During the keynote of Apple’s recent Worldwide Developer Conference in San Francisco, the company unveiled major updates to all four of its operating systems. All the new versions will be free, and they’re slated for release this fall, likely in September or October. What can you look forward to?
macOS 10.12 Sierra: After 15 years of calling it “Mac OS X” and then “OS X,” Apple has simplified the name of its Mac operating system to match iOS, watchOS, and tvOS. As with previous versions of OS X, the new macOS retains both its version number (10.12) and a California-inspired name (Sierra).
First among macOS Sierra’s many changes is the addition of Siri, so you’ll finally be able to talk to your Mac just like you talk to your other Apple devices. To integrate the Mac more deeply into Apple’s ecosystem, you’ll be able to auto-unlock your Mac when you’re wearing an Apple Watch, copy and paste between all your Apple devices, and access everything in your Desktop and Documents folders on any of your Macs or iOS devices via iCloud Drive.
Other new low-level features include the capability to free up space on your Mac automatically by uploading rarely used files to iCloud, support for Safari-like tabs in all window-centric apps, and picture-in-picture for those who like to watch videos while working in other apps. Apple will also bring Apple Pay to the Web, so you should be able to use Apple Pay for some Web purchases in Safari.
The Photos app gains more automatic recognition technologies so it will recognize not just faces, but objects and scenes as well, and it will choose the best of these photos to automatically create slideshows and shareable collections called Memories.
macOS Sierra will work on all MacBook and iMac models released in late 2009 and later, and on MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Mac mini, and Mac Pro models released in 2010 and later. That’s only a bit less broad than the system requirements for OS X 10.11 El Capitan, which worked on a few more models dating back to 2007.
iOS 10: Even more significant changes come to iOS 10. The iPhone’s Lock screen gains “raise to wake,” much like the Apple Watch, and provides easier access to the camera and to the widgets that were previously squirreled away in Notification Center. On devices that support it, you’ll be able to use 3D Touch on notifications to get more info without unlocking the device, clear all notifications with 3D Touch, and use 3D Touch on a Home screen app icon to get a quick hit of information without opening the app.
Siri should become far more useful than in the past because Apple is opening Siri up to developers. That means you’ll be able to control third-party apps via Siri, so you could call a car via Uber or Lyft, make calls with Skype, or send a message with Slack, all without touching the screen.
If you like emoji, you’re going to love the new Messages app, which will let you communicate via larger emoji, handwritten notes, custom message bubbles, and animations. You’ll even be able to add “stickers” to photos. For those who want to use emoji but can never find the right one, iOS 10’s new QuickType keyboard will suggest emoji as you type and even let you tap certain words to replace them with the appropriate emoji. And “invisible ink” will obscure messages until the recipient chooses to reveal them.
Other apps that see notable changes include:
- Photos receives the same face, object, and scene recognition technologies as on the Mac, and it too can create, display, and share Memories.
- Music gets a complete redesign to make it easier to find your tunes, particularly if you subscribe to Apple Music. It will also be able to display song lyrics.
- Maps becomes a location-based hub app that developers will be able to extend to let you find a restaurant, for instance, and then make a reservation via OpenTable.
- News also gets a visual redesign and will support paid subscriptions for newspapers and magazines.
iOS 10 works on all the same devices that iOS 9 did, but drops support for the iPhone 4S, the iPad 2, the third-generation iPad, and the first-generation iPad mini.
watchOS 3: With a year of Apple Watch user experience to draw from, Apple has radically redesigned watchOS 3. The company made it so apps will launch much faster, added more watch faces (including Minnie Mouse!) with more complications, and simplified the process of replying to messages.
In two changes familiar from iOS, the side button will now display the Dock, which you can configure with your most-used apps, and swiping up from the bottom of the watch face shows Control Center instead of glances. Pressing and holding on the side button brings up an SOS screen for making an emergency call.
Regarding improved apps, the popular Timer app makes starting timers faster, and the Activity app now lets you share your rings for a little friendly activity ring competition. Activity also now provides activity tracking for wheelchair users. New in watchOS 3 is the Breath app, which Apple designed to help users relax with deep-breathing exercises.
With no new Apple Watch hardware announced, watchOS 3 will run on every Apple Watch sold so far.
tvOS 10: Those with a fourth-generation Apple TV can look forward to tvOS 10, which boasts enhancements to Siri that will let you search by topic or theme, look for YouTube videos, and take you to live TV playing in apps that support the feature, like ESPN. You’ll also be able to control the Apple TV from a new iOS Remote app that supports Siri, has a touchpad section, and displays a Now Playing screen with playback controls. You can even use the Remote app as a gaming controller!
Logging in to apps that require a paid cable or satellite subscription should be easier with tvOS’s new single sign-on feature. A new “dark mode” will be welcome by those who find the Apple TV’s interface too bright in darkened rooms. When you download an iOS app with an Apple TV companion, automatic app downloading will ensure you get the Apple TV app without extra hassle. Finally, the Photos app will support the photo-related changes coming in iOS 10 and macOS Sierra.
For the next few months, developers will be working to update their apps to be compatible with these operating system releases, and testers will be helping to shake out the bugs. Given how integrated the four operating systems are, it’s likely that Apple will release them all at once, or at least in quick succession. Regardless, there’s a lot to look forward to no matter what Apple devices you use!