It’s that time of year where tech journalists and Apple fans crowd around their devices or TV sets (hooked up to an Apple TV, of course) to watch Tim Cook and chums sell you a new gadget.
Apple Watch Series 5
Nothing mentioned about the internals, so presumably using the same processor and storage as the Series 4. But we now have an always-on display and a new material – titanium. Ceramic makes a come back at an eye-watering starting price of £1,299. For a device that you’ll replace every few years – this for people with very deep pockets.
For me, I’m very happy with the Series 4. No need to replace it for at least another year.
iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro/Pro Max
Both good looking phones with some decent improvements – the biggest of which is the camera system. New image sensors, more computational photography improvements. New ultra-wide lens. The iPhone 11 Pro retains its telephoto lens and gains a third, ultra-wide lens. New Smart Display XDR tech on the Pro means a brighter image. And apparently an extra 5 hours of battery life beyond that of the current iPhone XS Max Pro.
Watching the presentation, it appears that Apple has made significant strides in picture quality. I thought the XS Max image quality was decent, but looking at the sample pictures shows very little to no distortion or noise. And the video quality looks to have been bumped up significantly too. I’ve always complained that the video compression applied to the videos produced by the XS Max was too heavy-handed. Watching the demo video shot – it looked perfect. So for us budding phone photographers and videographers – it looks Apple may have reclaimed the crown. For now.
I should, in theory, be able to upgrade on the 25th of this month – so we’ll see what options my phone provider offers me. The phone costs the same as last year, so there shouldn’t be any big differences in price.
Apple TV+ and Apple Arcade
Apple is playing the long game in the current streaming TV wars. $5/month for a family subscription means they’re undercutting all other services – for some (Netflix and Amazon Prime Video) significantly. The number of original shows is significantly smaller to start off with, but with new additions each month, their back catalogue should be pretty decent in time. With the news that all new iPhone and iPad users will be getting a free year’s subscription to Apple TV+, this can only bolster viewing figures significantly.
Apple Arcade is a subscription service that offers a variety of games that can be played across iPhone, iPad, Apple TV and Mac. Again, $5 is very reasonable. Both services just under $10 a month, along with Apple Music, makes for a decent range of services. Apple has priced it just right.
iOS 13, iPadOS13 and MacOS Catalina
Wasn’t announced during the keynote, but it turns out that these are going to be staggered releases.
This year’s WWDC keynote was packed to the gills with a slew of announcements relating to upcoming software features in Apple’s range of products, including the Apple Watch, iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Additionally, the company also announced a whole new redesign of the Mac Pro, a new high-end monitor, and $1,000 monitor stand (I kid you not).
Apple has a rebranding/versioning problem
The iPad is getting a whole new slew of feature enhancements that won’t be found on the iPhone, to the extent that Apple is now referring to the version of iOS for iPad as iPadOS. This now gives us the following OS derivatives based on the Mach kernel/FreeBSD from which OS X originally came from:
MacOS – for Mac desktop and laptop operating systems
iPadOS – for iPads
WatchOS – for the Apple Watch
tvOS – for Apple TV HD and Apple TV 4K
iOS – for iPhones
So why doesn’t Apple rename iOS to iPhoneOS to identify the operating system specifically for iPhones? I don’t know. I’m assuming iPadOS will be referred to version 13, the same as iOS rather than iPadOS 1. If Apple did change iOS to iPhoneOS, it’d still be version 13 too. Only WatchOS has had significant changes to the version number since it was first released. We’re currently on major version 5, but for iOS and tvOS it’s version 12. For MacOS it’s 10.14. Even I’m finding it difficult to keep up.
Goodbye iTunes – so long, and thanks for all the fish
I’ve been a heavy iTunes user since.. well .. since Winamp died. I migrated over to the iTunes platform on Windows initially long before I had my first Mac, and haven’t looked back since. I’ve tried to leave the iTunes ecosystem a few times, but quite frankly it’s very difficult – particularly because the integration and feature set is very good. The downside is that iTunes has been enormously clunky for quite some time.
So Apple is splitting out music, video and podcasts into three separate applications for the next release of MacOS (called Catalina). This makes sense. I’m an Apple Music subscriber and find that the iCloud Music Library to be extremely useful to sync my own tracks across my iPhone XS Max and Apple Watch series 4. The iTunes store will still be there if I do want to purchase tracks or albums, or movies or TV shows.
The Mac to get 4K movie playback
Apple TV on the Mac will also play 4K content (since many modern iMacs will have 4K or 5K displays) and Dolby Atmos content. It’s no longer limited to Apple TV HD/4K devices. However, my biggest disappointment with Apple in this regard is that iTunes is still not offering 4K television shows for sale. Or TV shows with iTunes Extras content. I feel that Apple’s upcoming video streaming service, Apple TV+, may have had an effect on that. If UHD Blu-Ray content is on the way out, we need a better alternative to just streaming services. People want to buy, download and keep. And they want the extras that come with physical discs.
Apple to stop BASHing MacOS and wants to zig-a-zig-zsh
Apple is, for whatever reason, not a fan of GNU v3 General Public License. As such, the version of the bash interpreter included with MacOS is a little out of date. The zsh shell is more modern, largely backwards compatible with bash and is, in theory, a better option. That said, a good amount of what I do involves bash, so I doubt I’ll be changing over anytime soon.
You’ll be able to use your iPad as a second screen with MacOS Catalina
Something that I look forward to using. The new version of MacOS Catalina will allow users with a modern iPad or iPad Pro as a second screen – with the added bonus that if you have an Apple Pencil, you can use something like Photoshop to sketch on the iPad and it’ll appear on your Mac.
iPadOS will make the iPad more computer-like like never before
Apple has been pushing the iPad and iPad Pro as fully fledged computers. The problem with that is that even with a physical keyboard, key features of the operating system are still incredibly limited.
As well as a new home screen with access to widgets in horizontal view, the icons are now more tightly packed together – allowing more icons per screen. There are new gestures to make it easier to select, copy and paste text – and the cursor should be much easier to reposition.
And you’ll finally be allowed to use a mouse with an iPad! Though it forms part of the accessibility features and effectively emulates fingers – thus it won’t be the same as if you were using MacOS. But I think the new gestures and cursor control should help a bit.
The biggest change is that you’ll be able to plug in a USB hard drive or thumb drive and copy data to and from the iPad like any other file. It’s been mentioned that Apple formatted HPFS+ volumes don’t yet work (which would be silly if you also have a Mac), but may change during the beta/development process.
The iPad will also be able to connect to network shares as well – also offering a way of pulling data into and out of the iPad over the network.
Access to files via USB drive or network drive makes me wonder what would happen if the iPhone XI models ship with USB-C ports instead of lightning ports. It would be a tremendous benefit to have USB-C on the iPhone, but it did, would the Files app also support the use of hard drives and thumb drives as well? And are the other features sufficient to rename iOS on the iPad as iPadOS in that case?
Safari, the default web browser on iPadOS, will be able to use the desktop versions of web sites. Previously this was not possible as Safari always identified itself as a mobile browser, and the web site/app would deliver a mobile-friendly version. It’s not clear whether this will be the default option, or if other browsers such as Chrome will follow suit as it will mean changing the browser identification string. Something I’ll need to bear in mind for work!
In short – iPadOS has more features in it to make an iPad last a good many years as a laptop computer. It’ll always be a locked system, but Apple have opened it up a little more in what it can do that will make it a more attractive option to those on the move.
iPhone users also have a few tweaks to look forward to
I’m so looking forward to disabling limits on the size of app downloads. I have a very generous data allowance with my phone provider, and few humongous apps. But that’s not all – it’s said that apps will launch twice as fast and be half the size. Some serious optimisation work going on there!
I’m definitely looking forward to the new dark mode, and even more so – I like the look of the new Photos app. I use Photos and the iCloud Photo Library a lot across all my Apple devices, so it’ll be interesting to play around with the new features there. Already loving the new layout and can’t wait to start using it.
Pro Macs and Displays
With potential costs of up to $35,000 for a fully tricked out Mac Pro, and the displays costing around $6k including the monitor stand, the new Mac Pro is going to be something for companies or individuals with very deep pockets. The performance will be phenomenal, but it will require substantial effort from developers to make use of those performance enhancements.
VFX, for example, has generally relied heavily on NVIDIA graphics technology – as has anything with big computational needs. That said, when I was working back in VFX, Macs were primarily used for 2D Photoshop work (working with giant size textures).
I think the Apple ProDisplay will do much better in terms of sales – the specifications alone are going to be very tempting for anybody that requires great colour accuracy. And cost point of those monitors – even with the stand – is considerably cheaper than other manufacturers.
Another question that I have is that if Apple is intending to switch from Intel to their own ARM silicon in the future – how far ahead is this, and what about people who have spent tens of thousands of pounds/dollars on these systems only to find that we’re going to be in the middle of another architecture change in 2-3 years time. That’s a very difficult question to answer right now, but I believe Apple *will* do it at some point. Given the number of speculative vulnerabilities that are cropping up in Intel CPUs, people (and Apple) are going to be fed up with Intel.
(*) From the Adult Sim cartoon series, Rick & Morty. “Wubba lubba dub dub” was Rick’s catchphrase.
All of the following apply to MacOS Mojave 10.14.4, iOS 12.2 and mid-2018 MacBook Pro and late 2018 iPad Pro.
Facetime on the MacBook Pro. On my work Mac Mini, if I open Facetime to make a phone call via my iPhone, I can type the number directly into the Facetime app and it’ll dial it. On my MacBook Pro which I primarily use with the lid closed, I can’t – since Facetime expects the camera to be active and will stubbornly refuse to show the entry field. I have to use Contacts app instead. Additionally, Facetime tends to get the audio devices wrong, leaving me with the person I’ve called unable to hear me.
I have 150Gb worth of 4G data with EE across my iPhone XS Max and iPad Pro devices. If I want to download an app on the iOS app store that’s over 150Mb in size, iOS stupidly insists I connect to Wi-Fi. Let me use 4G if I want to. Don’t nanny me.
Wi-Fi performance needs some serious tweaking under both MacOS and iOS for modern devices. Performance is seriously underwhelming in 2018/2019.
Time Machine backups under MacOS when using an encrypted USB 3 disk is unbearably slow. If you backup weekly or monthly, the time it takes for Time Machine to complete backups is stupidly slow. 11 hours to backup 99Gb worth of data? Even if the throttle limit has been removed (via sysctl).
Remove user selection when using FileVault – stick with a username and password prompt because this has the ability to leak user info before the Mac has even booted. I understand the reason behind this, but it’s time to change things up a bit.
Is anybody else experiencing issues with the Mac Mini (2018) and MacOS Mojave 10.14.3? I’m using a USB Corsair mouse plugged into one of the Mini’s two USB-A ports. I’m using FileVault (naturally) and therefore need to authenticate before I’m able to boot the machine.
If you have multiple accounts, you’re expected to select one, then enter the account password to unlock the machine and it boots. But in this case, the Corsair mouse in the USB-A port doesn’t work. It has power going to it, but MacOS does nothing with it. The pointer sits there stationery. If I boot into recovery mode, the mouse works fine.
Update: Yes, if I use an Apple Magic Mouse 2 via Bluetooth, the mouse pointer moves during the account selection process. It suggests that Mojave 10.14.3 has a pre-boot USB bug.
But I’ve also noticed that while the mouse usually works after booting into MacOS Mojave 10.14.3, occasionally it doesn’t work unless I unplug the mouse and plug it back in again.
I struggled to use the Bluetooth keyboard (an Apple Magic Keyboard no less – 2nd generation) during this process. It’s not immediately obvious how to switch between the accounts using the keyboard alone (update: ruddy obvious, really – use the cursor keys). One account and you’re presented with a password entry box- fine.
Also fed up with MacOS switching display arrangement around. I’ve had to take measures to ensure that the displays are plugged in (when looking at the back of the machine, L = left monitor, R = right monitor in USB-C port order). Mojave does not seem to remember the order otherwise.
I’m going to try my own Apple Bluetooth mouse tomorrow to see if that makes any difference during pre-boot. But I’m convinced this is a software bug that Apple need to fix rather than it being some kind of hardware issue.