WWDC 2022

Bet you thought I was going to talk about Sedalia and the Ragtime Festival. I will, of course. Just not today. I mean, I rearranged the blog schedule so I could talk about Google’s last event, so it’s only fair not to keep Apple waiting.

And there is a fair amount to talk about.

Starting, naturally, with what to expect from the upcoming iOS 16. The biggest news there as far as I’m concerned, is that Apple has finally pulled the plug on the ancient iPhone 6 series and the iPhone 7. If you’re still clinging to those phones, it’s time to put them away. It’s only going to get harder to fix them from here on. Better to move to something newer now while the phone is functioning.

Once you’re on iOS 16, you’ll be getting some goodies, too. Like live widgets on the lock screen. So you can do things like checking the weather or sports scores without unlocking the phone. And you can personalize the appearance with new fonts and color options. Once Apple introduced the massive home screen personalization in iOS 15, personalization of the lock screen was inevitable. People really don’t want their phones to look just like everyone else’s. Who knew? (I’m particularly excited about the “live notifications” which will let a single notification update with new information. Think sports scores here: instead of getting a new notification every time the score changes—all of which you’ll have to swipe away—now you’ll just have one notification that updates. Google’s been doing this for a while with things like the Google Assistant traffic notification; it’s good to see Apple keeping up.)

Here’s a nice one: Apple will add a Quick Start feature to Family Sharing to ensure that it’s set up properly. No more having the kids “hack” the system to get around the limits you set for them by discovering that you forgot to add a password…

And here’s a horrible one: iCloud Shared Photos. Everyone who has access to the shared library can add, edit, and delete photos for everyone. Apple, kill this. It’s already too easy for people to manipulate the information on their exes’ phones. Don’t give them another avenue of approach.

And yes, I say that even though Apple is also rolling out “Safety Check”, which is intended to give you a one-click method to stop sharing with specific individuals. Safety Check is a great idea. I’m just dubious about how effective it’ll be—and how easy it will be for someone being stalked to find and turn on.

That aside, it’s unclear what effect editing or deleting a photo in the shared library has on the original. People are already confused about how to delete photos from their phones to free up space without also deleting them from the iCloud. Now there’s a possible additional level of complexity. I predict chaos.

Moving on. Updates to WatchOS: new faces, new metrics, custom workouts, and so on. I do like the sound of the Medication app: there are a lot of people who could use the reminders to take their drugs on time. I just hope there’s an easy way for doctors to add the meds for their patients; anyone with a long list is probably going to be slow to get them entered. That said, if the app also tracks when prescriptions need to be refilled and gives users an in-app reorder button, it’ll be a big win.

As for the Mac world, yes, the M2* is finally a thing. A slightly larger than the M1, with a higher ceiling and lower power requirements. The first device to get it: the MacBook Air. Redesigned to be thinner and lighter, with a larger screen. And it’s got a MagSafe charging port, so you don’t lose one of your two precious Thunderbolt ports when you need to plug the machine in. And yes, the M1 MacBook Air will still be around, if you don’t need the ultimate in power and want to save a bit of cash.

* Presumably the M2 Pro and M2 Ultra will be along in the near future.

MacOS is getting an update as well, of course. Fare well, Monterey; welcome Ventura.

This is cool: Stage Manager is a new feature that will put small thumbnails of your active programs off to one side of the screen so whatever you’re working in can be centered without having to maximize it, but still letting you keep track of what’s going on in the background.

Naturally, Apple wants you to have an iPhone to go along with your MacBook. So they’re tying the two platforms closer together with the ability to pass FaceTime calls from one to the other—and to use your phone as a webcam. Much better than the laptop’s built-in camera, especially if your iPhone is a 12 or more recent.

Nor is Apple forgetting about your iPad. Collaboration is the big focus there, with document sharing front and center, and a new app called Freeform. It’s basically a shared whiteboard. Useful for business, especially when it arrives on phones and computers.

The iPad is also getting Stage Manager. Now that is a big win. It should make multitasking on the iPad immensely easier, especially if the rumored freely resizeable windows put in an appearance.

You all know I’ve been underwhelmed by Apple’s last few system iterations—evolve rather than revolutionize. But with the exception of the shared photos mess, I’m genuinely impressed with what’s coming. Maybe not quite enough to buy a Mac, and definitely not enough to replace my Pixel phone with an iPhone. But I can legitimately say there are several things I’m looking forward to seeing in the real world.

Kudos, Apple.

Apple Hardware Redux

And here we are again, talking about Apple’s latest hardware releases. Another symptom of a weird year. I mean, isn’t this about the sixteenth time?

Anyway, this announcement is for the first Macs running Apple’s own CPU–with the distinctive moniker “M1”–instead of one made by Intel.

The major feature of the new CPU, at least from Apple’s perspective, is that it combines all of the silicon into one convenient package. It’s not just a CPU, in other words. It’s also the security manager, the memory, the input/output controller, the machine-learning “Neural Engine”, and sixty ‘leven other things.

That allows for smaller motherboards, lowers the cost of production, and may simplify repairs.

On the down side, it also eliminates certain upgrades. Specifically, increasing the RAM isn’t going to be possible. Apple is confident that, rather than upgrading their machines when they get older, the majority of their customers just replace them. Which is probably a safe bet, given the cost of Apple-compatible memory.

There are three new machines: a MacBook Air, a MacBook Pro, and–the biggest surprise of the day–a Mac Mini. Interestingly, while the MacBooks will be selling at the same price point as the Intel-based models they’re replacing, the Mini will be $100 cheaper. Since I’m on record as considering the previous generation of Minis to be significantly overpriced, this is definitely an improvement.

Worthy of note: the Air and the Pro are nearly identical. The only differences, as far as anyone can tell until we get our hands on the machines, is that the Pro has a cooling fan–which may allow it to run faster for longer stretches than the fanless Air*–and at least some models will have faster graphics processing.

* Now there’s an irony for you: a mobile computer named “Air” that doesn’t move air around.

Accompanying the new machines is, of course, a new Mac operating system. Big Sur will be out tomorrow for all Macs (at least all made in the last five years or so).

It’s got the usual laundry list of new features: new look and feel, new privacy features, and so on, ad infinitum. The biggie, at least if you buy Apple’s thinking, is that it can run iPhone and iPad apps.

Was anybody really asking for that?

Granted, Google’s done a nice job in allowing Android apps to run on Chromebooks; they’ve shown the idea can be done well. But Apple’s history in cross-platform app support isn’t encouraging. Let’s be blunt here: the iPad came out in 2010. And yet, the best it can do when running an iPhone-only app is to show it at double its normal size with little support for rotation. And Apple hasn’t done much to encourage developers to add iPad-functionality.

To be fair, Google has done a lousy job of convincing developers to support Android table-specific apps either. But the wide variety in Android phone capabilities forces Google’s infrastructure, and thus phone-oriented apps, to be more flexible in terms of resolution and layout than is the case in Apple’s world.

I have a feeling we’re going to see a lot of people experiment with iOS apps on their MacBooks, decide the experience isn’t all that great, and give up. Developers will then say “Hey, nobody’s using apps on their computers; why should we waste time and effort on making it better?”

Bottom line: The new Macs sound good, but even with Apple’s experience in custom-designed silicon–the M1 is, after all, a variation of what’s been running iPhones and iPads for years–there are going to be teething problems.

Similarly, even if you ignore Big Sur’s need to support those new devices alongside the existing Intel devices, it’s still a major revision to the Mac OS (major enough that Apple is declaring it version 11 after seventeen years of version 10). Remember how rough the transition to Catalina was last year, when the biggest change was the move to eliminate 32-bit apps?

My advice is to wait until at least 11.0.2 to upgrade–Apple is already working on 11.0.1; odds are they won’t start building in fixes for real-world problems in the new Macs until 11.0.2 at the earliest.

And unless you’re comfortable dealing with random computer misbehavior, hold off buying an M1 Mac for at least six months to give Apple time to work out–or work around–the inevitable hardware bugs.