Yes, today was WWDC 2022, and as expected by all the rumors we’ve been covering for weeks, it was pretty packed. Some expected the event to stick to its predominant software updates, but we inclined with others who knew there had to be some hardware. Notice I say some because we did get some of the things we expected, but not everything.
New MacBook Air with M2
Let me begin by highlighting what, in my opinion, was the hottest announcement today, and that’s the new MacBook Air. Just when we thought Apple would rehash the defunct single-port MacBook in multiple colors, what we have is a complete redesign that exceeds expectations.
Somehow the wedge shape is gone, and yet this laptop has 20% less volume than its predecessor at just 2.7 lbs. We now get MagSafe, giving you more freedom with the two Thunderbolt 4 ports, though seriously, why not put one on each side? Instead, we get a single high-impedance headphone jack sort of balancing the equation. The display is now larger at 13.6-inches, thanks to the reduction in bezels. It is also 25% brighter and now supports 1 Billion colors.
Sadly, the notch is now a staple on MacBooks to provide that 1080p webcam that doubles resolution and low-light performance. In addition, the speakers and mics are now integrated in a way to even provide Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos, and all this lives under the new keyboard that follows on the MacBook Pro DNA, from the larger function keys to the cooler Touch ID.
Yes, just like last time, this new Air serves as one of two launch platforms for Apple’s new M2 chip. As opposed to the rumored 3nm update, this is more like a second-generation 5nm chip that focuses on more power and efficiency. The same even split of 4 high-performance and 4 efficiency cores is now met with up to 10 cores in the GPU instead of the previous limit of 8, and now supporting up to 24 GB of unified memory instead of 16. On the MacBook Air, this means the same 18 hours of battery life with added performance, all on a fan-less aluminum unibody that has all the elements to be a great successor to what we had.
What’s the catch? Well, as much as I love absolutely everything about the chip and this computer, this new model now starts at $1,199 for the same base 256GB storage, which I find too little for its capabilities. It has all the potential of being the best laptop for most people, but that’s if you prepare to spend an extra $300 to double that storage. As a consolation, you still can stick with the old M1 variant that will remain on shelves and miss out on the part of the fun. Oh, and about that “New” 13-inch MacBook Pro with M2 on a 7-year-old design, no MagSafe, and the same price. Yeah, I’d skip that one too. Also, for anyone thinking the Mac Pro would be announced here, sadly, that’ll have to wait, but at least this makes it sort of clear that it’ll be built on the M2 platform.
And since we already began with the Mac, it’s only fair that we continue with the new version of macOS, now named after one of my favorite places in California. macOS Ventura is being presented as a way to help you be more productive and creative, and I’d say I agree in part. I do like this whole Stage Manager approach where you can multi-task in this sort of mix between the window UI and Exposé, though we’ll have to see the implementation as it does seem kind of convoluted for smaller screens. And then the other thing worth mentioning is how Continuity now allows you to start a FaceTime call on your phone and move it to your Mac or iPad, and even use your iPhone as a better FaceTime camera for your Mac with the use of a stand, up to the point of even helping you portray your full desktop using the wide-angle camera. So yes, I agree it looks too good to be true.
Apple made a big deal about Metal 3 and how it’ll prepare Macs to finally be good for gaming, with Resident Evil Village serving as an example. However, this example is more than a year old, implying that Mac users may have to wait longer to enjoy cool games, as the title is still not ready for the Mac. Obviously, it’s going to be hard to tell how the gaming community will receive it, especially after the Epic Games debacle. Other things like Spotlight Search, Mail, and Safari improved search capabilities and security essentials like PassKey, but we’ll keep you posted on that when it’s ready.
Moving on to iOS 16, I think this was the second highlight of the show. The new Lock Screen updates, in my opinion, are phenomenal. I’m sure I’ll read a ton of your references to Material You in the comments, but I think this goes far beyond just giving you a way to switch the color palette. Having multiple lock screens that cater to your focus modes is genius, plus all the granularity you get in order to customize the look and feel with its gallery. Now I think the most important change is the widgets, but not for the reasons you think. Sure it’s cool to see sports scores, your activity, and other options in small icons under your clock. But if you think of it, this is precisely how Android Always-on displays work, so consider this a hint for a much-rumored feature on the iPhone 14 series.
Other subtle updates come to focus filters so that not only your apps get hidden when you’re busy but also Safari pages. Messages finally joins every other messaging platform with Edit Messages and Undo Send. SharePlay now also works while you’re texting, and we do see some cohesive updates to Dictation and Live Text that are pretty nice. Finally, that whole option for Visual Lookup to help you select objects from a photo without cutting them out on Photoshop is pretty amazing.
We’ll detail the rest of the updates to Wallet, Maps, Sports, Family Sharing, Home, and Privacy when we get the Public Beta in July. If anything, what I wish happened as quickly is everything that’s coming to CarPlay and how the service will now adapt to different screens and interact with vehicle indicators. I say “as quickly” because this is clearly something we’ll have to wait for car makers to implement in the future.
I wish Apple had bigger news about iPadOS, but I think the best way to see it is as if iOS 16 and macOS Ventura had a baby that’s sort of learning how to walk on its own. Guys, we finally got a Weather app on the iPad! Yes, forgive the sarcasm, but that only took 12 years to implement, though Apple made a big deal about its exclusive experiences on the larger canvas and the API for developers. There’s also a FreeForm service that will launch later this year that allows you to collaborate in a whiteboard environment through FaceTime. The goal here is to have one place where you can brainstorm on ideas, files, sketches, etc. Speaking of collaboration, you can now fully do so on files with other users, sort of like you always could with Google Docs. That said, most of everything I’m mentioning is not an iPadOS exclusive. Photo Collaboration through iCloud and even FreeForm will also work on other Apple products.
I thought this would finally be the day when Apple would announce desktop-class apps for the M1 iPads, but I’d call it more of a logical UI enhancement. The nicer way to say it is that the Files app and others get a bit more computer-like features. For example, you can now scale the UI in a way that takes better advantage of the canvas and pixel density. External monitor support also gets a much-needed fix where all the mirrored pillarboxing is gone in favor of a true extended mode like you can on a computer. Also, that Stage Manager multi-tasking service we saw for the Mac is also making its way to the M1 iPads, and Metal 3 gaming will also join the fun and other improvements to Game Center.
So yeah, no Final Cut Pro for iPad, but there was a subtle announcement that gives me hope. See, right now, the M1 iPads barely take advantage of the amount of RAM built into the chip, so to see Apple announce a Virtual Memory Swap feature that taps into storage to double your RAM could be an indication that it is in the works. Trust me; I’ll be the first to start recommending these M1 iPads as devices truly made for Pros the moment that happens.
Forgive me for expecting more; I thought WatchOS 9 would finally be the last piece in the puzzle I needed to return to the Apple Watch after switching to Garmin. Don’t get me wrong. It’s still cooler than most. We got four new watch faces, a refreshed Siri UI, and other UI improvements, but Apple breezed through them so fast that I don’t think you and I should care about them more than they did.
Where I’m mixed is in the updates to sports because a lot of features I’ve wanted are coming, but the implementation sounds like it’s lacking, at least in the way the keynote described them. For example, I’m a runner, and all the enhancements to the built-in Running options sounded almost perfect. It now includes cool metrics like Vertical Oscillation, Stride Length, and Ground Contact Time. We finally get heart rate zone measurements, and you can even plan custom workouts that are triggered by some of these new metrics. Sleep tracking finally gets Stages for you to understand the quality of sleep you had, and not just how much you slept. The problem is that while none of this is new to Garmin users, I feel Apple fell short in not giving you a cohesive way to measure your overall fitness condition over time. The only reason why Garmins continue to be superior is not just because you can measure these stats, as the Apple Health app is full of them, but because of the insights you get from the Garmin services when combining all of them to give you a birds-eye view of where you stand. Closing circles is fun and all, but any pro will tell you it’s not really smart training.
If anything, kudos to Apple for the Heart Rate condition metrics and also having a medication tracker that can even measure when meds interact negatively with others or even alcohol. This is not just unique but pretty genius. Last but not least, it’s great to see that Apple will help you get some of these metrics on your iPhone from now on, saving you the need to buy an Apple Watch if you don’t want one.
To conclude, yes, this was a very packed event. However, I wouldn’t consider any of the software updates revolutionary, but instead more a progression of features to the existing establishment. Crazy how iOS revamped its visuals completely in version 7, but nine generations later, there seems to be no intent for dramatic changes. If anything, I’ll say I’m fine with the continuity of these platforms as they’re still doing well, but I do wonder why we didn’t see updates to the services that are slightly behind, like tvOS and Siri.
Really the only two major things in my book are the new MacBook Air and that new M2 chip. Apple Silicone was clearly the formula the Mac needed to gain the popularity it deserved. I love seeing how Cupertino does not stop its aggressive push for more while competitors continue to scrabble. All we need now is that Mac Pro, as the two-year transition period is pretty much over.
If Apple wanted to make a statement, it did with these two products, but not with anything WWDC was all about.