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.
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 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.
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 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.
The Scoop on the New iPhone 11, Apple Watch Series 5, 7th-gen iPad, and Apple Services
At its September 10th special event, Apple unveiled a slew of new products and services, including the iPhone 11, the Apple Watch Series 5, the seventh-generation iPad, Apple Arcade, and Apple TV+.
The company also said that iOS 13 and watchOS 6 would ship on September 19th, with iPadOS 13 appearing on September 30th and macOS 10.15 Catalina due sometime in October. Don’t feel the need to update to iOS 13.0 right away, though, since Apple also said that iOS 13.1 would arrive just 11 days later, on September 30th. It will contain some features that the company had to pull from iOS 13.0. Other features will continue to roll out throughout the coming months too.
This iPhone Goes to 11
After several Roman numeral years starting with the iPhone X, Apple has reverted to digits, introducing the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max. These are more significant updates than last year’s models, thanks largely to additional cameras, two for the iPhone 11 and three for the Pro models.
The entry-level iPhone 11 improves on its iPhone XR predecessor with separate 12-megapixel Wide and Ultra Wide cameras that let you take wider shots without resorting to panoramas. iOS 13 uses computational photography with both cameras to enable the new Night mode, which combines multiple exposures for astonishingly better low-light photos.
The new front-facing TrueDepth camera is also now 12 megapixels, has a wider field of view for selfies, and supports Smart HDR for more natural-looking photos. It also now records 4K video at up to 60 frames per second and 120 frames per second with slo-mo.
Like the iPhone XR, the iPhone 11 has a 6.1-inch Liquid Retina screen, but it boasts increased performance with Apple’s new A13 Bionic chip. That makes Face ID up to 30% faster and lets it work better at varying distances and at more angles. Although there’s no 5G cellular support yet, the iPhone 11 does offer Gigabit-class LTE and Wi-Fi 6. For those who need multiple cellular plans simultaneously, it supports Dual SIM with eSIM.
The iPhone 11 features a case made of aluminum and glass that Apple claims is the toughest glass ever used in a smartphone. It can also theoretically withstand dunking in up to 2 meters of water for up to 30 minutes—don’t test that if you can avoid it. And the iPhone 11 comes in six colors, with prices starting at $699 for 64 GB of storage.
The iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max take photos and videos to the professional level, supporting everything the iPhone 11 can do and adding a third Telephoto camera. Each of the three 12-megapixel cameras can record 4K video with extended dynamic range and cinematic video stabilization. You can switch between the cameras smoothly while filming video. The presentation even demoed a beta of the FiLMiC Pro app, which will let you record separate video streams from each camera at the same time.
For still images, the triple-camera system adds a Telephoto mode to the Wide and Ultra Wide modes in the iPhone 11, and iOS 13 utilizes all three cameras and computational photography to deliver even better results. For instance, Portrait mode can now switch between Wide and Telephoto framing to provide a wider field of view that’s great for group portraits.
Although the screen sizes remain the same as in last year’s iPhone XS (5.8 inches) and iPhone XS Max (6.5 inches), the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max sport new Super Retina XDR OLED-based screens that have significantly higher brightness and contrast specs. Physically, the new models are just a hair—almost literally at about half a millimeter—larger in every dimension than last year’s iPhones. Battery life is much better, with the iPhone 11 Pro lasting up to 4 hours longer than the iPhone XS and the iPhone 11 Pro Max besting the iPhone XS Max by up to 5 hours.
The iPhone 11 Pro models feature a stainless steel band and textured matte glass back, and they can handle being submerged in up to 4 meters of water for up to 30 minutes. We still don’t recommend testing this. Pricing with 64 GB of storage starts at $999 for the iPhone 11 Pro and $1099 for the iPhone 11 Pro Max. They’re available in four colors: gold, space gray, silver, and the new midnight green.
All the iPhone 11 models become available for pre-order on Friday, September 13th at 5 AM Pacific, and they’ll ship to customers and stores on September 20th. If you’re not overwhelmed by the new features, or just don’t want to pay that much, the iPhone 8 and iPhone XR remain available, starting at $449 and $599.
Apple Watch Series 5 Is Always-On
With the new Apple Watch Series 5, available for pre-order now and shipping on September 20th, Apple addressed one of the most common complaints about its wrist-based iPhone accessory. Now, instead of going black whenever you lower your wrist, the Apple Watch Series 5’s screen will merely dim, brightening back up as soon as you raise your wrist or tap the screen. That way you can read it without taking any particular action or waiting for it to light up. This change involved some impressive engineering since battery life remains at 18 hours in typical usage.
Also new is a built-in compass that enables the Maps app to show which direction you’re facing to assist in getting started with navigation. It also powers a new Compass app that shows heading, incline, latitude, longitude, and current elevation, and the Workout app can report current elevation and elevation gain. You can add one of three new compass complications to some watch faces.
Finally, the Apple Watch Series 5 cellular models feature international emergency calling. If you have an accident or get into trouble while traveling, your watch can call the local emergency services via Emergency SOS or through fall detection, regardless of where you purchased the watch or even if you have a working cell plan.
The Apple Watch Series 5 is available in the traditional aluminum ($399) and stainless steel ($699) cases. For more money, Apple has introduced a new titanium case ($799) and brought back the white ceramic case ($1299). If you don’t need the ECG and fall detection features that the Series 5 retains from the Series 4, the aluminum Series 3 model remains available, starting at $199.
Seventh-Generation iPad Goes Semi-Pro
No one was expecting Apple to update its entry-level iPad, but the new seventh-generation iPadsweetens what is already the best deal in the Apple universe. Starting at just $329, the new iPad increases the screen size to 10.2 inches, up from 9.7 inches, and adds a Smart Connector that allows you to connect Apple’s Smart Keyboard to it. It’s a few millimeters larger and a few grams heavier, but nothing you’ll notice.
Otherwise, the seventh-generation iPad is similar to the sixth-generation model, with an A10 Fusion chip, 8-megapixel 1080p rear camera, and 1.2-megapixel 720p front-facing camera. It also supports the first-generation Apple Pencil for stylus input. Battery life remains the same.
It’s available for pre-order now and will ship on September 30th.
Apple Arcade and Apple TV+ Details Revealed
We focus on Apple’s computing and communications products and services, which is why we haven’t written much about the recent release of Apple Card, the company’s new credit card, which provides increased privacy protections and an excellent interface, but no export options. Similarly, we don’t expect to say much in the future about Apple Arcade, which is Apple’s new game subscription service, or Apple TV+, the company’s slate of original video content, both of which were unveiled at Apple’s event.
For completeness, though, we should note that Apple Arcade will cost $4.99 per month when Apple launches it on September 19th. You’ll get a 30-day free trial to see if a service that gives your family access to over 100 games across all your Apple devices is compelling.
Apple TV+ debuts on November 1st, and it too will cost $4.99 per month for access to all of Apple’s original content. It doesn’t include any back catalog shows and movies such as are available from Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Disney+. A 7-day free trial will be available, but if you buy a new iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac, or Apple TV, you’ll get a year for free.
Phew! So many announcements! Our take is that the seventh-generation iPad is a compelling buy for anyone who wants an iPad but doesn’t need the performance of the iPad Air and iPad Pro models. The always-on screen of the Apple Watch Series 5 is welcome if you’re in the market for a new Apple Watch, though it may not be worth upgrading if you already have a recent model. And the new iPhone 11 models look awfully nice for anyone who takes photos and videos. And, let’s face it, that’s most of us these days.
(Featured image by Apple)
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