Posts

Apple Introduces New iPad Air, iPad Pro, Apple Pencil Pro, and Magic Keyboard

After no new iPads throughout 2023, Apple has unveiled new 11-inch and 13-inch iPad Air and iPad Pro models, plus a more capable Apple Pencil Pro and a redesigned Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro. The company also refined the iPad lineup by dropping the ninth-generation iPad and reducing the price of the tenth-generation iPad to $349. Only the iPad mini was left untouched. We wouldn’t be surprised to see a new iPad and iPad mini before the end of 2024.

iPad Air Adds 13-inch Model and Moves to the M2 Chip

The 11-inch iPad Air has long been Apple’s mid-range iPad, offering more power and better specs than the iPad while leaving the high end to the iPad Pro. With this refresh, Apple significantly enhanced the lineup by adding a 13-inch model of the iPad Air, a screen size previously limited to the iPad Pro. Both iPad Air models now position their front-facing camera on the longer landscape edge, so you appear to others on landscape-orientation calls as if you’re looking directly at them rather than off to the side, as happened with the previous shorter portrait edge location. They continue to use Touch ID via a top-mounted sensor.

Apple switched the iPad Air from the M1 to the M2 chip, improving performance by 50%. Storage has also increased, with the base level jumping from 64 GB to 128 GB. For those needing more space, Apple now provides storage tiers of 256 GB, 512 GB, and 1 TB. Finally, Apple updated the iPad Air with the latest wireless technologies, Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3.

Those who want a keyboard can purchase the current Magic Keyboard for $299 (11-inch) or $349 (13-inch), and the new iPad Air models are compatible with the new $129 Apple Pencil Pro and the $79 USB-C Apple Pencil.

The 11-inch iPad Air starts at $599, and the 13-inch iPad Air at $799. Adding 5G cellular connectivity increases the price by $150. Moving to 256 GB bumps the price by $100, 512 GB adds $300, and 1 TB costs $500 more. You can choose from four subtle colors—blue, purple, starlight, and space gray—and you can order now with units arriving next week.

iPad Pro Gains M4 Chip and Ultra Retina XDR Display in Thinnest Apple Product Ever

While the new iPad Air models feel like modernized versions of the previous iPad Pro models, the new iPad Pro models break new ground. They boast new Ultra Retina XDR displays that leverage OLED technology that promises brighter highlights, deeper blacks, and faster response times. They’re noticeably better and brighter than the iPad Air Liquid Retina screens, which are already pretty good. Because Apple targets the iPad Pro at professional photographers and cinematographers who need the best display accuracy, there’s even a nano-texture glass option that reduces glare.

As with the iPad Air, the front-facing camera is now located on the longer landscape edge, along with the Face ID sensor. Surprisingly, the rear-facing camera isn’t as capable as the previous models, which sported Wide and Ultra Wide cameras and supported 2x optical zoom. The new models drop the Ultra Wide camera and retain just the 12-megapixel Wide camera. However, they now feature an adaptive True Tone flash that improves document scanning by stitching together multiple photos to eliminate the shadows that plague most camera-based scans.

In part because of the Ultra Retina XDR display, the new iPad Pro models are thinner than before, so much so that the 13-inch iPad Pro is the thinnest product Apple has ever made at 5.1 mm thick. More impressive is that the 13-inch model also shed nearly a quarter of a pound in weight—103 grams. Ignore the fact that the iPad Pro is now thinner and lighter than the iPad Air, and that the iPad Air is the mid-range iPad, but the MacBook Air is the low-end MacBook. Air is just a name now.

To power the Ultra Retina XDR display and make the iPad Pro models as thin as they are, Apple leapfrogged a chip generation, moving from the M2 to the new M4, which hasn’t appeared in any Macs yet. Apple says the M4’s CPU is 50% faster than the M2 in the previous models, and its GPU is up to four times faster.

For those who want a keyboard, the new iPad Pros are compatible only with the just-released Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro ($299 for 11-inch, $349 for 13-inch). As with the iPad Air, you can use either the new $129 Apple Pencil Pro or the $79 USB-C Apple Pencil.

Pricing for the 11-inch iPad Pro starts at $999, with the 13-inch iPad Pro at $1299. 5G cellular connectivity adds $200. Storage starts at 256 GB, up from 128 GB, and Apple offers tiers of 512 GB ($200 more), 1 TB ($600), and 2 TB ($1000). The nano-texture glass also adds $100 and is available only for models with 1 TB or 2 TB of storage. The only available colors are black and silver.

Apple Releases Apple Pencil Pro and Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro

For artists, students, and others who like precise stylus input, the new Apple Pencil Pro offers a variety of new sensors and capabilities. A sensor in the barrel detects a squeeze that brings up a tool palette, and a gyroscope notices when you roll the barrel to change the orientation of shaped pen and brush tools. A new haptic engine provides confirmation of actions like squeezing, double tapping, and snapping to a Smart Shape. When used with the iPad Pro, the Apple Pencil Pro pairs, charges, and is stored on the side using a magnetic interface. If you lose it, you can now locate it with Find My.

While the new iPad Air models work with the existing Magic Keyboard, the new iPad Pro models are compatible only with the new Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro. It retains the design that floats the iPad Pro above the keyboard but adds a function row of keys for features like screen brightness and volume. The palm rest is made of aluminum, and it has a larger trackpad with haptic feedback, so it feels more like using a MacBook. It attaches magnetically and uses the Smart Connector to connect power and data without Bluetooth—there’s also a USB-C connector in the hinge for charging.

Buying Advice

All these products are available for order now and will ship next week. Who should buy what? Apple’s comparison page can be helpful, but here’s our advice:

  • iPad: With the price drop to $349, the tenth-generation iPad becomes a remarkable deal, and it’s an ideal iPad for watching videos, browsing the Web, reading email, and other basic tasks.
  • iPad mini: If smaller is better for you, the iPad mini remains in the lineup, starting at $499. It performs slightly better than the iPad, but its size is the main reason to buy it.
  • iPad Air: The iPad Air is the workhorse of the iPad line, with sufficient performance to do nearly anything you want. The addition of the 13-inch model is particularly welcome because it’s $500 cheaper than the equivalently sized iPad Pro. Buy the iPad Air if you want to do more than the basics with your iPad.
  • iPad Pro: The technology in the iPad Pro is impressive, but so is the cost. As with the Mac lineup, the Pro models are mainly targeted at creative professionals who need the ultimate power and are willing to pay for it.

A related question surrounds upgrades. Generally speaking, upgrading to a new iPad may not be worthwhile if you have the previous model. However, once you’re two generations back, the performance increases tend to be significant. The caveat to that advice is that if an iPad isn’t doing what you want, it’s time to upgrade. For instance, if you have an M1 iPad Air that runs your drawing app slower than you’d like, it’s worth considering either an M2 iPad Air or an M4 iPad Pro, depending on how important performance is to you.

Regardless, contact us if you have any questions about what iPad makes the most sense for you.

(Featured image by Apple)


Social Media: Apple has released new 11-inch and 13-inch iPad Air and iPad Pro models, plus a new Apple Pencil Pro and Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro. We round up the new features and provide advice on what to consider for your next iPad.

Apple Announces New MacBook Air Lineup with M3 Chip

In November 2023, Apple unveiled the M3 chip in new versions of the 24-inch iMac and MacBook Pro, causing speculation about when other Mac models would be updated to match. If you’ve been longing for a MacBook Air with an M3 chip, your wait is over. (And we expect Apple to update the Mac mini soon.)

Apple has now announced M3 versions of the 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Air. For most Mac laptop users who don’t need the additional speed of the M3 Pro or M3 Max chips in the MacBook Pro lineup, these new MacBook Air models combine excellent performance with low prices. The 13-inch MacBook Air starts at $1,099, and the 15-inch model starts at $1,299.

Nothing has changed regarding size, weight, and industrial design, and nearly all the specs remain identical to the previous M2 MacBook Air models. There are three notable differences:

  • The M3 chip: Although the earlier M1 and M2 chips are no slouches, the M3 chip provides even better performance. Benchmarks suggest a 25% to 35% improvement over the M1, and Apple cites real-world examples where the M3 is 35% to 60% faster than the M1. Compared to the M2, the M3 is probably 10% to 20% faster.
  • Support for two external displays: Previously, the MacBook Air could drive only one external display. These new models, however, can drive one external display at up to 6K resolution and another at up to 5K resolution, as long as the lid is closed. (Apple says a software update will enable the same capability for the 14-inch M3 MacBook Pro.)
  • Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3 wireless connectivity: These upgrades aren’t exciting, but they bring the MacBook Air up to par with other recent Apple devices and industry standards. Both provide faster, more robust wireless connectivity, but only when used with other compatible gear.

Should you buy one of these new MacBook Air models? It all depends on what you use now:

  • Intel-based Mac laptop: In terms of performance, the M3 MacBook Air will blow the doors off any Intel-based Mac laptop, and we strongly encourage you to upgrade. The main area where the MacBook Air might disappoint is in the number of ports. It charges via MagSafe 3 and has two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports, which are sufficient for an external display and a Time Machine backup drive, for instance. If you need more ports, a Thunderbolt hub is probably in your future.
  • M1 or M2 MacBook Air or MacBook Pro: Although the M3 chip is faster than the base-level M1 and M2, our experience is that most people with those Macs aren’t suffering from performance problems. So no, don’t upgrade. If you need more performance, a MacBook Pro with an M3 Pro or M3 Max chip makes more sense.
  • No laptop: For most students getting their first computer or someone who’s adding a laptop to complement a desktop Mac, the M3 MacBook Air models are extremely attractive. We recommend the higher-end MacBook Pro models only for those who anticipate doing processor-intensive audio, video, photo, or development work.

Finally, if you’re pinching pennies, you can still buy the 13-inch M2 MacBook Air starting at $999, and even if you customize it with more memory or storage, you’ll save $100.

You have four decisions to make once you’ve decided to buy a new M3 MacBook Air. We’re happy to consult on your specific situation, but here’s our general advice:

  • Memory: The base amount of memory on the M3 chip is 8 GB (it’s on the chip and can’t be upgraded later), but you can get versions that come with 16 GB or 24 GB. 8 GB is acceptable for casual use, but 16 GB is safer if you want to run a bunch of apps or may have more involved needs in the future. Get 24 GB only if you use memory-intensive apps.
  • Storage: The base level of storage is 256 GB, which isn’t much. We know many people with photo libraries larger than that. You can upgrade to 512 GB, 1 TB, or 2 TB. Note that if you have a lot of old, seldom-needed files, it may be better to order only 512 GB of storage, for instance, and buy an inexpensive external SSD for your archives.
  • Processor: The M3 comes in two versions. Both have 8 CPU cores, but one has only 8 GPU cores, whereas the other has 10 GPU cores. The 8/8 version is available only in the 13-inch MacBook Air and only if you don’t expand memory beyond 8 GB or storage beyond 256 GB. Get the low-end version only if you’re sure you don’t need more memory or storage.
  • Screen size: You must choose a 13.6-inch or 15.3-inch Liquid Retina screen. The 15-inch screen is undeniably larger and displays more content, but the overall Mac is about an inch (2.25–3.5 cm) larger in both dimensions, and it weighs 3.3 pounds (1.51 kg) compared to 2.7 pounds (1.24 kg) for the 13-inch model. This decision is purely personal preference, and we recommend checking out each one in person before buying.

For most Mac laptop users, the M3 MacBook Air models are compelling and well worth a look.

(Featured image by Apple)


Social Media: Apple has announced 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Air models based on the M3 chip. Along with faster performance, they can drive two external displays when the MacBook Air’s lid is closed. Read our buying advice here:

Feel Free to Upgrade to macOS 14 Sonoma When You’re Ready

Although we’re cautious about recommending that people upgrade to the latest major release of macOS, we think Apple has done a good enough job with macOS 14 Sonoma that anyone who wants to upgrade can do so now. That doesn’t mean you have to upgrade immediately, but there’s no major reason most people need to delay.

Our confidence comes from our positive experience working with those who have upgraded to Sonoma and the fact that Sonoma has received only three updates so far.  None included significant bug fixes:

  • macOS 14.1 fixed two bugs that could reset the System Services settings within Location Services and prevent encrypted external drives from mounting.
  • macOS 14.1.1 came with generic release notes, but the community discovered that it fixed a bug introduced in 14.1 that affected Photoshop and another that could prevent a new M3 24-inch iMac that shipped with macOS 13 Ventura from upgrading to Sonoma.
  • macOS 14.1.2 focused on fixing two WebKit-related security vulnerabilities that were exploited in iOS.

Apple will likely release another update before the end of the year, probably macOS 14.2, with some promised features, a few more bug fixes, and the usual handful of security improvements. After that, the company will continue with an update every month or so to address newly discovered bugs and security vulnerabilities.

That said, you can put off the Sonoma upgrade as long as you’re running macOS 12 Monterey or macOS 13 Ventura and are staying current with Apple’s security updates. Earlier macOS versions no longer receive security fixes, rendering them more vulnerable to attack. Possible reasons to continue delaying include:

  • You’re too busy. The upgrade process will take a few hours, plus some additional time to configure everything properly afterward. When you are ready to upgrade, aim for when a little downtime will be convenient.
  • You rely on incompatible software. The jump from Monterey or Ventura to Sonoma isn’t a big one, so most modern apps should have been updated by now. But if you’re still running macOS 10.14 Mojave or earlier with 32-bit apps, you’ll lose access to them if you upgrade. There’s nothing new here—32-bit apps stopped working in macOS 10.15 Catalina in 2019. Rather than delaying, consider running Mojave and your 32-bit apps in a virtual machine using VMware Fusion or Parallels Desktop.
  • You need consistent versions for workflow reasons. We’re unaware of any examples here, but it’s conceivable that a coworker could be stuck on an older version of macOS and older versions of shared productivity apps. If your upgrade would force you to update those apps and introduce compatibility issues when collaborating with that coworker, you may have to wait until your coworker can upgrade as well.

Sonoma won’t transform your experience of using a Mac, but it has new features you might appreciate. The most noticeable is probably desktop widgets that provide updated information at a glance—you can even add widgets from your iPhone. Sonoma also lets you turn websites in Safari into standalone apps, enjoy aerial screensavers from the Apple TV, create a video overlay of yourself on video calls when sharing your screen, autofill PDF forms, and use the keyboard while dictating.

Before You Upgrade

Once you’ve decided to upgrade to Sonoma, you have three main tasks:

  • Update apps: Make sure all your apps are as up-to-date as possible. If you regularly put off updates, now’s the time to let them complete so you have Sonoma-compatible versions.
  • Clear space: Sonoma may need as much as 25 GB of free space to upgrade, and the Sonoma installer itself is about 12 GB, so we recommend making sure you have at least 37 GB free. Don’t cut this close—you should always have at least 10–20% free space for virtual memory, cache files, and breathing room. Check in Ventura by choosing System Settings > General > Storage; in earlier versions of macOS, choose About This Mac from the Apple menu and click Storage. System Settings provides quick ways to free up space. Another easy one for iCloud Drive users is to Control-click large folders and choose Remove Download to “evict” the local versions of those files temporarily; Box, Dropbox, and Google Drive have similar features.
  • Make a backup: Never, ever install an update to macOS without ensuring you have at least one current backup first. In an ideal world, you’d have an updated Time Machine backup, a duplicate, and an Internet backup. That way, if something goes wrong, you can quickly revert.

Upgrading

After completing those tasks, ensure you won’t need your Mac for a few hours. There’s no telling exactly how long the upgrade will take, so never start an upgrade if you need the Mac soon.

Initiating the upgrade is just a matter of opening System Settings > General > Software Update in Ventura (System Preferences > Software Update in previous versions of macOS), clicking the Upgrade Now button, and following the instructions. If you’d like more handholding, check out Joe Kissell’s ebook Take Control of Sonoma.

After You Upgrade

Part of the reason to set aside plenty of time for your Sonoma upgrade is that there are usually cleanup tasks afterward. We can’t predict precisely what you’ll run into, depending on what version of macOS you’re running now and what apps you use, but here are a few situations we’ve noticed in the past:

  • macOS may need to update its authentication situation by asking for your Apple ID password, your Mac’s password, and if you have another Mac, its password as well. Don’t worry that your Mac has been compromised by malware—it’s fine.
  • Some apps may have to ask for various permissions even though you previously granted them. Again, that’s fine and won’t happen again.
  • If you use your Apple Watch to unlock your Mac and apps (and you should, it’s great!), you may need to re-enable that in System Settings > Touch ID & Password (or Login Password on a non-Touch ID-enabled Mac (previously, it was in System Preferences > Security & Privacy > General).
  • If you use Gmail, Google Calendar, or other Google services, you may need to log in to your Google account again.
  • Websites that usually remember your login state may require that you log in again. If you’re using a password manager like 1Password, that’s easy.
  • You may have to re-enable text message forwarding to your Mac. You do this on your iPhone in Settings > Messages > Text Message Forwarding.

With all that housekeeping done, it’s time to check out all the new features in Sonoma!

(Featured image by Apple)


Social Media: When should you upgrade to macOS 14 Sonoma? There’s no need to install it today, but we think it’s now safe for those who want to take advantage of the new features and integration with Apple’s other operating systems.

Apple Announces iPhone 15 Lineup, Apple Watch Series 9, and Apple Watch Ultra 2

September is here, and with it, Apple’s latest iPhones and Apple Watches. At its Wonderlust event on September 12, Apple threw back the curtains on the new iPhone 15 lineup, Apple Watch Series 9, and Apple Watch Ultra 2. These devices all provide incremental improvements that make them attractive to people planning to purchase a new iPhone or Apple Watch, though they may not be irresistible upgrades for those still happy with older models. You can pre-order any of them starting September 15, with delivery and in-store availability on September 22.

Alongside the announcement, Apple revealed that iOS 17, iPadOS 17, watchOS 10, tvOS 17, and HomePod Software 17 will become available on September 18, with macOS 14 Sonoma arriving on September 26. Wait a week or two before installing this first batch of updates on essential devices to avoid any last-minute bugs, and hold off on Sonoma for a few months or until you’re confident your necessary Mac apps are compatible. Regardless of when you upgrade, make a backup right before in case an unexpected problem forces you to erase and restore.

Let’s look at each of the new products.

iPhone 15 Lineup

Last year, Apple moved to a four-part iPhone lineup that continues this year, with the 6.1-inch iPhone 15 and the 6.7-inch iPhone 15 Plus. On the high end, we get the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max, again in those 6.1-inch and 6.7-inch sizes. The company updated the industrial design with slightly contoured corners. The iPhone 15 models come in five pastel colors with an aluminum enclosure and color-infused back glass, whereas the iPhone 15 Pro models now boast a titanium enclosure in four colors.

Along with the updated industrial design, all the iPhone 15 models share three notable changes:

  • USB-C for charging and data transfer: Driven by new European Union regulations, the iPhone 15 models all trade their Lightning port for a USB-C jack. Although it will be annoying to keep both Lightning and USB-C cables around until all Lightning devices have aged out, many Apple users already have USB-C cables and chargers for iPads and MacBooks.
  • Roadside Assistance via satellite: This extension of Emergency SOS via satellite allows anyone experiencing vehicle difficulties in a cellular dead zone to get help using satellite messaging. Apple includes access to satellite services for 2 years, and AAA membership in the US includes the roadside service. Those who aren’t AAA members will be able to purchase service separately.
  • Better Precision Finding: The iPhone 15 and new Apple Watch models all have a second-generation Ultra Wideband chip that lets users employ Precision Finding in the Find My app to locate each other accurately at a much greater range. Apple suggests you can use it to find iPhone 15-equipped friends in a crowd.

Although the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus aren’t as technologically capable as their Pro siblings, they’re more interesting than the iPhone 14 models they supplant. They receive increased performance thanks to the A16 Bionic chip from the iPhone 14 Pro, and the chip also enables computational photography improvements on top of a new 48-megapixel camera. Also inherited from the iPhone 14 Pro is the Dynamic Island, which displays alerts and Live Activities in the area surrounding the camera and sensor package at the top of the screen, eliminating the need for a notch.

Even though there’s more new on the Pro end, the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max don’t make as significant a jump from their iPhone 14 Pro predecessors. The change everyone will notice is the new Action button that replaces the Ring/Silent switch. You can press and hold it to put an iPhone 15 Pro into silent mode or redefine it to activate Voice Memos, set Focus modes, access the camera or flashlight, enable Accessibility options, or launch a Shortcut. 

The 48-megapixel main camera gains additional computational photography capability thanks to the new A17 Pro chip underpinning the iPhone 15 Pro models, but the most noteworthy enhancement is restricted to the iPhone 15 Pro Max. A tetraprism design enables its Telephoto camera to achieve a 5x optical zoom, an unprecedented capability available only for photographers who don’t mind the 6.7-inch form factor.

Several other improvements are technically impressive but likely of interest and utility only to media professionals. The iPhone 15 Pro’s USB-C port supports USB 3 transfer speeds up to 10 gigabits per second (the iPhone 15 is limited to USB 2.0’s pokey 480 megabits per second), and support for Wi-Fi 6e will enable faster wireless transfers. Both will be welcome to those transferring large image, audio, or video files.

Pricing remains basically the same, with the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus starting at $799 and $899 for 128 GB of storage, with 256 GB and 512 GB options. The iPhone 15 Pro costs $999 for 128 GB, with 256 GB, 512 GB, and 1 TB storage options. The iPhone 15 Pro Max is $1199 for 256 GB, with 512 GB and 1 TB storage options. If those prices are too steep for your budget, the iPhone SE ($429), iPhone 13 ($599), and iPhone 14 ($699) all remain for sale.

It might be worth upgrading from an iPhone 14 to an iPhone 15 for the 48-megapixel camera and Dynamic Island, but it’s harder to recommend an upgrade from an iPhone 14 Pro unless you find the 5x Telephoto camera indispensable. Otherwise, the older your current iPhone, the more you’ll be impressed by the new models.

Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2

Last year brought the release of the beefy Apple Watch Ultra, so it wasn’t surprising that Apple gave us the Apple Watch Ultra 2 this year alongside the Apple Watch Series 9. They have no industrial design changes, and their improvements are driven by the increased performance and efficiency of Apple’s new S9 SiP (a package containing multiple chips).

Most notable among the changes is a new double tap gesture, which relies on the S9’s faster Neural Engine to detect when your index finger and thumb perform a double tap. watchOS 10 interprets the gesture as activating the primary button in an app, so it can be used to answer or end a phone call, stop a timer, play and pause music, snooze an alarm, take a photo, or open and scroll through the new watchOS 10 Smart Stack from the watch face. It will be available next month. 

Other S9-driven improvements include:

  • Brighter displays: The Apple Watch Series 9 can now display up to 2000 nits, and the Apple Watch Ultra 2 can go up to 3000 nits, making them more readable in bright sunlight.
  • On-device Siri: Siri requests that don’t require information from the Internet can now be processed on the Apple Watch locally, making Siri more helpful for starting workouts or setting timers when there’s no cellular or Wi-Fi connectivity.
  • More capable and accurate Siri: You can now use Siri to access Health data such as sleep hours, Activity ring progress, and more. Plus, you can use Siri to log health data such as weight, period, or medications taken. These capabilities will be available later this year. Apple also claims 25% more accurate dictation.
  • Precision Finding and HomePod integration: The second-generation Ultra Wideband chip in the S9 enables the Precision Finding feature that can direct you to a lost iPhone 15 rather than just playing a sound. Also, when you get close to a HomePod, the Apple Watch provides media controls or offers media suggestions in the Smart Stack.

Finally, both the original Apple Watch Ultra and the new model gain a new Modular Ultra watch face that uses the outermost edge of the large display to present real-time data like seconds, altitude, or depth.

The Apple Watch Series 9 starts at $399 for a 41mm aluminum GPS-only model; 45mm models are $30 more, and cellular connectivity adds $100. It’s available in pink, midnight, starlight, silver, and PRODUCT(RED). In stainless steel, pricing starts at $699 for a 41mm model and includes cellular connectivity; the 45mm models are $50 more. Some textile bands and all stainless steel bands cost an additional $50 to $300. The Apple Watch Ultra 2 remains $799 with an Alpine Loop, Trail Loop, or Ocean Band.

While undoubtedly the most capable watches Apple has ever produced, these new models don’t offer enough new to warrant an upgrade from last year’s models. They’re great for those getting started with the Apple Watch or upgrading from a much older version. Don’t forget that Apple still sells the Apple Watch SE, which lacks the Always-On display and ECG capabilities of the Series 9 but is $150 less expensive. Apple’s comparison page can help you tease out the differences.

(Featured image by Apple)


Social Media: At its Wonderlust event, Apple introduced the iPhone 15 lineup, the Apple Watch Series 9, and the Apple Watch Ultra 2. For the most part, they’re incremental upgrades, making them most compelling to those upgrading from much older devices.

At WWDC23, Apple Releases New Macs, Previews New OS Features, and Unveils Vision Pro

Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference keynote (full video or 2-minute recap) is primarily an opportunity for Apple to give developers a first look at new features coming in its operating systems, and this year was no exception. However, Apple sandwiched those feature reveals between announcements of new Macs and the unveiling of its mixed-reality Vision Pro headset, due next year. Here’s what you should know.

New Macs Complete the Transition to Apple Silicon

Apple introduced three new Macs, the 15-inch MacBook Air, Mac Studio models with faster chips, and the first Apple silicon Mac Pro, all of which are available to order now and start shipping on June 13.

  • 15-inch M2 MacBook Air: This new consumer-level laptop is nearly identical to the 13-inch M2 MacBook Air, apart from its 15.3-inch screen and array of six speakers. It starts at just $1299, and the 13-inch model drops $100 to start at $1099. It’s an excellent machine for students or anyone who wants a highly capable laptop with a larger screen for less than the 14-inch or 16-inch MacBook Pro.
  • Mac Studio: The new Mac Studio is unchanged other than swapping last year’s M1 Max and M1 Ultra chips for the higher-performance M2 Max and new M2 Ultra, which combines two M2 Max chips. The M2 Ultra boasts a 24-core CPU, lets you choose between 60-core and 76-core GPU models, offers a higher unified memory ceiling of 192 GB, and can drive up to eight displays. The improvements may not be worth replacing an M1-based Mac Studio, but the gains over an Intel-based iMac or Mac Pro are significant. Pricing starts at $1999 for the M2 Max and $3999 for the M2 Ultra.
  • Mac Pro: The long-awaited Mac Pro retains the form factor of the last Intel-based Mac Pro—complete with $400 optional wheels—but differs radically inside. It relies on the same M2 Ultra chip as in the Mac Studio but has open slots for six full-length PCI Express gen 4 cards and provides eight built-in Thunderbolt 4 ports. Apple claims it is 3–7 times faster than the Intel-based Mac Pro, but the details will likely vary by situation. For instance, the M2 Ultra reportedly provides the performance of seven of Apple’s $2000 Afterburner cards for accelerating ProRes and ProRes RAW video codecs. But the M2 Ultra maxes out at 192 GB of unified memory that’s faster and more efficiently used, whereas the Intel-based Mac Pro could accept up to 1.5 TB of traditional RAM. Pricing starts at $6999 for a tower enclosure and $7499 for a rack enclosure. It’s big iron for demanding workflows.

With the release of the Mac Pro, Apple dropped the last Intel-based Mac from its lineup. That doesn’t mean the company will stop supporting recent Intel-based iMacs in the next version or two of macOS, but that will happen sometime in the next few years. Plan to replace Intel-based Macs eventually—you’ll appreciate the significant performance gains from Apple’s M-series Macs.

Top New Operating System Features Coming in 2023

As always, Apple previewed oodles of new features while covering many more on its website. We’ll focus on those we think will make the biggest splash in your Apple experience, but take a moment to scroll through Apple’s pages for each operating system to see the full list of what’s coming. Those are linked below, along with their basic system requirements so you can see if your devices will be eligible to upgrade (not all features will be available on all devices):

    • macOS Sonoma: iMac Pro from 2017. MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Mac mini from 2018 and later. iMac and Mac Pro from 2019 and later. Mac Studio from 2022 and later.
    • iOS 17: Second-generation iPhone SE, iPhone XR, and later
    • iPadOS 17: Sixth-generation iPad and later, fifth-generation iPad mini and later, third-generation iPad Air and later, and second-generation iPad Pro and later
    • watchOS 10: Apple Watch Series 4 and newer, including the Apple Watch SE
  • tvOS 17: Apple TV 4K, with fewer features on the older Apple TV HD

Here are some new features we think will most impact your Apple experience.

Contact Posters

Although you can share your preferred photo with others for use in Messages, Contacts, and Photos, when you call someone, all they see is your name. In iOS 17, Apple is introducing Contact Posters, which let you pick a photo or Memoji, along your preferred font. Then the Contact Poster will appear whenever you call someone, making it easier for them to identify who’s calling at a glance.

FaceTime Support on Apple TV

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could take a FaceTime call on your living room TV? It wasn’t impossible before, but Apple didn’t make it easy. With tvOS 17 on an Apple TV 4K, you’ll be able to leverage your iPhone or iPad camera and microphone through Continuity Camera to bring FaceTime conversations to the biggest screen in the house. Center Stage will let you move around the room while staying framed onscreen, and gesture-based reactions let callers create onscreen effects. These capabilities will also arrive later this year for other videoconferencing systems like Zoom or Webex, creating another reason to put an Apple TV in the conference room.

Desktop Widgets on the Mac

Widgets have become commonplace on iPhone and iPad Home screens, but on the Mac, they’ve been relegated to Notification Center. With macOS Sonoma, widgets can now migrate to the desktop, where you can position them anywhere. They’re also interactive, enabling you to control music, toggle the lights, and mark reminders as done. Thanks to Continuity, you can add your iPhone widgets to the Mac desktop, even when there’s no Mac app. Your iPhone has to remain nearby or on the same Wi-Fi network. Remember that you can use a hotkey or hot corner to slide all your windows aside to reveal your desktop at any time.

NameDrop for Sharing Phone Numbers

Sharing phone numbers has never been easier with the new NameDrop feature. Just hold your iPhone near someone else’s iPhone or Apple Watch (Series 6 or later, sometime after the initial watchOS 10 release) to exchange contact information—which you select—along with your Contact Poster. Alas, you’ll still have to type in phone numbers for Android users manually.

Web Apps in Safari

We all have websites that we use heavily, just like a native Mac app. If there’s no Mac version of the app, Safari in macOS Sonoma will let you add the website to your Dock, where it will look and work like a standalone app with its own window, toolbar, and notifications. (If you’re longing for this capability now, check out Unite from BZG.)

Five More Welcome Features

For more reasons to upgrade once these new operating systems are out and stable, consider the following additional features:

  • Live Voicemail: While someone is leaving you a message, Live Voicemail transcribes it and displays it onscreen so you can decide if you want to pick up or not.
  • AirTag sharing: No more awkward notifications when one family member has an AirTag that ends up traveling with other family members.
  • No more “Hey” with Siri: We can hope Siri becomes better at listening, but at least Apple’s letting us invoke Siri with a single word now.
  • Simultaneous dictation and keyboard use in macOS: Being able to dictate and edit text with the keyboard simultaneously has been great in iOS 16, and with macOS Sonoma, you’ll be able to enter text on your Mac just as fluidly.
  • PDF form filling: It will get easier to fill forms in PDFs, with iOS 17, iPadOS 17, and macOS Sonoma automatically filling in your contact information. It’s supposed to work even with scanned PDFs.

Apple usually releases its new operating systems in September or October, and we’ll be writing more about them as we have a chance to test them. Generally speaking, it’s OK to upgrade to everything but macOS shortly after release; with macOS, we recommend caution to ensure all your existing apps and workflows won’t be impacted.

Apple Unveils Vision Pro “Spatial Computer”

And now for something completely different. Apple devoted the final third of its keynote to unveiling a mixed-reality headset it calls Vision Pro. Even though it fits on the user’s head like bulbous ski goggles, Apple prefers to call it a spatial computer. That’s probably to avoid charged terms like metaverse, although the Vision Pro does provide both augmented reality, where digital objects are superimposed on a view of the real world, and virtual reality, where an immersive digital environment blocks out the real world.

Apple said the Vision Pro would ship early next year, starting at $3499. The high price accurately reflects the impressive amounts of technology Apple has shoehorned into the device but puts it out of reach for all but the most inquisitive and flush early adopters. What will the Vision Pro make possible for that money?

The Vision Pro blends digital content with the physical world, providing a three-dimensional interface controlled by the user’s eyes, hands, and voice. Users can display apps as floating windows or bring a Mac’s screen into Vision Pro as an enormous 4K display. Along with controls triggered by eye tracking and hand gestures, plus a virtual keyboard, users can use the Magic Trackpad and Magic Keyboard for faster interaction.

FaceTime calls using the Vision Pro take advantage of the space, putting other callers in life-size tiles and providing a shared screen. Speakers in the headset provide spatial audio, so it sounds like people are speaking from where their tiles are positioned. Vision Pro users don’t show up looking like they’re wearing the headset; instead, they’re represented by a digital avatar Apple calls a Persona. Will it escape the uncanny valley?

The Vision Pro is an easier sell for entertainment, where many people prefer immersive experiences, whether watching a movie on what seems like a 100-foot screen or playing a game where you see nothing but its virtual world. A Digital Crown lets the user control how much of the physical world seeps through around the edges.

If you’re thinking it would be unsettling to be in the same room with someone wearing a Vision Pro, you’re not alone. In an attempt to reduce that sense, a technology called EyeSight makes the device seem transparent—it shows an image of the user’s eyes on a front-facing display for others to see. How effective this will be remains to be seen, but it’s hard to imagine the Vision Pro becoming a fashion accessory.

There’s a great deal more to the Vision Pro, such as its ability to record and play back 3D movies with spatial audio, wrap panorama photos around the user, and use familiar iPhone and iPad apps. Despite the incredible hardware and software that Apple has invented to bring the Vision Pro to fruition, it feels like a technology demo. And it does demo well, judging from reports from people like tech analyst Ben Thompson.

But the Vision Pro is at least 6 months from emerging from Apple’s reality distortion field, and many people are already highly dubious that the company’s vision for the future of computing will do a better job with the real-world tasks we already do with today’s digital devices.

(Featured image by Apple)


Social Media: At WWDC, Apple announced new Macs and new features in the upcoming macOS Sonoma, iOS 17, iPadOS 17, watchOS 10, and tvOS 17. It also unveiled the Vision Pro mixed-reality headset, which offers a glimpse at Apple’s vision for the future of computing.

Apple Powers Mac mini and MacBook Pro with New M2 Chips, Releases New HomePod

With a handful of press releases buttressed by a 19-minute video, Apple pulled back the curtains on its new M2 Pro and M2 Max chips and announced updated Mac mini and MacBook Pro models that rely on the new chips. There are no significant design or feature changes with these updated models, just faster performance, enhanced external display support, and support for the latest wireless connectivity standards. The new Mac mini and MacBook Pro models are available to order now, with units in stores and orders starting to arrive on January 24th.

Then, in another surprise announcement, Apple announced the second-generation HomePod, which updates the full-size smart speaker with a few new features and likely makes it more cost-effective to produce.

New M2 Mac mini and M2 Pro Mac Broaden the Appeal

For many years, the Mac mini has been popular for its small size, low price, and decent performance, bolstered in 2020 by a move from Intel CPUs to Apple’s M1 chip. Apple has now increased the Mac mini’s power even more by letting users choose between the M2 and the new M2 Pro. How much more? It depends greatly on what you’re doing, and Apple offers some comparisons. The improvements will likely be noticeable with the M2 and obvious with the M2 Pro.

The M2 Mac mini starts at $599—$100 less than the starting price for the M1 Mac mini—and provides an 8-core CPU and 10-core GPU with unified memory configurations of 8 GB, 16 GB (add $200), or 24 GB ($400). In terms of storage, the base level is 256 GB, but you can increase that to 512 GB ($200), 1 TB ($400), or 2 TB ($800). It provides only two Thunderbolt 4 ports.

The M2 Pro Mac mini starts at $1299 for a 10-core CPU and 16-core GPU, but you can bump that up to an M2 Pro with a 12-core CPU and 19-core GPU for $300. You also get 16 GB of unified memory and 512 GB of storage for that base price. 32 GB of memory costs $400 more, and storage upgrades are 1 TB ($200), 2 TB ($600), 4 TB ($1200), and 8 TB ($2400). It offers more connectivity with four Thunderbolt 4 ports. Note that as you configure a powerful M2 Mac mini, you’ll be straying into Mac Studio territory in terms of both price and performance.

Both Mac mini models boast enhanced external display support. Read the tech specs for full details, but in essence, along with multiple monitor support over Thunderbolt, the HDMI port on an M2 Pro Mac mini supports either an 8K display or a 4K display running at a faster refresh rate, which might be a boon in video-focused fields. Other improvements that may be welcome in specific setups include the option to add 10 Gigabit Ethernet for $100, support for Wi-Fi 6E (which can improve throughput over short distances with a new router), and Bluetooth 5.3.

The updated Mac mini replaces both the M1 Mac mini and the Intel-based Mac mini that Apple had left in the lineup until now.

It probably won’t be long before Apple releases an M2 24-inch iMac, too. We know that some are pining for a 27-inch iMac with Apple silicon, and we’ll just have to wait to see if Apple returns to that form factor with either an iMac or iMac Pro. We can also expect M2 versions of the Mac Studio at some point, but we’ll have to wait for Apple to come out with an M2 Ultra chip if it’s to maintain the same lineup as today’s M1 family.

M2 Pro and M2 Max Speed Up 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro

Since their October 2021 release, Apple’s professional laptops, the 14-inch MacBook Pro and 16-inch MacBook Pro, have provided impressive processing power thanks to their M1 Pro and M1 Max chips. Apple has now switched to the new M2 Pro and M2 Max chips, and the company says that both offer 20% more CPU performance, 30% more GPU performance, and 40% more Neural Engine performance than their predecessors. As with the Mac mini, the updated MacBook Pro models also feature enhanced external display support (see the tech specs for full details), Wi-Fi 6E, and Bluetooth 5.3. Finally, Apple estimates they’ll have an hour more battery life.

The 14-inch MacBook Pro starts at $1999 for an M2 Pro with a 10-core CPU and 16-core GPU, 16 GB of memory, and 512 GB of storage. Chip upgrades include the 12/19-core (CPU/GPU) M2 Pro ($300), the 12/30 M2 Max ($500), and the 12/38 M2 Max ($700). With memory, the M2 Pro configurations can upgrade to 32 GB ($400), whereas the M2 Max configurations start at 32 GB and let you go to 64 GB ($400) or 96 GB ($800, with the 12/38 M2 Max only).

The 16-inch MacBook Pro costs $2499 for an M2 Pro with a 12-core CPU and 19-core GPU, 16 GB of memory, and 512 GB of storage. Chip upgrades include the 12/30 M2 Max ($200) and the 12/38 M2 Max ($400). Memory is the same as with the 14-inch MacBook Pro, so the M2 Pro configuration can upgrade to 32 GB ($400), and the M2 Max configurations start at 32 GB and let you go to 64 GB ($400) or 96 GB ($800, with the 12/38 M2 Max only).

Given that these new MacBook Pro models provide more performance and battery life for the same prices as before, their release is entirely positive. If you were waiting for an M2 Pro or M2 Max laptop, now’s the time to place an order.

Apple Brings Back the Full-Size HomePod

Apple released the original HomePod in 2018, but even after dropping the price from $349 to $299, sales weren’t strong enough thanks to competition from much cheaper smart speakers from Amazon and Google. Apple discontinued the HomePod in 2021 and focused on the $99 HomePod mini. Now Apple has brought the full-size HomePod back, introducing a second-generation HomePod with a few extra features and the same $299 price. You can order it now in white or midnight, which replaces space gray, and it ships on February 3rd.

The new HomePod supports spatial audio with Dolby Atmos for music and video, which should enhance the listening experience. For those getting into home automation, it includes a sensor for temperature and humidity, and you’ll be able to use the Home app to create automations to control blinds, fans, and thermostats. It also supports the new Matter home automation standard. Finally, Apple says that a software update in a few months will add Sound Recognition, which will let the HomePod alert you if it hears smoke or carbon monoxide alarms. Wouldn’t you like to know if an alarm is going off while you’re away from home?

One note. You can use two HomePods to create a stereo pair, but both HomePods must be the same model. So you can’t pair an original HomePod with a second-generation HomePod or mix an HomePod mini with either one.

The main question, which we won’t be able to answer until the second-generation HomePod ships, is if it sounds as good as the original HomePod and hears Siri commands as well. That’s a question because Apple redesigned the HomePod’s audio hardware to use fewer tweeters and microphones. Plus, it relies on the S7 chip that powers the Apple Watch Series 7, as opposed to the A8 that first appeared in the iPhone 6. In short, it seems that Apple has worked to cut costs to enable the necessary profit margins. Given that Amazon’s hardware division reportedly lost $10 billion in 2022 by selling Echo smart speakers at cost, Apple’s move seems sensible, at least as long as it doesn’t hurt the HomePod user experience.

(Featured image by Apple)


Social Media: Apple has unveiled the M2 Pro and M2 Max chips and announced the M2 Mac mini and M2 Pro Mac mini, plus the M2 Pro and M2 Max models of the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro. Oh, and a new HomePod! Read all about it at:

Apple Releases New iPad, iPad Pro, and Apple TV

In a series of press releases—no big video event this time—Apple has announced upgrades to the iPad, iPad Pro, and Apple TV. The new models are largely evolutionary, with changes that are welcome but unlikely to change your iPad or Apple TV experience. All are available to order now, with the new iPads arriving on October 26th and the new Apple TV hitting stores on November 4th.

One other note. iPadOS 16 and macOS 13 Ventura ship on October 24th. iPadOS 16 is probably safe to install soon, given the extent to which it’s similar to iOS 16, though the Stage Manager window management feature still has rough edges. Do not upgrade to Ventura until we’ve had a chance to evaluate its stability and compatibility.

New Tenth-Generation iPad Has iPad Air-like Design, Higher Price

The product receiving the most significant changes is the iPad, now in its tenth generation. Apple redesigned it to look and work more like the iPad Air, with squared-off sides, an all-screen design, a 10.9-inch display, USB-C instead of Lightning, and Touch ID in the top button. Also like the iPad Air, the iPad now has a 12-megapixel rear-facing camera and features Wi-Fi 6 plus 5G support in the cellular models for faster connectivity. Perhaps most interestingly, Apple finally repositioned the front-facing 12-megapixel camera along the landscape (long) edge of the iPad so you’ll be looking into the camera for video calls. Oddly, the new iPad Pro models didn’t also receive this improvement.

Despite the similarities, the iPad Air retains its technical superiority (and justifies its higher price) in two big ways. First, the tenth-generation iPad relies on the A14 Bionic chip that’s faster than the ninth-generation iPad’s older A13 Bionic but slower than the iPad Air’s higher-performance M1 chip. Second, the tenth-generation iPad remains compatible only with the first-generation Apple Pencil, presumably because Apple left the wireless charging hardware out to cut costs. Since the new iPad switches from Lightning to USB-C, you’ll need a $9 USB-C to Lightning adapter to pair and charge the Lightning-based Apple Pencil—that’s awkward.

Apple also introduced a new keyboard exclusively for the tenth-generation iPad, the Magic Keyboard Folio. It features full-size keys, a large trackpad, and a 14-key function row. The two-piece design separates the keyboard from the back cover, so you can fold the keyboard behind the iPad or detach it entirely when you’re not using it. The back cover has an adjustable stand for positioning the iPad at several angles. It’s available only in white.

The only problem is that all these changes come at a cost. Historically, the iPad has been Apple’s best value, with the ninth-generation iPad’s price starting at just $329. The new tenth-generation iPad now starts at $449 for the 64 GB Wi-Fi model. Add $150 if you prefer 256 GB of storage, and another $150 if you want cellular capabilities too. You can choose from blue, pink, yellow, and silver finishes.

So now, when pondering a full-size iPad, you have three options. The ninth-generation iPad remains available at $329 for those looking to pay the least. The tenth-generation iPad is now the middle choice at $449. And for those who want a better Apple Pencil experience, faster performance, and slightly better specs, the iPad Air starts at $599.

New iPad Pro Offers M2 Chip, Faster Wi-Fi, and Apple Pencil Hover

Apple has also updated the iPad Pro, but with fewer changes. Foremost among them is Apple’s M2 chip, which provides the iPad Pro with the ultimate in performance. The M2 enables users to capture ProRes video for the first time and to transcode ProRes video up to three times faster than before.

That said, only those already pushing the limits on the previous iPad Pro models should consider upgrading from the previous M1 models since the difference isn’t likely to be that noticeable for less demanding workflows. Similarly rarified is the move to Wi-Fi 6E, which supports wireless networking at up to 2.4 Gbps, or twice as fast as the previous generation. Apple also expanded the 5G networking for the cellular-capable models to support more 5G networks around the world.

The new iPad Pro can also detect when the second-generation Apple Pencil is hovering up to 12 millimeters above the screen, displaying a circle that helps you position the tip of the Apple Pencil more precisely.

The new iPad Pro retains the same pricing, with the 11-inch model starting at $799 and the 12.9-inch model starting at $1099.

Increasingly, Apple is targeting the iPad Pro at video, audio, and graphics professionals interested in iPad-focused workflows. If that’s you, the new iPad Pro is worthwhile; those just looking for a high-performance iPad would be more economically served by the M1 iPad Air, which is $200 less expensive.

Third-generation Apple TV 4K Boasts Better Specs for Lower Prices

Along with the new iPads, Apple also refreshed its Apple TV lineup, introducing the third-generation Apple TV 4K and dropping the old Apple TV HD. The design remains essentially the same, with the big change being an upgrade from the previous model’s A12 Bionic chip to the faster A15 Bionic for faster performance and more fluid gameplay. Apple also doubled the storage and added support for HDR10+ to provide the best possible video quality across more TVs. Finally, the Siri Remote now charges via USB-C instead of Lightning.

The new Apple TV 4K comes in two models, much like previous generations, but this time there are differences beyond storage, which is important only for apps and games. The $129 Apple TV 4K (Wi-Fi) provides 64 GB of storage and supports only wireless networking, whereas the $149 Apple TV 4K (Wi-Fi + Ethernet) comes with 128 GB of storage, includes a Gigabit Ethernet port for faster wired connectivity, and supports the Thread mesh networking protocol for smart home accessories.

Those prices are $50 lower than the previous generation’s. For those who aren’t interested in Apple TV games, home automation, and wired networking, the $129 Apple TV 4K (Wi-Fi) is significantly more compelling than last year’s more expensive model.

(Featured image by Apple)


Social Media: Apple has released a redesigned tenth-generation iPad with the new Magic Keyboard Folio, new M2 iPad Pro models, and a lower-cost Apple TV 4K with a faster processor and twice the storage. Read on for details:

Apple’s 2022 Harvest: Four iPhones, Three Apple Watches, and New AirPods Pro

Apple’s September crop has ripened, and the company has once again picked a basket of new and updated hardware for us. At its Far Out event on September 7th, Apple unveiled four iPhone 14 models, three new or updated Apple Watch models, and the second-generation AirPods Pro.

After the announcement, Apple said that iOS 16 and watchOS 9 would become available on September 12th, with iPadOS 16.1 and macOS 13 Ventura to arrive in October. As we’ve said before, wait a week or two before installing iOS 16 and watchOS 9 on essential devices to avoid any last-minute bugs. Regardless of when you upgrade, make a backup right before, in case something goes wrong and you need to erase and restore.

Let’s look at each of the new products.

iPhone 14 Models Show Both Evolution and Innovation

With the new iPhones, Apple made a clean split between the regular and Pro models. On the lower end, Apple has the 6.1-inch iPhone 14 and the 6.7-inch iPhone 14 Plus—there is no iPhone 14 mini. On the high end, Apple pulled out all the stops for the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max, again in those 6.1-inch and 6.7-inch sizes. Design-wise, the models are extremely similar to the iPhone 13, with squared-off sides and only very slight size changes.

For the most part, the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus aren’t meant to be technologically exciting, relying on the same A15 Bionic chip as last year’s iPhone 13 models. As it usually does, Apple put more attention into the cameras, switching to a new rear-facing 12-megapixel main camera with a larger aperture for better low-light performance and a new front-facing TrueDepth camera that boasts autofocus for the first time. Apple also introduced a new Photonic Engine that leverages hardware and software to improve mid- and low-light performance for all its cameras. On the video side, a new Action mode provides advanced stabilization for smoother action videos, and Cinematic mode now supports 4K video at 24 fps and 30 fps.

More innovative—and present in both the regular and Pro models—are a pair of technologies we sincerely hope you never have to use. Crash detection relies on a variety of sensors in the iPhone to detect the changes in acceleration, air pressure, and sound that accompany car crashes. In the event of a crash, the iPhone’s Emergency SOS feature offers to call emergency services and notify your emergency contacts.

Even more technologically impressive is Emergency SOS via satellite, which enables very low bandwidth text message communication with emergency services using satellites when there’s no cellular coverage. The feature will help you point your iPhone at fast-moving satellites overhead, and it asks vital questions to distill key facts for emergency responders because even short messages may take over a minute to get through. More commonly, you’ll be able to manually share your location via satellite using Apple’s Find My system when you’re without cellular or Wi-Fi connectivity. All this is coming in November 2022 and will be available only in the US and Canada at first.

Apple’s final change to both the regular and Pro models—at least in the US—is a switch to eSIM. None of the iPhone 14 models sold in the US will have SIM slots. Most carriers support eSIM at this point, and when traveling to other countries, US iPhone 14 users will need to find roaming plans that support eSIM instead of buying and installing a local SIM card.

The iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max boast more exciting changes. The most obvious change is the switch to an Always-On display, much like recent models of the Apple Watch. You’ll be able to view the new Lock screen imagery and widgets at all times without even touching your iPhone. Thanks to a 1 Hz display refresh rate and intelligent dimming of wallpaper, it won’t hurt battery life. And when you’re actively using the iPhone 14 Pro, the screen will be brighter than ever for easier reading in direct sunlight.

Apple also shrunk the Face ID and TrueDepth camera sensor package that occupies a notch on the regular iPhone 14 models and older iPhones. On the iPhone 14 Pro, it’s now a small black lozenge at the top of the screen that can’t display anything but is integrated into a new feature called the Dynamic Island. Alerts and notifications, and a new dynamic notification type called Live Activities, appear to zoom out of and back into the black lozenge, and Live Activities appear on either side. It’s a clever design trick to make you think that portion of the screen is being used.

The Dynamic Island and Always-On display are made possible in part by Apple’s new A16 Bionic chip, which offers more performance and better efficiency than any other smartphone processor. The A16 Bionic handles the most demanding workflows and graphics-intensive games, and it also powers the iPhone 14 Pro’s computational photography features, performing up to 4 trillion operations per photo.

On that topic, the iPhone 14 Pro introduces even more powerful cameras. The main rear-facing camera is now a 48-megapixel camera with a quad-pixel sensor that combines four pixels into one for most photos, improving low-light capture and reducing file size to the equivalent of a 12-megapixel camera. However, the iPhone 14 Pro can also shoot ProRAW photos with the full 48 megapixels to capture unprecedented detail for later processing. The quad-pixel sensor also enables a 2x optical zoom in addition to the improved telephoto camera’s 3x optical zoom. The new 12-megapixel ultra wide camera provides sharper macro shots, and the new front-facing TrueDepth camera offers better low-light performance and autofocus for improved selfies. Apple also enhanced the Adaptive True Tone flash to change its pattern based on the focal length, distributing the light where it’s most needed. Finally, the iPhone 14 Pro gains the same Action mode and Cinematic mode video improvements found in the other iPhone 14 models.

All four iPhone 14 models start at 128 GB of storage, and the Pro models offer a 1 TB tier for those shooting a lot of ProRAW photos or video. Here are the 128 GB prices—add $100 for 256 GB, $300 for 512 GB, and $500 for 1 TB:

  • iPhone 14: $799
  • iPhone 14 Plus: $899
  • iPhone 14 Pro: $999
  • iPhone 14 Pro Max: $1099

You can pre-order starting at 5 AM PDT on September 9th, with delivery and in-store availability on September 16th, except for the iPhone 14 Plus, which ships on October 7th. The iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus come in five colors: midnight, blue, starlight, purple, and (PRODUCT)RED. The iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max come in deep purple, silver, gold, and space black. The third-generation iPhone SE ($429), iPhone 12 ($599), iPhone 13 mini ($599), and iPhone 13 ($699) remain for sale as well.

Generally speaking, we wouldn’t recommend upgrading from an iPhone 13 that’s serving you well unless you’re switching to the iPhone 14 Plus to get a larger form factor or to one of the Pro models for the ultimate in camera capabilities. It’s easier to recommend an upgrade from an iPhone 12 model or earlier, given the improved camera capabilities.

Apple Watch Line Expands with Apple Watch Ultra

This year, Apple introduced not just one new Apple Watch, but three! The second-generation Apple Watch SE provides a better entry-level option, the Apple Watch Series 8 takes over as the flagship model, and the Apple Watch Ultra brings new capabilities to extreme athletes, adventurers, and the rest of ​​us wannabes.

The second-generation Apple Watch SE doesn’t change much from the first-generation model. It has a 30% larger screen in the same 40mm and 45mm case sizes, it boasts the same S8 chip that powers this year’s Apple Watch Series 8, and it has new motion sensors that enable it to detect car crashes, just like the iPhone 14. But it still lacks the more-capable models’ Always-On display, blood oxygen sensor, ECG capability, and fast charging. It costs $249 for a GPS-only model or $299 for the GPS+Cellular model. The case is aluminum, and you can choose from midnight, starlight, and silver colors. You can order now for delivery on September 16th.

The Apple Watch Series 8 doesn’t change physically from the Series 7, but it gains a temperature sensor that Apple leverages for cycle tracking capabilities. We’re hoping Apple can get FDA approval to use the temperature sensor for other health-related options in the future—wouldn’t it be great if your Apple Watch could warn you that you might be getting sick? The Series 8 also gets the new motion sensors to detect car crashes, and travelers will be able to add a cellular Series 8 to an iPhone’s international roaming plan—likely for an additional fee—if the carrier in question supports it. The aluminum case comes in four colors—midnight, starlight, silver, and Product(RED)—and starts at $399 for GPS-only and $499 for GPS+Cellular. The stainless steel case comes in silver, gold, and graphite and starts at $699. Again, order now for delivery on September 16th.

Most interesting is the new Apple Watch Ultra. It’s a completely new design with a 49mm titanium case and a flat sapphire front crystal embedded in the case to protect against side impacts. At 14.4 millimeters, it’s thicker than the other two models, which are only 10.7 millimeters, so it may look ungainly on people with smaller wrists. It features a new Action button that apps can use for their own purposes, along with a larger Digital Crown and side button to make it easier to control with gloves. The Always-On screen is brighter than ever, making it readable in direct sunlight. The larger size also gives it better battery life, with 36 hours in normal usage and up to 60 hours with an extended battery optimization mode Apple says is still coming.

Apple beefed up other specs in the Apple Watch Ultra as well. A new dual-frequency GPS works better in conditions that can block GPS signals. It includes dual speakers and a three-mic array for better audio output and input, even in windy conditions. If you need help being found in the wilderness, it boasts an 86-decibel siren that can be heard up to 180 meters away. It’s IP6X dust resistant and meets the US military standard MIL-STD 810H for environmental conditions. You can even take it diving down to 100 meters, and with the Oceanic+ app coming in a few months, the Apple Watch Ultra can act as a full dive computer.

On the software side, the Apple Watch Ultra includes a new Wayfinder watch face that displays a compass and has a Night mode that switches to red on black for easier reading in the dark. A redesigned Compass app provides multiple views, a backtrack capability to retrace your steps, and waypoints for easier navigation.

The Apple Watch Ultra offers a choice of three bands: Alpine (nylon with a G-hook clasp), Ocean (a stretch elastomer with extensions to fit over wetsuits), and Trail (a nylon sport loop with a tab for easier adjusting). You can order now for $799, and it will ship on September 23rd.

Second-Generation AirPods Pro Improves on Previous Generation

Finally, Apple announced the second-generation AirPods Pro. Both the earbuds and the charging case look essentially the same, with the main subtle external change being that you can now adjust the volume with light swipes up and down on the stems of the AirPods Pro. A new extra small ear tip should make the AirPods Pro fit more people’s ears.

Instead, Apple focused its efforts on the internals of the AirPods Pro. A new H2 chip, coupled with a new low-distortion driver and custom amplifier, promises a better audio experience. The H2 chip also improves the Active Noise Cancellation feature, cutting out up to twice as much ambient noise, and the new Adaptive Transparency mode lets you hear what’s happening around you while simultaneously reducing noise from harsh sounds in the environment. When used with iOS 16, you’ll also be able to use Personalize Spatial Audio to customize what you hear based on the size and shape of your head and ears.

Perhaps most welcome is the additional 1.5 hours of listening time with Active Noise Cancellation that the new AirPods Pro offer. The charging case provides four additional charges for a combined total of 30 hours of listening time, 6 hours more than the previous model. You can now charge the case from an Apple Watch charger, a MagSafe charger, a Qi charger, or a regular Lightning cable. The new case is sweat- and water-resistant, includes a lanyard loop, and can be found when lost more easily thanks to a built-in speaker and support for Precision Finding in the Find My app when used with a compatible iPhone.

Pricing for the second-generation AirPods Pro remains the same at $249. You can order starting September 9th, and they’ll arrive starting September 23rd.

(Featured image by Apple)


Social Media: At its Far Out event, Apple introduced the iPhone 14 lineup, three new Apple Watches—including the Apple Watch Ultra—and the second-generation AirPods Pro. All are worth a look for Apple users; read on for details:

Apple Previews M2-Based MacBook Air and Updated 13-Inch MacBook Pro

During its Worldwide Developer Conference keynote on June 6th, Apple took a brief break from showing off new features in upcoming operating systems to throw back the curtains on its new M2 chip and a pair of laptops that use it: an all-new MacBook Air and an updated 13-inch MacBook Pro. Apple said that both laptops will be available in July.

Next Generation M2 Chip Boosts Performance, Offers More Memory

Although we’re still wrapping our heads around the insane performance offered by a Mac Studio with the M1 Ultra chip, Apple is already introducing the next generation of chips to power the Mac line, beginning with the M2. It includes an 8-core CPU and 10-core GPU, and builds on the capabilities of the M1, increasing CPU performance by 18%, GPU performance by 35%, and Neural Engine performance by 40%. It also offers up to 24 GB of unified memory (16 GB max in the M1) and expands memory bandwidth by 50%. Impressive numbers, but still well under the capabilities of the M1 Pro. We expect Apple to release an M2 Pro, M2 Max, and M2 Ultra within the next year or so.

New MacBook Air Brings Complete Redesign

Apple claims the MacBook Air is the world’s best-selling laptop, which isn’t surprising, given the model’s svelte size, zippy performance, and reasonable price point. For this revision, Apple changed the previous wedge-shaped design to a squared-off look that echoes recent Apple products like the 24-inch iMac and iPhone 13. It’s otherwise similar in size to the previous model, though just a touch thinner and lighter. It’s the same width and a bit deeper, likely because it boasts a 13.6-inch screen and a full-height function key row with Touch ID. Happily, it now charges using Apple’s MagSafe 3 technology. You can get the new MacBook Air in four finishes: silver, space gray, starlight, and midnight.

The new MacBook Air’s screen isn’t just bigger, it’s also better. It has a slightly higher resolution of 2560×1664, it’s brighter, and it supports up to 1 billion colors. In other words, it’s gorgeous, and you can supplement it with an external display up to 6K in resolution. Embedded at the top of the screen is a better webcam with a 1080p resolution instead of the previous 720p resolution. Apple also enhanced its audio capabilities with a four-speaker sound system and a three-mic array with directional beamforming.

The price of the M2-based MacBook Air starts at $1199, but additional processing power, memory, and storage are available:

  • Chip: Choose from either an M2 with an 8-core CPU and 8-core GPU or one with an 8-core CPU and 10-core GPU ($100).
  • Memory: 8 GB of unified memory is standard, but you can opt for 16 GB ($200) or 24 GB ($400).
  • Storage: The base level of SSD storage is 256 GB, with upgrades to 512 GB ($200), 1 TB ($400), or 2 TB ($800).

Like the previous M1-based MacBook Air, the new model sports two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports on the left side (next to the MagSafe port) and a 3.5 mm headphone jack on the right side. It also supports Wi-Fi 6 wireless networking and Bluetooth 5.0.

It comes with a 30-watt USB-C power adapter, or you can pay $20 more for either a 35-watt power adapter with two USB-C ports or a 67-watt USB-C power adapter that supports the M2-based MacBook Air’s fast charging capabilities. If you opt for the higher-end M2 chip and at least 512 GB of storage, you get one of the more-capable power adapters for free.

Although the new MacBook Air is a little more expensive than a comparably configured M1-based MacBook Air, it sports better performance, more memory, a bigger and better screen, a better webcam, a larger function key row, better speakers, and MagSafe 3. Nevertheless, if you’re working on a tight budget, the least expensive M1-based MacBook Air remains available for $999, and it’s still a fine machine.

In the end, it’s hard to go wrong with the new M2-based MacBook Air when upgrading from an Intel-based Mac laptop or supplementing your desktop Mac with a laptop. It’s small, light, powerful, and cost-effective, if not a significant enough jump to warrant upgrading from an M1-based MacBook Air.

Updated 13-inch MacBook Pro Gains M2 Chip

While the new MacBook Air is a complete redesign, the updated 13-inch MacBook Pro is unchanged from its M1-based predecessor, apart from the move to the M2 chip. Since that’s the same chip that’s in the MacBook Air and the price is identical for comparable configurations, the question becomes why you’d buy the 13-inch MacBook Pro instead of the new MacBook Air.

On the plus side, the 13-inch MacBook Pro has cooling fans that enable it to maintain peak performance for sustained loads—the fanless MacBook Air will throttle itself to avoid overheating if you push it for too long. The MacBook Pro’s battery life is likely a little longer, given that it has a large battery. Finally, it has a Touch Bar instead of a function key row, which some may like.

However, the new MacBook Air’s slightly larger screen supports more colors (1 billion versus millions), and the MacBook Air has a better webcam and potentially better speakers. It’s also a little thinner and lighter.

In balance, we recommend the MacBook Air unless you love the MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar, which seems to be on the way out. The 13-inch MacBook Pro starts at $1299 for an 8-core CPU, 10-core GPU M2-based model with 8 GB of unified memory and 256 GB of SSD storage. The build-to-order options are the same as for the MacBook Air.

(Featured image by Apple)


Social Media: At its WWDC22 keynote, Apple unveiled a completely redesigned MacBook Air and an updated 13-inch MacBook Pro, both powered by the next-generation M2 chip. Read on for details:

11 Features to Look Forward to in Apple’s 2022 Operating Systems

It’s that time of year again. Apple CEO Tim Cook and numerous Apple employees took the virtual stage again at the company’s Worldwide Developer Conference keynote on June 6th to share what we can expect to see later this year in macOS 13 Ventura, iOS 16, iPadOS 16, and watchOS 9. (Almost no mention was made of tvOS or the HomePod, but Apple will undoubtedly move them forward in small ways as well.)

The announcements came thick and fast, and like last year, many of the technologies cut across several of Apple’s operating systems. Before we dive in, however, remember that some older devices won’t be able to upgrade. Here are the basic system requirements, though certain features won’t be available on all devices:

  • macOS 13 Ventura: iMac, iMac Pro, MacBook, and MacBook Pro from 2017 and later. MacBook Air and Mac mini from 2018 and later. Mac Pro from 2019 and later. Mac Studio from 2022.
  • iOS 16: Second-generation iPhone SE, iPhone 8, and later
  • iPadOS 16: Fifth-generation iPad and later, fifth-generation iPad mini and later, third-generation iPad Air and later, and all iPad Pro models
  • watchOS 9: Apple Watch Series 4 and newer, including the Apple Watch SE

Here are the promised new features we think will have the most impact on your Apple experience. Assume that these features are available on the Mac, iPhone, and iPad unless otherwise specified.

Customizable iPhone Lock Screen

We’ve been able to put a photo on the iPhone’s Lock screen for years, but that’s it. With iOS 16, Apple is opening up lots of customization options along the lines of what you can do to Apple Watch faces. To start, you can customize the font, color, and placement of various options, just like a watch face. Photos dynamically display in front of the time, and you can have a set of photos shuffle throughout the day. Widgets from Apple and third-party developers provide at-a-glance information so you can check the weather, say, without even unlocking your iPhone. Notifications now scroll up from the bottom, and Live Activities help you stay up on the music that’s currently playing or the latest score in the big game.

Messages Gains Editing, Undo Send, and Mark as Unread

At long last, Messages will let us edit messages after sending, undo sending to call a message back, and mark messages as unread. The first two features are essential for clear communication, especially when you’re fixing auto-correct failures, and being able to mark messages as unread ensures that you won’t forget to respond to something that you read when you’re not in a position to reply.

Mail Adds Undo Send, Scheduled Send, Follow-up, and Remind Me

It’s surprising that Apple hasn’t spent more time on Mail in recent years, but that’s changing in 2022, when it will gain some welcome features that are commonplace in other email apps. You’ll be able to undo sending, which is helpful when you remember something to add to a message within 10 seconds after clicking the Send button. For more specific timing, scheduled send lets you specify when a message should go out. This is helpful when you are working on the weekend or late at night but don’t want your co-workers to feel that they need to reply right away.  Mail will also move sent messages that haven’t received replies to the top of your inbox so you can follow up, and you can set a reminder to come back to messages that you’ve opened but not dealt with (many of us just mark those as unread).

Multi-Stop Routing in Maps

No longer are you limited to a single destination when creating a route in Maps. You’ll be able to specify up to 15 stops on a route, making it easy to build a trip that includes a swing by your favorite diner, a quick visit with an old friend, and a pilgrimage to the World’s Largest Bull in Iowa.

iCloud Shared Photo Library Improves Family Photo Sharing

Apple’s latest attempt to help families share photos looks like the best yet—certainly better than the shared Family album that’s created for Family Sharing groups now. It will be a completely separate iCloud photo library shared with up to five other people. You’ll be able to populate it with all your existing photos or a subset based on start date or who’s in them. Everyone will have equal permission to add, edit, favorite, caption, and delete photos, so maintaining and improving it becomes a group activity. Sharing new photos will be easy with a switch in the Camera app, automatic sharing based on proximity to family members, and sharing suggestions in Photos.

Passkeys Aims to Replace Passwords… Eventually

Apple’s new Passkeys technology, which is associated with the work of an industry consortium called the FIDO Alliance to ensure cross-platform support, aims to replace passwords for websites and apps with private passkeys that are stored only on your device and accessed by Touch ID or Face ID. Passkeys are easier to use than passwords and significantly safer because they can’t be stolen from websites and each one is specific to the site for which you create it. They’ll be available on all your Apple devices, syncing end-to-end encrypted through iCloud Keychain.

Use Your iPhone as a Webcam for Your Mac

Mac webcams are nowhere near as good as the rear-facing cameras in your iPhone, so Apple is helping us improve our videoconferencing by using an iPhone as a webcam and microphone. The feature, called Continuity Camera, works wired or wirelessly and can automatically switch to using your iPhone as a webcam when you bring it close to your Mac. It provides Portrait mode to blur the background, Center Stage so you can move around, Studio Light to dim the background and illuminate your face, and even Desk View to show what’s on your desk in front of your Mac. Apple says Belkin will be making clips to attach your iPhone to your Mac.

Stage Manager Offers New Window Management Approach

We’re not yet sure what to make of Stage Manager, which is Apple’s new approach to window management on the iPad and Mac. It puts one app in the center of the screen while keeping other apps off to the side, making it easy to flip between apps or show multiple apps at once. It doesn’t replace traditional window management—you have to turn it on in Control Center—so you won’t be forced to change, but it might be welcome, especially on the iPad, where it also enables the use of an external display.

Simultaneous Dictation, Touch Selection, and Keyboard Editing

On the iPhone and iPad, you’ve been able to tap a microphone button to invoke Dictation, a huge boon when you want to send a message without typing. In iOS 16 and iPadOS 16, Apple has radically improved Dictation, so you can now simultaneously talk, type, edit on the keyboard, select text via touch, and use the Apple Pencil (on an iPad). Dictation will also automatically add commas, periods, and question marks as you dictate, and you can insert emojis with voice commands. Sadly, it seems that the Mac gets only the punctuation and emoji capabilities.

Medications App on the Apple Watch

Many of us have to take medications, vitamins, and supplements regularly. To help us better manage our health, Apple is adding the Medications app to watchOS 9. You’ll be able to enter your meds in the Health app on the iPhone, be alerted to any critical interactions between drugs, and have your Apple Watch notify you to take the right pills at the right times.

Weather App Appears on the iPad and Mac

Finally, because our list goes to 11, Apple says it’s bringing the Weather app to the iPad and the Mac. Since Weather has been on the iPhone since the beginning, it’s hard to fathom what took Apple so long. If you haven’t already jumped ship for one of the 17,000 other weather apps out there, you’ll be able to enjoy using Apple’s built-in app in iPadOS 16 and macOS 13 Ventura.

Apple’s upcoming operating system releases boast many other new features, and we plan to explore more of them once everything ships in a few months. We’ll let you know when it’s time to update!

(Featured image by Apple)


Social Media: At its Worldwide Developer Conference keynote, Apple announced oodles of new features that we’ll see in macOS 13 Ventura, iOS 16, iPadOS 16, and watchOS 9 later this year. Here are the ten—no, eleven!—features we think you’ll most like: