Apple has unveiled a new expansion that it hopes will make iPad devices open to more accessories than ever before.
DriverKit, one of many iPadOS 16 updates, will allow manufacturers and developers to build drivers specifically for iPads for the first time, and even build cross-platform drivers.
The tool has been available since 2019 on macOS Catalina, allowing third-party USB and Thunderbolt accessories to connect to macOS devices, but now it’s also coming to the iPad.
DriverKit for iPad
On a video (opens in new tab) announcing the release, Apple said that DriverKit would bring much more flexibility and choice for developers and end users, while maintaining the exact same macOS experience for iPad users.
“DriverKit has brought a new way to extend the system that is more reliable and secure, running in user space,” noted Apple’s Souvik Banerjee.
Banerjee added that the launch was especially aimed at professional iPad users who often have to rely on external hardware that is not compatible with their device.
The DriverKit API in iPadOS 16 supports USB, PCI, and audio devices, and if a developer has already created a driver with DriverKit on Mac, it can now be ported directly to the iPad with no changes required.
The news, which Banerjee noted is 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 headphones to the iPad for the first time.
Each driver will only work when the linked external device is connected, and any new drivers must be manually enabled in the iPad’s Settings app after installation, where they can also be enabled or disabled by the user at any time.
Once an app has been developed and submitted to the App Store, Apple will ensure that only users with the correct drivers can download and use them to ensure there are no compatibility issues.
All iPads with M1 hardware will support DriverKit, which is now available.