Apple has unveiled a new expansion that it hopes will open up iPad devices to more accessories than ever.
DriverKit, one of several updates to iPadOS 16, allows manufacturers and developers to create drivers for iPads for the first time and even build drivers for multiple platforms.
The tool has been available on macOS Catalina since 2019, allowing third-party USB and Thunderbolt accessories to be connected to macOS devices, but is now also coming to the iPad.
DriverKit for iPad
In a video (opens in new tab) Apple announced the launch, saying DriverKit would provide much more flexibility and choice for developers and end users alike, and keep iPad users exactly the same macOS experience.
“DriverKit brought a new way to extend the system that is more reliable, secure and runs in user space,” noted Apple’s Souvik Banerjee.
Banerjee added that the launch was primarily aimed at professional iPad users who often rely on external hardware that was not compatible with their device.
DriverKit API in iPadOS 16 supports USB, PCI and audio devices, and if a developer has already created a driver using DriverKit on Mac, it can now be transferred directly to iPad with no changes required.
The news, which Banerjee says is made possible “due to the power of the M1 chip” in some iPad models, means users will be able to connect Thunderbolt audio interfaces such as microphones or headsets to the iPad for the first time.
Each driver will only work when the paired external device is plugged in, and any new drivers must be manually enabled after installation in the iPad Settings app, where they can also be enabled or disabled by the user at any time.
Once an app is developed and submitted to the App Store, Apple ensures that only users with the correct drivers can download and use it to ensure there are no compatibility issues.
All iPads with M1 hardware support DriverKit, which is available now.