Apple’s yearly developer conference started yesterday, and they announced new hardware products and software features in a presentation dense with information.
First off: I’m now recommending that you upgrade your Mac to macOS Monterey, if you haven’t already done so, presuming your Mac is eligible for it. Make sure you have a full Time Machine or Carbon Copy Cloner backup, and at least 50 GB of free space. Let us know if you have any questions.
Next, new Mac laptops.
MacBook Air with M2 chip: The MacBook Air – the model I almost always recommend for everyday computing needs – has been completely redesigned, seemingly very nicely. It has a flatter, squared-off look, though it’s still very slim. It has a MagSafe power connector (hooray) similar to those used on their pre-2018 models (which also effectively frees up one of the two USB-C ports), and a vivid, edge-to-edge “Liquid Retina” 13.6-inch display, plus improved webcam (1080p), speakers, and microphones. The new MacBook Air also introduces Apple’s M2 chip; while Apple boasted about the M2’s performance over the M1, they didn’t say anything about how it performs compared to the other M1 family chips (Pro, Max, Ultra), which are still for sale in Apple’s higher-end products. Weight is about the same as the M1 model, at 2.7 lbs. It looks like a winner.
The new MacBook Air M2 comes in four colors, and starts at $1,199 for 8 GB memory and 256 GB storage; you can customize it up with up to 24 GB memory and 2 TB of storage, and opt for a faster charging power adapter. They go on sale next month. The 2020 model MacBook Air M1 will remain available at its same starting price of $999, and will continue to be an excellent general-purpose laptop Mac at a lower price.
13-inch MacBook Pro with M2 chip: The continued existence of the two-port, 13-inch MacBook Pro, which is now actually inferior to the less expensive MacBook Air, is a greater mystery than ever. My theory is that Apple thinks there’s a market for people who want something with “Pro” in the name but don’t want to spend pro money. There’s nothing wrong with this model — in fact, I use one — there’s just no compelling reason for it.
Apple replaced the 13-inch Pro’s M1 processor with the new M2, but otherwise kept the six-year-old design. That means, compared to the M2 MacBook Air, the Pro has the unpopular (and being phased out) Touch Bar; USB-C charging instead of MagSafe; an inferior 720p webcam; a slightly smaller (13.3”) and less brilliant screen. And yet, with a starting price of $1,299 when it goes on sale next month, the 13-inch Pro costs $100 more than the Air. Customization options are the same as those of the MacBook Air M2. (I was hoping they’d replace this model with a new, ultra-small model like the discontinued 12-inch MacBook or 11-inch MacBook Air, but, alas, it was not to be.)
What the 13-inch Pro has going for it over the Air is the ability to keep going at full performance during sustained, computationally intensive work (which would be better suited to the 14-inch Pro anyway), without slowing itself down in order to cool off; I don’t think 99.99% of people would ever notice the difference. The Pro also offers slightly longer battery life, and has richer, though quieter, sound compared to the M1 Air (I haven’t yet heard the M2 Air, of course).
macOS 13 Ventura and iOS 16: This fall, Apple will be releasing their yearly operating upgrades for their computers and mobile devices, and they’ve packed a pile of features (and changes you may or may not find welcome) into both. I’ll delve into more detail when these updates are released, but for now, some new capabilities that stood out to me, in no particular order, are:
- 15 minutes to edit or delete an iMessage after you send it
- contacts deduplication directly on iPhone/iPad
- a shared Photos library between family members, in addition to your personal library
- the ability to remove the background from a photo, leaving only the person
- “Apple Pay Later,” which offers a 0% deferred payment plan wherever one might use Apple Pay
- for Mail, a brief period to undo an unintentionally sent message; also, scheduled message sending (not yet clear to me is how that will work for non-iCloud mail accounts)
- “Stage Manager” for Macs, and M1-based iPads, to reduce onscreen clutter by bringing the window you’re working in to the forefront while temporarily collecting other open windows off to the side
- “Continuity Camera,” which lets you use the high-quality cameras in your iPhone in lieu of your Mac’s cruddy webcam (Apple is working with Belkin to develop accessories to mount your iPhone)
- the ability to move active FaceTime calls from your iPhone/iPad to your Mac
- onscreen keyboard remains available during dictation on iPhone/iPad
- a medication manager in the Health app
- a much more customizable lock screen on your iPhone/iPad
In addition, a few interesting features have already surfaced in current versions of iOS and macOS that weren’t available when they were first released:
- “Universal Control,” which allows you to use a single keyboard and mouse across multiple Macs and iPads
- “SharePlay,” which lets you listen to music or watch video (in supported apps only) simultaneously with a friend
- legally valid drivers license in Wallet (a few states only so far, New York not among them)
- “Tap to Pay,” which allows vendors to receive payments from tappable credit cards and Apple Pay directly on their iPhone, without requiring third party hardware like Square (coming this month)
With the shift to Apple silicon chips, Apple is culling the herd of Intel-based Macs as fast as they think they can reasonably get away with. So, only models from 2017 and later (with the exception of the 2017 MacBook Air) are eligible for macOS Ventura. If you’re not sure what you have, go to Apple Menu > About This Mac > Overview. Some of these older models were sold by Apple as recently as December 2019, so while entirely predictable, it’s still pretty obnoxious. With that said, Apple silicon Macs are fantastic and would be a nice upgrade from your older Intel-based Mac.
Once Apple cuts a machine off, the two-year clock starts ticking; after that period, you’ll stop getting security updates (and the security updates that you do get in the interim are less comprehensive), and you’ll no longer be able to run the latest software versions from many vendors. However, you can still continue to use the older versions of these apps for as long as they continue to be useful, though you may no longer be able to buy them new. Safari will become increasingly dysfunctional over time as modern websites become incompatible with it, but fortunately both Firefox and Google Chrome support versions of macOS from the previous 6-7 years, so switch to one of those browsers if you are stuck on an old version of macOS and want to stretch more life out of your Mac. There are also open source projects to install newer versions of macOS on unsupported older models, though you’re entirely on your own if you go this route.
Well, that’s all we’ve got for now, not that it wasn’t enough. We’ll have more detail when Apple’s new toys are released, and of course please feel free to ask us any questions you might have.