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New Stuff from Apple

Hello everyone. Enjoying the summer heat? We're here with the latest updates in the world of Apple. A lot has happened.



MacBook Air: Apple just updated their 2018 modernized MacBook Air by adding "natural" color to the screen, and lowering the starting price to $1,099, or $999 for college students. They now also have a 1 TB storage option, and have removed the 1.5 TB option. It remains a perfectly adequate, if unspectacular, general purpose lightweight laptop with pretty good battery life.

MacBook Pro: Apple made more meaningful (and overdue) updates to the cheapest 13" MacBook Pro, adding Touch ID (fingerprint reader), and a Touch Bar (which I'm still not convinced is actually useful), and an arguably better processor (slower clock, but more cores). It starts at $1,299. Still only two ports, though. Compared with the MacBook Air, it's got a brighter, richer screen, somewhat better performance, and worse battery life. The more expensive models with four ports also got updates with better processors, yielding better performance, especially in the deluxe 15" model.

Air or entry-level Pro? The Air is only 0.25 pounds lighter than the Pro, and is about the same physical size, and has the same number of ports, so I think the decision is longer battery life (Air) vs. better performance and brighter screen (Pro). If you're leaning towards the latter, I'd consider stepping up to one of the four-port, faster-processor Pro models. I think it would have simplified the product line to just drop the entry level Pro entirely, but they didn't ask me.

12-inch MacBook no more: On the topic of simplifying the product line, Apple discontinued the adorable 12-inch MacBook, which weighed only 2 pounds, a lot less than the Air's 2.75 pounds. It was also distinct among most Macs by having no fan, making it silent. I was really hoping they'd update this machine, which, unlike the Air, presented a clear small and light alternative to the Pro. But, like the tiny 11" MacBook Air from a few years back, I don't think the 12-inch MacBook sold well, and it was a weak performer (though not that much weaker than the current Air), and it was hampered by having only one port. It was Apple's experiment at making an iPad-like Mac, and now I think they'd just prefer you buy an iPad Pro with a keyboard cover if you want an ultraportable computer. If you do still want a 12-inch MacBook, they're still available in the Apple Refurbished and Clearance Store, which you can get to from the very bottom of Apple's home page.

iPod touch: Had you forgotten Apple still sells something called an iPod? I had. The iPod touch is a smaller, weaker, stripped down iPhone with WiFi connectivity only (so, no phone, apart from VOIP apps like Skype and FaceTime that don't require a number). The new one basically just brings the product up to date with all the current capabilities of iOS, and generally resembles a slimmer iPhone 5/5s/SE. It starts at $199.

Mac Pro: Apple finally, after six years of no updates, replaced their "tower" computer with a very fancy, very powerful, very fast, very large, very expensive new model marketed entirely to professionals with high-demand computing needs in fields such as film and science. It starts around $6,000, and that's before you buy a screen. If you want to get Apple's new ultra high end display made just for that machine, it will set you back another $5,000 or so. That pretty much guarantees the Mac Pro will be a niche product, but it looks fantastic. Plus, you can get it with wheels.



iPadOS: Apple has long had three products that run iOS -- iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. The latter is pretty much just an iPhone without the phone, but the iPad has always had expanded capabilities for both users and software developers. And with iOS 13, Apple has added so much iPad specific stuff that they've decided it should have its own (clunky) name -- iPadOS. Among the kinds of things that are being added are support for external drives, better file management, and full-featured desktop versions of web sites in Safari.

It sure looks like they're trying to make iPadOS the replacement for macOS one day, starting by making the iPad into a plausible Mac laptop alternative. I am sometimes asked why Apple doesn't make touch screen computers, and I think the iPad is their answer to that question. Yes, a Mac can do much more than an iPad can, but it's more complex to use, and Apple aspires to simplicity. I don't know that I see longtime Mac users switching to an iPad, but Apple figures we'll all die off one day. All hail iPadOS, the simpler, less capable, touchable, more reliable, more secure, more centrally controlled operating system. Personally, I'm not there yet, and don't know that I'll ever be, but your mileage may vary, and we'll see what iPadOS has to offer in the fall.

iOS: iOS 13 (and iPadOS) will run on iPhone 6s or newer. Apple's doing a lot to enhance the capabilities of many apps and the operating system, but there's no one marquee feature. Some of the more noteworthy, in my opinion; are: Dark Mode, which offers an optional white-text-on-slate-background look; improved performance, including faster Face ID unlock; more natural sounding Siri speech; two people with AirPods can listen to the same thing on one device; many enhancements to Photos and Camera; improved search in Messages; swiping across keys on the keyboard for faster entry; faster app downloads and launching; robust file management in the Files app, including a downloads folder; battery life enhancements by learning your charging patterns; Apple ID's for employees in a business; better Find My iPhone based on nearby iPhones picking up your phone's Bluetooth signal (which is bananas); many enhancements to the Health app; many enhancements to Mail, including robust text styling and multicolored flag support (finally!); an option to silence unknown callers to fight call spam; systemwide improved text editing. There's quite a lot more that iOS 13 brings, and I'll have more to say when it's here.

macOS: Mac OS Catalina (10.15) has fewer obvious user enhancements than iOS does, but it sure does have a lot of under the hood changes. I'd wait at least a few months after release before getting it, and don't even think about installing it without ensuring you have a full backup first (e.g. with Time Machine). Many of the changes are geared towards bridging the gap between macOS and i(Pad)OS, such as by breaking up iTunes into separate apps named Music, TV, and Podcasts, and by enabling developers to more easily write a single app for both Mac and mobile. Other changes are oriented around security and privacy. One nifty feature is Sidecar, which lets you use an iPad as a second screen, and drawing tablet, for your Mac.

Beware of one major change: 32-bit apps, like Microsoft Office 2008 and 2011, Quicken 2007, FileMaker 11, and other stalwart old versions, will not run, at all, under Catalina. Most 32-bit apps you're likely to have can be upgraded by shelling out for a new version, but some apps abandoned by their developers may simply be left behind. To be fair, Apple has supported 32-bit apps under a 64-bit OS for over ten years, so this isn't completely unreasonable. If you're wondering whether you have 32-bit apps, the free utility Go64 will tell you; plus, if you're running Mojave (10.14), you're regularly warned when you open a 32-bit app that it is "not optimized" for your Mac.

watchOS (Apple Watch) and tvOS (Apple TV) and audioOS (HomePod): Did you know there even was audioOS? That's what runs HomePod, Apple's smart speaker that hasn't exactly set the world on fire. Anyway, the "appliance" operating systems, themselves all based on iOS, are all getting updates. Apple Watch will get its very own app store, but developers still won't be able to make their own watch faces, which is what I personally would want. Apple TV will support Apple TV+, the confusingly named subscription service Apple is launching, as well as allowing you to subscribe to some channels without needing individual apps and accounts. See April's newsletter for more about that.


I know that was a lot to grind through, but hopefully you feel edified. If you have any questions, give us a shout!

(July 2019)

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