level models from that same era.

That means the 2014 iPad Air 2 and the 2015 iPad Mini 4 won’t be getting iPadOS 16. The cutoff for Apple’s lower-end tablets is the fifth-generation iPad, released in early 2017. However, all of Apple’s mid-tier lineup models are supported, which began in 2019 with the third-generation iPad Air and fifth-generation iPad mini.

iPadOS 16 compatibility at-a-glance

iPad Pro 12.9-inch: First, second, third, fourth, and fifth generation

iPad Pro 11-inch: First, second, and third generation

iPad Pro: 10.5-inch, and 9.7-inch

iPad: Fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth generation

iPad Mini: Fifth, and sixth generation

iPad Air: Third, fourth, and fifth generation

A tale of two tablets

Interestingly, Apple is being more accommodating with iPadOS 16 than it is with its iPhone counterpart. Although iOS 16 is drawing the line at A11-powered iPhone models, iPadOS 16 will be available for iPads still using the same A9 chip found in the iPhone 6s.

Specifically, that would be the 2017 fifth-generation iPad, although the 2015 iPad Pro uses the A9X, a variant of the same chip that features twice as many GPU cores and a faster clock speed.

The two iPad models that have been left off the list — the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 4 — used the A8X and A8 chips, respectively. That’s the same chip from the 2014 iPhone 6, which hasn’t been supported since iOS 12.

It’s also worth noting that despite the continuity of naming, the third-generation iPad Air isn’t truly a successor to the iPad Air 2. The first two generations of iPad Air were effectively the fifth and sixth entries in the standard iPad lineup. At the time, Apple wanted to emphasize how thin the 2013 iPad was, so it borrowed the “Air” moniker that had been used in the same way to debut the original MacBook Air several years earlier and then continued that with the 2014 model.

Five years later, Apple resurrected the name to create a new mid-range iPad tier alongside the return of the fifth-generation iPad mini. These featured the same A12 chip used in the iPhone XS a few months earlier, putting them merely a notch below their contemporary A12X-equipped iPad Pro models.

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