When To Upgrade to the newest macOS, iOS, iPadOS, watchOS, and tvOS

As we are well into October Apple has pushed out the next major versions of macOS, iOS, watchOS, and tvOS, along with the new iPadOS, which is iOS with iPad-specific tweaks. Apple previewed these new versions back in June, and they’ve been in public beta since. Since Apple has made macOS 10.15 Catalina, iOS 13, iPadOS 13, watchOS 6, and tvOS 13 available, the question looms large—when should you install them?

(Note that we say when and not if. There’s no harm in delaying major operating system upgrades until Apple has squashed early bugs. But waiting too long puts you at risk from security vulnerabilities and prevents you from taking advantage of compelling new features. Plus, should you have to replace one of your Apple devices unexpectedly, you will likely have to use the current operating system, which could be awkward if you weren’t prepared.)

macOS 10.15 Catalina

We’ll start with the hardest decision—when should you upgrade to macOS 10.15 Catalina? Two features might make you want to upgrade soon: Screen Time and Voice Control. With Catalina, Macs get the same usage monitoring and limit setting that Apple introduced in iOS 12, which will make Catalina a must-have for parents trying to help Mac-using kids focus on what’s important. Voice Control makes it vastly easier to control your Mac—and dictate!—with just your voice, so if that’s compelling, look into upgrading soon.

Other new features are also attractive, such as dedicated Music, TV, and Podcasts apps that replace iTunes; using an iPad as a second screen or graphics tablet; and improved versions of Reminders, Notes, and Photos. They won’t drive most immediate upgrades, though.

Catalina has one big gotcha—it won’t run old 32-bit apps. If you rely on apps you haven’t updated in the last few years, hold off on Catalina until you’ve figured out how to update or replace them.

Regardless, we recommend waiting until at least version 10.15.1 or even 10.15.2 before upgrading. That gives you time to make sure your key apps are fully compatible with Catalina and for Apple to resolve any unanticipated problems. When you’re ready, check out the ebook Take Control of Upgrading to Catalina if you want detailed advice on how to do it right.

iOS 13

While we urge caution with macOS updates, iOS updates are an easier decision. Apple boasts that iOS 13 improves performance, particularly with Face ID unlocking and app launches, which many people will appreciate. iOS 13 also now offers a Dark mode like macOS that may be easier on the eyes in dark rooms, though light-on-dark text is generally harder to read than traditional dark-on-light text.

Photos in iOS 13 significantly improves photo editing, with portrait lighting control, a high-key mono effect, and individual adjustment and filter controls. Nearly all these editing tools work with videos too! Apple completely rewrote Reminders, adding smart lists and integrations that let Siri suggest reminders, as well as a quick toolbar to add times, dates, locations, and more to your reminders. iOS 13 also enhances Maps with Look Around, a Google Maps Street View competitor that gives you a 360º view of supported areas. Maps also features a rebuilt map with more detail, favorites, and collections of places to see.

iOS 13 may not be life-changing unless you plan to rely on its addition of Voice Control instead of touch, but we think it’s a good upgrade. Give it a week or two to make sure there isn’t a major gotcha that Apple missed, but after that, install when you have some time to play with the new features.

iPadOS 13

iPadOS 13 is “new,” but it’s not an entirely new operating system to learn. Instead, it’s a superset of iOS 13 with iPad-specific features. The Home screen can hold more icons, and you can pin Today View widgets to the side for quick access. Safari in iPadOS is now a desktop-class browser that lets you use complex Web apps like Google Docs, Squarespace, and WordPress much as if you were on a Mac. Apple also extended the iPad’s multitasking features so you can switch between multiple apps in SlideOver, open multiple “windows” for a single app in Split View, and use App Exposé to navigate among app combinations.

If you already use your iPad for productivity, we think iPadOS 13 will be a no-brainer upgrade. As with iOS 13, though, it’s probably best to wait a week or so to install, or until you’re certain that your key apps have been updated to be compatible.

watchOS 6

Once you’ve updated your iPhone to iOS 13, there’s no reason not to update to watchOS 6. It’s not a huge update, but it has some nice features. Most interesting are the health-related improvements, a Cycle Tracking app for women and a Hearing Health app that warns you when the ambient noise in your environment has risen to dangerous levels. Apple has also introduced new watch faces that may float your boat, Siri can identify songs playing nearby and return Web search results to your wrist, a new Audiobooks app lets you listen anywhere, and Activity Trends help you track your workout progress over time.

tvOS 13

tvOS 13 is the easiest to agree to install, and it has some welcome new features. Apple redesigned the Home screen a bit and allows the apps in your top row to play video previews of their content (but you can shut those off if you don’t like them). More compelling is the addition of Control Center, which lets you put the Apple TV to sleep, control background audio playback, choose audio output, search, and switch between users.

That’s right, tvOS 13 introduces multi-user support that changes the content within apps based on the current user. (Speaking of multi-user support, iOS 13 on the HomePod also now differentiates based on who’s speaking—finally!) tvOS 13 can also display lyrics in the Music app and supports Xbox One and PlayStation 4 wireless gaming controllers for Apple’s upcoming Apple Arcade service. And it boasts a new collection of gorgeous underwater screen savers.

Change can be hard, but we’re excited about these new operating systems. Like you, we won’t use all the new features, but we’re confident that some of them will radically enhance the experience of being an Apple user.

(Featured image by Apple)

Make a Backup before Upgrading to Catalina or iOS 13!

Confession time. If there’s one topic we can’t stop talking about, it’s backups. Backups are essential, since no one can guarantee that your Mac or iPhone won’t be lost or stolen, be caught in a flood from a broken pipe, or just fail silently. It happens.

You should have a good backup strategy that ensures backups happen regularly, but it’s not paranoid to make double extra sure when you’re doing something that’s more likely to cause problems than everyday activity. And by that we’re thinking about upgrading to a major new operating system, such as macOS 10.15 Catalina or iOS 13.

The reason is simple. As much as Apple tests the heck out of these upgrades, so many files are in play that all it takes is one unexpected glitch to render the entire Mac or iPhone non-functional. Wouldn’t you like to be able to revert instantly if something does go wrong?

Mac Backups before Upgrading

On the Mac side, most people should be using Time Machine. It ensures that you can not only restore your entire drive if necessary, but also easily recover a previous version of a corrupted file. The other advantage of having Time Machine backups (and a bootable duplicate, discussed next) is that you can use either to migrate all your apps, data, and settings back to a new installation of macOS, should that become necessary.

As useful as Time Machine is, a bootable duplicate made with SuperDuper or Carbon Copy Cloner is the best insurance right before you upgrade to Catalina. If an installation goes south, you can also boot from your duplicate and get back to work right away.

Finally, although it’s not directly related to backing up before upgrading, we always recommend an offsite backup made via an Internet backup service like Backblaze. This is because a fire or flood would likely destroy your backup drive along with your Mac.

So please, back up your Mac before something goes wrong. It’s fast, easy, and inexpensive to get started, and we’re happy to help.

iOS Backups before Upgrading

Although upgrade-related problems are less common with iPhones and iPads, they can still happen. It’s more likely that you’d drop your little friend accidentally while juggling groceries or forget it after your workout at the gym, but regardless, a backup ensures that you don’t lose precious photos if you’re not using iCloud Photos or My Photo Stream, and backups make migrating to a new device like a fancy new iPhone as painless as possible.

With iOS, though, you don’t need extra software or hardware to make a backup. Apple provides two ways of backing up your iPhone or iPad: iTunes and iCloud. We generally recommend backing up to iCloud if your backups will fit in the free 5 GB of space Apple provides or if you’re already paying for more iCloud space. If you’re not a fan of the cloud or don’t have space, there’s nothing wrong with iTunes backups, though they’re a bit fussier to set up and manage.

There’s also no harm in using both, with iCloud for nightly automatic backups and iTunes for an extra backup just before upgrading to iOS 13 or to a new iPhone or iPad. A second backup can be useful—we’ve seen situations where an iPhone would refuse to restore its files from iTunes but would from iCloud.

To back up to iCloud, go to Settings > Your Name > iCloud > iCloud Backup, turn the switch on, and tap Back Up Now. For backups to happen automatically in the future, you must have sufficient space in your iCloud account (you can buy more), and your device must be on a Wi-Fi network, connected to power, and have its screen locked.

To back up to iTunes, connect your device to your Mac via a Lightning-to-USB cable, launch iTunes, and click the device icon to the right of the media menu.

Then, in the Backups section, click the Back Up Now button. If you’re prompted to encrypt your backups, we encourage you to agree since otherwise your backup won’t include passwords, Health information, or HomeKit data. For automatic backups via iTunes, select This Computer. After that, every time you plug into your Mac, it will back up.

The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that we’re not talking about how to restore if something goes wrong during an upgrade. That’s because it’s impossible to predict exactly what might happen or what state your device will end up in. So if you’re unfortunate enough to have such problems—or to have some other catastrophic failure—get in touch and we’ll be happy to help.

(Featured image based on an original by Alejandro Escamilla on Unsplash)

Some of Our Favorite Features of iOS 13 and iPadOS 13

Some of Our Favorite Features of iOS 13 and iPadOS 13

It’s hard to sum up iOS 13’s benefits succinctly because Apple has made so many improvements (we’ll get to what’s cool about iPadOS 13 later in the article). That means there’s something for just about everyone. Here are some of the changes we think you’ll most appreciate.

Better Text Handling

An area in iOS that has long begged for improvement is text handling. Although the familiar approaches still work, you can finally select text by merely tapping and swiping. Double-taps select recognized bits of text like phone numbers and addresses, and triple and quadruple taps select sentences and paragraphs. You can even move the cursor by dragging it into position.

iOS 13 also gains gestures for the familiar Cut, Copy, and Paste commands, along with Undo and Redo. To copy, pinch inward with three fingers; a second three-fingered inward pinch immediately after changes copy to cut. To paste, pinch outward with three fingers. For undo, swipe left with three fingers, whereas redo involves swiping right with three fingers.

Apple enhanced iOS 13’s QuickType keyboard with a feature long offered by independent keyboards: swipe to type. Called QuickPath, the feature lets you swipe your finger from one letter to the next without picking it up. You can switch between swiping and tapping whenever you want. It works only on the iPhone and the iPad’s new floating keyboard.

Close the iPad Bay Doors, Hal

Apple has implemented its new Voice Control system in iOS 13 as well as macOS 10.15 Catalina, and it’s impressive in both. Once you turn it on in Settings > Accessibility > Voice Control, you can use voice commands to switch apps, tap visible controls, and more. Plus, it lets you dictate text without invoking Siri.

The dictation now lets you delete text, replace text, and capitalize words, making it possible to edit what you’ve written without touching the keyboard. Voice Control may sound like it’s aimed at people who have trouble physically using iOS’s Multi-Touch interface, but it could be useful to anyone.

Files from Everywhere

Those who use an iPad for serious work will love the updated Files app, which brings much of the power of the Mac’s Finder to iOS. Most notably, if you have Apple’s Lightning to USB3 Adapter, Files offers support for USB flash drives, SD cards, and hard drives. Plus, Files can also now connect to SMB-based file servers on your local network.

You can create folders on the iOS device’s local drive and store files there, viewing them in grid, list, and column views and sorting by name, date, size, kind, and tags. Files also now lets you zip and unzip files. Oddly, Files also includes a document scanner that can create standalone files of scanned pages.

Dark Mode Migrates from Mojave

If you’re a fan of Dark mode in macOS 10.14 Mojave, you’ll be pleased to know that you can now switch to it in iOS too, or have it kick in only at night. Dark mode might even save some battery power on iPhones with OLED-based screens like the iPhone X, XS, and XS Max.

Photos Bulks Up

Apple added numerous features to Photos, refactoring its interface to match the update in Catalina. It now provides an AI-curated selection of photos displayed by Years, Months, and Days—complete with event titles—plus an All Photos grid that shows everything. Live Photos and videos play automatically (without sound) as you scroll.

Editing has improved significantly, with Photos now offering tools to boost muted colors, sharpen edges, reduce noise, adjust color temperature, increase image clarity, and add vignettes. You can control the intensity of any filter, or of the automatic Enhance adjustments. Plus, nearly all the editing you can apply to a photo, you can use to edit a video, and video edits are now non-destructive.

Apple beefed up the Camera app for recent iPhones, so you can adjust the position and intensity of the studio lighting in Portrait Lighting, and it also gains a new High-Key Mono effect.

Health Adds Cycle Tracking and Fertility

On the iPhone, the Health app at long last gains features related to cycle tracking and fertility. Using data entered or imported from a third-party app, Health can now predict the start and end of a woman’s next three cycles and provide a notification when her period is approaching. Similarly, it can predict fertility windows and pop up an alert when one is approaching. Cycle Tracking, a companion Apple Watch app, will make it easier to log menstruation and symptoms.

iOS 13’s Health app also now tracks headphone audio levels and alerts you if they reach dangerous levels. Another new Apple Watch app—Noise—listens to the ambient sound levels around you and warns you if they’re getting too loud.

Other iOS 13 Features

Those may be the big changes, but we can’t resist sharing some more subtle ones too:

  • Siri’s voice is now generated entirely in software, making it sound more natural, especially while speaking longer phrases.
  • The HomePod can finally recognize different voices, giving everyone in your family personalized experiences.
  • You can set the Phone app to accept only calls from numbers in Contacts, Mail, and Messages, sending all others—and robocalls!—to voicemail.
  • A Low Data Mode helps reduce data usage over the cellular network or specific Wi-Fi networks.
  • You can now pair two sets of AirPods to a single iPhone if you and a friend want to listen to the same movie or music.
  • A new machine-learning option can slow the rate of battery aging by reducing the amount of time your iPhone spends fully charged.
  • Do Not Disturb While Driving will no longer turn on when you’re using public transit.

 

iPadOS 13

Most features of iOS 13 apply to the iPad as well, apart from those that are iPhone-specific, like the Health app. But iPadOS 13 is a superset of iOS 13, so it adds features to the iPad.

It starts with a tighter icon grid on the Home screen to fit more icons, and in landscape orientation, the Home screen can show Today View widgets on the side.

Apple improved the iPad’s multitasking capabilities in iPadOS 13 too. You can have multiple apps in Slide Over—just swipe up to see all of them or swipe along the bottom to switch between them. The big win in Split View in iPadOS 13 is the capability to have multiple windows from the same app open simultaneously, and it’s also now possible to have a window from the same app open in multiple spaces. The updated App Switcher now shows all spaces (Split View combinations) too.

Safari has grown up in iPadOS 13, becoming a desktop-class browser. That means it works better with complex Web apps like Google Docs, Squarespace, and WordPress. It also offers per-site settings, the option to save a set of tabs as bookmarks, a download manager, weak password warnings, and 30 new keyboard shortcuts.

iPadOS 13 works with the new Sidecar feature in Catalina to let you use an iPad as a Mac’s second screen or graphics tablet (with an Apple Pencil). You can use it either to extend your Desktop or to mirror a Mac’s screen, and it works either wired or wireless.

Speaking of the Apple Pencil, Apple has made it more responsive, redesigned the tool palette, and provided a pixel eraser tool. You can also now use an Apple Pencil to take screenshots, and even capture and mark up an entire document, email, or Web page.

Phew! There’s a lot to like in iOS 13 and iPadOS 13, but there’s also a lot to learn, so make sure you find some time to incorporate the new features into your usage.

(Featured image by Apple)

WWDC 2019 Recap – Here’s What’s Coming from Apple in 2019

At Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) 2019 on June 3rd, the company unveiled the next versions of all its operating systems—macOS 10.15 Catalina, iOS 13 (and a new iPadOS), watchOS 6, and tvOS 13–along with the much-anticipated new Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR.

Nothing that was announced will ship until later this year—probably September—but we wanted to give you a quick overview of what’s coming down the pike.

macOS 10.15 Catalina

With macOS 10.15, which Apple is calling “Catalina,” the company is working to bring macOS and iOS ever closer while preserving what makes the Mac special.

For instance, Catalina replaces the increasingly overloaded iTunes with three new apps that mimic those in iOS: Music, Apple Podcasts, and Apple TV. Reminders, Notes, and Photos also see significant enhancements that are mirrored on the iOS side, and a new Find My app on both platforms combines the capabilities of Find My iPhone and Find My Friends. Apple is even bringing Screen Time from iOS to the Mac to help you track and control your usage—and that of your kids—across all your Apple devices.

Some of these apps exist on the Mac thanks to Project Catalyst, an Apple technology that makes it easy for developers to convert iOS apps to the Mac. Apple used Catalyst internally last year to bring Home, News, Stocks, and Voice Memos to macOS 10.14 Mojave. This year, Apple is letting third-party developers use Catalyst, so once Catalina ships, we’ll see a flowering of new Mac apps coming over from iOS.

Another new technology, Sidecar, lets you use an iPad as a second screen for a Mac, either wired or wirelessly. Sidecar even enables you to use the iPad and Apple Pencil as a graphics tablet with apps that support such an input method. Two other new features will let you use a Sidecar-connected iPad to mark up any PDF or insert a sketch into a Mac document.

Catalina promises many more features, including some that will increase macOS security and others that will make the Mac much easier to use for people with disabilities. For instance, the new Voice Control capability lets you run a Mac (or an iOS device) entirely with your voice—it’s amazing.

If you’re running Mojave now, you’ll be able to run Catalina too since the system requirements remain the same.

iOS 13

With iOS 13, Apple appears to be focusing once again on performance and refinements. The company claimed we’ll see faster Face ID recognition, smaller app downloads and updates, and quicker app launches.

The most apparent new feature will be Dark Mode, which Apple is bringing over from Mojave. It displays light text on a dark background, which can be welcome when using an iOS device in a dark room without bothering others. It also may increase battery life on OLED-based iPhones like the iPhone X, XS, and XS Max. But keep in mind that research shows the human eye and brain prefer dark text on light backgrounds, so you may read more slowly and with less recall in Dark Mode.

Along with the apps mentioned previously that also improve in iOS, Apple said it has rebuilt Maps and its underlying database from the ground up, so you’ll see far more detailed maps, and you can zoom in for a street-level photographic view called Look Around.

Camera and Photos received attention as well, giving you faster access to effects and letting you apply effects to videos as well. You can even crop and rotate videos taken in the wrong orientation—finally!

Other improvements include a new Sign In with Apple option for signing in to apps using your Apple ID, full text formatting in Mail, shared folders in Notes, SMB sharing in Files, iCloud Drive folder sharing, and support for USB thumb drives.

In terms of system requirements, iOS 13 drops support for some older devices, leaving the iPhone 6s, 6s Plus, and SE as the oldest iPhones supported, along with just the newest iPod touch.

iPadOS

Joining Apple’s other operating systems this year is iPadOS, a superset of iOS 13 that provides additional iPad-only features. In some ways, it’s nothing new, since the iPad has always had unique features, but it shows how Apple wants to differentiate the iPad from the iPhone.

In iPadOS, the Home screen holds more icons in a tighter grid, and you can pin the Today View widgets on the side of the screen. Safari will be able to support complex Web apps like Google Docs, Squarespace, and WordPress, and it gains a download manager that lets you download files into the Files app.

Apple enhanced iPad multitasking so you can switch between apps in a Slide Over view, open multiple windows from the same app in Split View, and use App Exposé to navigate among your app combinations. Plus, text editing improves significantly, with direct access to the cursor and easier text selection, as well as new three-finger gestures for cut, copy, paste, and undo. The iPad even gets full-featured font management, and you’ll be able to buy fonts from the App Store.

iPadOS won’t work on many older iPad models, though it is compatible with all iPad Pro models, the fifth- and sixth-generation iPad, the iPad mini 4 and fifth-generation iPad mini, and the iPad Air 2 and third-generation iPad Air.

watchOS 6

With watchOS 6, Apple is working hard on health and fitness capabilities for the Apple Watch. The company has added a Noise app that can warn you when sounds approach dangerous levels and a Cycle Tracking app that helps women monitor their periods and predict windows of optimal fertility. And, the Activity app has picked up trending features so you can see how you’re doing across time in a number of health metrics.

Apple has also untethered the Apple Watch from the iPhone to an extent, allowing developers to create standalone watch apps that don’t require a companion iPhone app and opening an App Store for such apps that you can browse and search from your wrist.

Other new watchOS 6 apps include Audiobooks, Calculator, and Voice Memos. Plus, once you upgrade to watchOS 6, you’ll be able to choose from more faces and additional complications.

As with watchOS 5, watchOS 6 will work on all Apple Watch models other than the original unit, but not all features are available on all models.

tvOS 13

The big news for tvOS 13 is that it finally gets multi-user support, so everyone in a household will be able to have their own personalized experience. (Speaking of which, the HomePod will also support multiple users with iOS 13.)

Apple has redesigned the tvOS Home screen to show previews, added a slide-in Control Center like in iOS and watchOS, and updated the Music app to show lyrics in sync with the currently playing song. The screensaver also goes under the ocean so your cat can be entertained by all the fish.

Finally, in a move that will significantly enhance the forthcoming Apple Arcade game subscription service, both tvOS and iOS will support the Xbox One S and PlayStation DualShock 4 game controllers.

Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR

Although the Worldwide Developer Conference is mostly about Apple’s operating systems, the company took advantage of the keynote to show off the completely redesigned Mac Pro and its companion screen, the Pro Display XDR. The technical specs of both are astonishing—Apple has done what looks like a fabulous job of designing the most modular, flexible, and powerful Mac ever, combined with a display that competes against reference monitors costing tens of thousands of dollars.

The Mac Pro will rely on Intel Xeon W processors with 8 to 28 cores, and you’ll be able to configure it with up to 1.5 TB (that’s terabytes!) of RAM. It has eight PCI Express expansion slots, into which you can install MPX modules that contain up to four AMD Radeon Pro graphics cards for massive number crunching performance. Another slot can hold Apple’s new Afterburner accelerator card for ProRes and ProRes RAW video acceleration, and a half-length slot contains Apple’s I/O card with two USB-3 ports, two Thunderbolt 3 ports, and to 10 Gb Ethernet ports; there are two more Thunderbolt 3 ports on the top of the case. Storage starts at 256 GB of SSD and goes up to 4 TB.

All this fits into a stainless steel frame with an aluminum case that lifts off to provide access to all sides of the Mac Pro. It has a massive 1.4-kilowatt power supply and relies on three fans and a blower to keep the unit cool. It even has handles on the top and optional wheels in case you need to move it around regularly.

Accompanying the Mac Pro will be Apple’s first monitor in years, the Pro Display XDR. It’s a 32-inch 6K screen that supports P3 wide and 10-bit color that can display more than 1 billion colors accurately. It’s also incredibly bright and can sustain 1000 nits of full-screen brightness or peak at up to 1600 nits.

If your eyes glazed over reading those specs, this new hardware isn’t for you. Apple is aiming it at high-end professionals, the sort of people who happily spend many thousands of dollars on new hardware to enable faster video editing, data processing, or other performance-intensive tasks. The base-level Mac Pro will start at $6000, and the Pro Display adds another $5000. Even the Pro Stand (which provides tilt and height adjustment, plus rotates to portrait orientation) for the Pro Display costs $1000, so a tricked-out Mac Pro setup could easily exceed $20,000. So no, this is not a Mac for “the rest of us,” but it’s great to see Apple ensuring that the most demanding Mac users can stay on the platform.

(All images courtesy of Apple)