Apple just announced their latest operating systems for the coming year at their WWDC 21 on the 7th of June including IOS 15, MacOS Monterey, WatchOS 8 and probably the most anticipated iPadOS 15. This year Apple continues to put a lot of focus on their privacy features, improved FaceTime perhaps because of the pandemic where remote team working has an increasing role in our day to day lives. There are a lot of nice things in there, but they seem to be improving the edges but lacking the core things that some Pro users want.
Summaries of significant new features that share between all OS
1. FaceTime (gets the most update)
- SharePlay: a feature where you can share your screen and audio with people you are FaceTiming. So basically from now on, you can go on a YouTube spiral with your mates and waste your life together or if that’s your thing, you can be your friends’ private radio DJ in the comfort of your own home. Not going to lie, I think the most useful thing about this in most people’s case is probably teaching your mum how to use an iPhone or an iPad as you can see their screen to guide them step by step.
- Spatial Audio: This feature sounds pretty cool in that the audio during a group FaceTime will sound like they are coming from the person’s position on your screen. It apparently makes the video call feels a little bit more realistic. Cool tech and cool idea, sounds a bit gimmicky so will need to try it out to see.
- Portrait Mode: FaceTime now supports portrait mode which helps isolate you from the background during the call. Nice?
- Mic Mode: Probably one of the most useful features. It let you select from 3 different modes: “standard”, “voice isolation”, “wide spectrum”. Voice isolation filters out the background noise to make your voice stands out and the wide spectrum is just unfiltered to include everything.
- FaceTime in Android: Finally you can invite everyone to FaceTime. You don’t need an Apple device anymore, even a Window/Android device, as long as you have the video call link, you can join in with the fun.
A feature that design to minimise distraction from notifications and let you concentrate on the task you set out to do. I am glad that there is more effort put into this as I am certainly an easily distracted person, any old notification I would be like “ooooo, what’s that? *open emails*” and that would be 3 hours gone before I realise I got side-tracked. A nice human touch is that your focus status will be displayed in iMessage. That way people won’t send through millions of non-urgent things plus it will reduce those paranoia and rage associated with delayed replies.
Apple has been trying to up their map games to compete with Google Map. This time they have added a huge amount of details in roads, buildings, and surroundings in certain selected cities. One interesting thing is they have added detailed 3D models for famous landmarks to make them look a bit like Sim. They have also added Public transport timetable which allows you to plan your journey and pin it at the top. You can tell Apple zeroed in their primary market on this. Google map has such a big grip on the market that Apple is trying to take some of the shares back. Although most people have been so used to Google map that unless there are some drastic changes, there is no real reason to switch to Apple map just because of the 3D models.
4. Live text and visual lookup
Essentially Apple’s version of the Google lens. One thing that I love about Apple is that some of their features might not be the most cutting edge innovative, but their integration is definitely at the top of the industry. With this you can copy and paste words from a photo to actual text, you can translate straight from the camera and even dial a phone number from a picture itself. It also recognises objects in the picture and gives you information such as the breed of a dog etc.
Replace the iCloud subscription plan that only provides storage. They provide Apple’s version of VPN – iCloud private relay. How it works is different from the traditional VPN but essentially achieve the same thing – hide your IP address so no one can track and profile you from your online activities. They also give you the option to hide your email when filling in forms online or signing up for a newsletter. It creates a random email address that forwards to your inbox. A slight tweak of the implementation of “sign in with Apple”.
When iPad Pro 2020 was released, Apple made a statement of “your next computer is not a computer” because they have made the iPad Pro so powerful that the majority of people can manage their daily tasks on an iPad rather than on a laptop. And during the spring-loaded event in April, they went even further by putting the M1 chip into the iPad Pro. A processor that they used in their Mac into a tablet. With the hardware being in place, how about the software?
The improvement iPadOS 15
- Improved multitask – The new iPadOS has a new multitasking menu to make it easier for split view. New shelf to let you see all the window you have opened for an app and allows you to quickly switch between them. You can even set up your split view in the app switcher by dragging one app over the other.
- Shortcuts – This new feature is a game-changer. By holding down the command key, you can bring up the list of all shortcuts supported by the app. That makes learning to use a new app much quicker and much more efficient.
- Quick note – This can utilise the iPad’s innate advantage to the fullest. We all have that moment of inspiration while browsing a website or doing something unrelated. Instead of having to quit the app to start up your note-taking app up, now you can just swipe up from the corner to quickly drop down your new idea. And if you copy and paste something from a site onto the quick note, it gives you a thumbnail of the website to remind you where the idea’s from. So now all your ideas and note are in one place easy to find and organise.
- Universal control – Apple’s ultimate flex on the integration of their ecosystem. Now data can flow freely between different Apple devices that are next to each other without any setup, they just know to talk to each other. Mouse and keyboard switch seamlessly between devices. You can drag and drop files from the iPad straight onto your Mac or vice and versa. From the demonstration that they provide, it works so smooth that it is insane.
- Safari makeover – Safari has a new tab bar. A more muted look and tabs at the top give way to more content.
Polarising opinion on iPadOS 15
So they are all amazing improvement to make the iPad a much more capable device, why is the internet still rage over the iPadOS 15. The reason boils down to expectations. From the point when Apple in April dropped their Tim Cook mission impossible style presentation that transplant an M1 chip from the MacBook to the iPad Pro, the computer world is expecting the iPad Pro to be the new MacBook. We expect the iPad Pro to do everything that the MacBook can do and at the same time be an iPad with pencil support and all. After all, Apple said “your next computer is not a computer” right?
If we take a step back and leave our expectation down for a second, maybe iPadOS makes a bit more sense.
- M1 chip is originally an iPad chip, not a Mac chip. Apple Silicon chip was originally made for iPhones and iPads. The A12Z on the 2020 iPad Pro then the A14 on iPad Air and the iPhone, so the M1 is technically the “A14Z” for the iPad Pro 2021. But it is so powerful Apple decided to run macOS on it to power the Mac and give it a different name. So if you look at it this way, M1 is actually from the iPad being transplanted onto the Mac. It is just how they were presented makes consumer see it the other way round.
- iPad is a device from Apple to try to make the computing world less intimidating. It was started as just an iPhone with a bigger screen. It slowly gets more powerful that can handle a bit more computing tasks. It is intended to fill the gap between an iPhone and a Mac. It is intended for the vast majority of the market who wanted a device with a bigger screen than a phone that can do some word processing, sending emails but less complex than a full-on MacBook. So iPad is never a product that aims to replace the Mac, even with the iPad Pro. When they say “your next computer is not a computer”, is never meant for the computer nerds that make up 10% of their market, it is aimed at the rest of the 90%.
- What about the 8GB and 16GB of RAM when apps are limited to 5GB usage? I think Apple treats the use of RAM in iPad and RAM in Mac differently. RAM in a Mac focuses to let the power users run massive, RAM-hungry professional software, while RAM in an iPad is there to provide a fluid user experience of opening and switching in between apps without delays. The primary purpose of having RAMs for these two devices are different and therefore the 5GB limits in an app make sense so you can still have space to have other apps opened in the background without having to reload every time.
- iPadOS also needs to run on their less hardware-intense iPad like the Air, mini or iPad 8. If iPadOS 15 only focuses on maximising the M1 potential for the iPad Pro. The A14 or A12 will likely not be able to handle it. Imagine you bought a brand new iPad, just to find out they terminate the software support because your hardware is no longer powerful enough?
With all that said, it makes a bit more sense why Apple is not running a version of MacOS on iPad Pro even though the hardware supports it. iPad has an average product life cycle of perhaps 4 years, which means most people who buy an iPad today won’t be upgrading for another 4 years. With that in mind, Apple has to build in some hardware headroom for the coming 4 years of software advancement to make the iPad remain relevant then. They have also been doing that. A12Z from iPad Pro 2020 is still amazingly powerful and massively overpowered back then. That’s why the M1 iPad Pro feel so overpowered now in hardware but if you see 4 years into the future, probably less so.
Can’t help but feel disappointed
That doesn’t mean it is not disappointing news though. iPad Pro has the name “Pro” in it because they were meant to aim for the professional – that 10% of their market and not that 90%. I am sure for some digital nomad, having the iPad Pro that can integrate with their professional work on their Mac is invaluable. For example, able to run Xcode while travelling and don’t have to carries their 16″ MacBook Pro. YouTuber able to edit their video on the go with FinalCut Pro and keep their travel gear as light as possible. The hardware itself is forever more “Pro” but the supports for Pro in the iPad software is still very “general market”. File management is still rubbish and still unable to run any professional software on a Pro device is one of the reasons why iPadOS 15 is so polarising. Maybe the Apple software team is not just not ready yet, because Apple will not accept anything less than perfect integration and that’s why the market loves them. But it remains a frustrating wait for their fan base.
Apple’s WWDC 21 concluded with the 4 new operating systems and loads of new features. There are more to those that I have summarised above such as more Memoji options, roided-up spotlight, tweak to photos organisation and improved notification centre. iPadOS 15 was a bit controversial due to a lot of professional being disappointed that Apple didn’t deliver the “Pro” software that many were expecting to come to their “Pro” machine. Although the biggest disappointment was probably the rumoured M1X 14″ and 16″ MacBook Pro and Mac Mini Pro did not materialise. I would hate to be the guy who sold their MacBook based on some leaks…
All images are sourced from Apple.com unless otherwise stated