Hello friends, and happy end of summer to you. Apple made some announcements yesterday and we’re here to share them with you.
New macOS and iOS Versions
First up, and important: the next major version of macOS, called Sonoma, will be released in two weeks. Our usual guidance applies: if given the choice, don’t install it, in case it is discovered to have any major bugs upon release. If a couple of months go by without any major reported issues, then go ahead if you wish; if you’re not sure, ask us.
And, at this point, if you’re not yet on macOS 13 Ventura (you can check under Apple menu > About This Mac), you can certainly go ahead and upgrade under Apple menu > System Preferences > Software Update, if your computer is eligible (otherwise, take it to whatever it is willing to go to, e.g. Monterey, Big Sur, or Catalina.) As always, we recommend that you have a current backup via Time Machine, Backblaze, Carbon Copy Cloner, or CrashPlan before doing so; if you’re not sure, ask us.
The same applies for iOS and iPadOS 17, which will be released in a week, but with Apple’s aggressive installation of new versions of these operating systems, you’ll probably find yourself with them regardless. If you don’t want that to happen, turn off Settings > General > Software Update > Install i(Pad)OS updates. If you do find yourself on the new version (or want it), it’s most likely fine; Apple has improved their track record in recent years when it comes to initial versions of major OS upgrades.
IVAN X Music
Next: enough of you have asked about my music life as IVAN X that I’ll briefly share a little bit! This summer, I released my first album, Exile, and, just to keep it real, I pressed a limited edition deluxe 7-inch vinyl record (it’s pretty, so you can still look at it while you listen online, even if you don’t have a record player). Read the press release here! You can listen to Exile on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, YouTube (free), and Bandcamp (free); go to https://ivanxmusic.com/listen for links to these. If you’d like to buy a record, go to https://ivanxmusic.com/merch. You may also follow me on Instagram, Facebook, or Tiktok at @ivanxnyc, where I post new music and videos, and YouTube at @ivanx_nyc. If you’d like to be notified of live performances and new releases, please subscribe to my mailing list at https://ivanxmusic.com (look for the “Sign Up” button). Note that if you haven’t heard my music, well, you’ll be exposed to a more aggressive side of me than you’ve encountered in my professional self, as I’ve let my formative punk, postpunk, new wave, industrial, and alternative music influences shine through. Thanks for being interested!
Ok, enough housekeeping, on to Apple news:
Apple’s marquee product, the iPhone, received its annual update, and, as usual, it’s better than what came before, but perhaps not so much better that you’ll be racing out to replace the one you’ve been using for the last year or three. (I’m still perfectly happy with my iPhone 13 Pro.)
You already know what iPhones do, so I’ll just focus on what’s notable. First off, the high end models. Apple has continued to create distinction between their “standard” iPhone models (15 and 15 Plus), and their Pro models (15 Pro and 15 Pro Max). Historically, the high-end models have had steel construction, rather than aluminum, but that has also made them heavier than their non-Pro counterparts. That is no longer the case, as the Pro models now have a titanium body, which preserves strength while decreasing weight. And this year, the 15 Pro Max features an impressive 5x optical zoom lens versus the 3x on the 15 Pro. (Non-Pro models don’t offer a zoom lens.) Both Pro models now offer simulation of standard camera focal lengths, and have a 48 megapixel sensor which is used to generate a 24 megapixel image. The photos will look good.
Other “pro” features that impressed me, but which will have limited use for most owners, are the ability to shoot raw photos and high resolution video directly to a computer or attached external drive, allowing professionals to use an iPhone as a full production camera. It will also (finally!) be possible to export data, including local backups, from an iPhone 15 Pro or Pro Max to a computer at fast USB 3.2 gen 2 (10 Gbps) speeds. This could be a big deal for users of data extraction apps like the superb iMazing. The 15 Pro models also feature Apple’s latest generation processor (A17 Bionic) for maximum performance.
Another new feature for iPhone 15 Pro models that is probably for the better but which may take getting used to is the elimination of the ringer switch above the volume buttons. It’s been replaced by a multipurpose “action” button, which makes the phone more versatile; a press-and-hold will switch between ringer and silent, with a physical sensation to indicate the change, while a simple press will do something of your choosing, such as opening Voice Memos, camera, flashlight, or whatever else you set it to do.
The very long overdue improvement found across the entire iPhone 15 line, apparently imposed by EU regulators, is the replacement of the stalwart, proprietary Lightning connector with the industry-standard USB-C connector used for years on every Mac and recent iPad. While this will cause some short term pain as you replace your existing charging cables, it will ultimately eliminate the madness of needing two similar looking but different types of cables to charge all your Apple stuff. If you have accessories which require the Lightning connector, Apple is, happily, selling an adapter, albeit at an outrageous $29 price tag; they should be giving them away for the asking.
In sum, the iPhone 15 series has better cameras, brighter screens, faster processors, USB-C rather than Lightning, and the Pro models are made of titanium, have an action button instead of a ringer switch, and support fast data transfer and external drives. That’s the news. If you’re not a photographer, these new phones are probably not going to rock your world. If you’ve got a 13 or 14 series, or even a 12, and you’re happy with it, then you’re probably good. But if your carrier (or Apple themselves) offers you a sweet trade-in deal, go for it; Apple said they, or maybe their carrier partners, are offering up to $1,000 for trading in an iPhone 11 or later, so, if yours is paid off, that’s a no-brainer. The iPhone 15 starts at $799, the 15 Plus (large screen) starts at $899, the 15 Pro starts at $999, and the 15 Pro Max (large screen, 5x zoom lens) starts at $1,199. As per usual, the Pro models will be offered in four sedate colors, while the non-Pro models offer five bright colors. If you want to save a C-note or two, the 14 and 14 Plus are $100 cheaper, and the 13 is $200 cheaper, and they’re all good phones.
Also, pour one out for the adorable iPhone 13 mini; while Apple has kept the iPhone 13 around as their cheapest Face ID phone, they dropped the 13 mini, so if you want one, run to your carrier or a non-Apple retailer to see if they’ve still got ‘em. (If you have a 12 mini and don’t want a larger phone, consider it, as the 13 mini has a much better battery.) It appears the low-end iPhone SE will be the company’s only small phone for the foreseeable future.
Apple is also starting to roll out USB-C on other products, such as the new “AirPods Pro (2nd generation) with MagSafe Charging Case (USB‑C).” (Yes, that’s really what they call it.) Apparently, it’s a marginally improved version of the previous AirPods Pro (2nd generation), featuring better water resistance, and lossless audio when used with the forthcoming Vision Pro headset (talk about a niche use case), so Apple is selling it as a new product, replacing the old; you can’t just buy just the new case for your existing AirPods Pro. Keep in mind that AirPods are often heavily discounted at Amazon relative to buying from Apple.
When the last Lightning port is gone, I’ll do a little dance; while innovative when introduced in an era of unpleasant micro-USB connectors, Apple has had no excuse beyond profit to stand by Lightning once the small and versatile USB-C connector was first put into a Mac eight years ago.
Apple Watch 9 and Ultra 2
Apple’s flagship watches have faster processors and brighter screens, and some configurations are available as the company’s first carbon neutral products. Being able to use what Apple is calling the “double-tap gesture” (a forefinger and thumb tapping each other, without touching the watch itself) on the same hand the watch is on, in order to answer the phone or end a call or stop a timer or pause music (or do lots of other things), is the one new feature that may be worth upgrading for.
Apple didn’t have anything to say about their Mac line, and the imminent release of macOS 14 Sonoma makes me suspect there won’t be anything new before next year, which is what the rumor sites (which should be taken with heaping spoonfuls of salt) are also saying. The impact here is that the iMac desktop computer, with its M1 processor, has remained unchanged for 2.5 years, which is quite a long time. If you’re in the market for a new desktop Mac, I’d advise you to wait if you can, or instead consider a Mac mini, which has a newer M2 processor, paired with an external display. But, if you want an iMac now, with its elegant and colorful styling, it remains an excellent computer.
Please ask us if you have questions!