Apple Loop: Impressive iPhone Changes, MacBook Air Surprise, EU Regulations Threatens Apple
Taking a look back at another week of news and headlines from Cupertino, this week’s Apple Loop includes all the news from WWDC, more continuity for the iPhone, iOS 16 personalisation, the impact of macOS changes, new M2 Apple Silicon, updates to MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, a tiny move around gaming, the power of a new font, and disturbing news from Europe.
Apple Loop is here to remind you of a few of the very many discussions that have happened around Apple over the last seven days (and you can read my weekly digest of Android news here on Forbes).
The Direction Of Travel
This week was WWDC, Apple’s annual developer conference. While the headlines were grabbed by the hardware releases, the real value is in showing what is exciting Apple enough to build into its hardware. 2022 is the year of making things a bit faster, with more Apple-sanctioned options on how to change the UI of your own device. Thomas Claburn sums it up:
“Apple’s software-oriented enhancements consist mainly of worthy but not particularly thrilling interface and workflow improvements, alongside a handful of useful APIs and personalization capabilities. Company video performers made no mention of Apple’s anticipated AR/VR headset.”
A Webcam With Its Own Notch
Sometimes you need a really simple demonstration though, and WWDC had that. Last year it was moving a mouse between a Mac screen and an iPad screen. This year it is using your iPhone as your Mac’s webcam:
“Apple has announced what it calls Continuity Camera, which will allow iPhone and macOS users to use an iPhone camera as a webcam. This concept isn’t new as there have been third-party apps that have offered this idea for years, but almost all of them have been clunky and unreliable. Only actual testing will show what quality Apply is going to be able to achieve with this type of wireless video transmission, but from the demonstration given during its Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC), it looks promising.
Making iOS 16 Your Own
Apple has leaned heavily into personalisation throughout iOS 16, but the biggest focus was on the lock screen – not surprising given the strong rumors of an always-on display being prepared for the iPhone 14 Pro. From choosing fonts, selecting information, and positioning widgets, a lot is going on:
“The company showed off a new lock screen for the iPhone, that lets users customise far more than just the wallpaper, from the font used for the clock to the placement and location of widgets on the lock screen itself. (We will now take a brief pause while the Android users in the audience point out that they’ve had this for years.)”
“Always-on is not a magic wand that increases productivity. This is Apple we are talking about and while the reputation for simplicity is strong, that’s not been the case recently. Will the same mistake happen with the new lock screen?
“Apple could easily try to reinvent the wheel and overcomplicate the iPhone 14’s [always on display]… There are times when you should admit that your competitor has the right idea and, for the sake of your users, you should just adopt the thing in question. I hope that my unease is ill-founded, because an always-on display is one of my favorite Android features. I sorely miss it when I use my iPhone 13 Pro Max.”
What Has macOS Left Behind?
Every software update has casualties, and Apple’s more than most. The OS teams have been notoriously quick to cut off support both for older software and for older machines. It does mean there are fewer configurations to support – one reason the move to Apple Silicon was relatively smooth has to be the work done previously to keep third-party developers on up-to-date builds).3 macOS what is left behind. With the launch of macOS Ventura, the axe has cut much deeper than most, with hardware from as late as 2017 losing support. Presumably this is the price of progress in regards Apple Silicon:
“Dropped Mac Hardware: 2015-2016 MacBook Pro; 2015-2017 MacBook Air; 2016 12” MacBook; 2014 Mac mini; 2013 Mac Pro; 2015 iMac.”
The Difficult Second M Chip
At the heart of the updates are Apple’s own chips – the A16 for its mobile devices and the M2 for the desk-bound computers. The easy number to take away from WWDC is the M2’s 18 per cent increase in power, but there’s a lot more to the new Apple SIlicon design than a single number can represent:
“From a high level, there has been a limited number of changes with the M2 – or at least as much as Apple wants to disclose at this time – with the focus being on a few critical areas, versus the bonanza that was the initial M1 SoC. While all of this is preliminary ahead of either further disclosures from Apple or getting hands-on time with the hardware itself, the M2 looks a lot like a derivate of the A15 SoC, similar to how the M1 was derived from A14. As a result, at first glance the M1 to M2 upgrade looks quite similar to the A14 to A15 upgrade.”
The New MacBooks
A new chip is good, but new hardware to go with it is even better. After a false start in March, Apple has launched a new version of the MacBook Air featuring the M2 chipset, and incorporating many (but not all) of the design cues from the top-tier 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro laptops:
“The display is now larger at 13.6 inches and gets closer to the edge of the lid because the 1080p camera has been hidden in a notch. On this smaller unit, the notch seems a little bigger than the one on the MacBook Pro, but over time,… Ports-wise, it’s not a lot, but the notable addition is MagSafe charging, which allows both Thunderbolt ports to stay available while charging. The audio jack supports high-impedance headphones, which is nice. The full-size Touch ID button is also a nice addition since it’ll be a lot harder to miss when you’re trying to turn the computer on.”
You will recall Apple launched a consumer-focused M1 MacBook Pro at the same time as the M1 Air in late 20202. The “curiously placed in the portfolio” Mac is back with an M2 version as well, but here there’s little more than a chip upgrade… the same MacBook design from 2016 is still on show:
“The new 13-inch MacBook Pro is essentially a processor bump, with the design and other hardware features identical to the previous model… With a faster 8-core CPU and 10-core GPU, working with RAW images in apps like Affinity Photo is nearly 40 percent faster than the previous generation, and up to 3.4x faster for users who are upgrading from a model without Apple silicon, according to Apple.”
Where No Man’s Sky Has Gone Before…
If there’s one thing that Apple still struggles with, it’s top-tier gaming. While there are countless wonderful gaming titles on the App Stores, breaking through to get the big names has never felt like a priority. With support for Nintendo’s Joy Con controllers from the Switch built in to the OS (joining support for the Sony Dualshock and Xbox Wireless Controller), there are more opportunities for notable developers to code for the platform… a potential backed up by the announcement of No Man’s Sky coming to macOS later the year:
“No Man’s Sky coming to the iPad would be a huge deal, worth mentioning even in passing during the keynote, but instead it’s a bit of info that’s relegated to an online press release. It also seems that Metal 3 will be restricted to only Apple Silicon devices, so I’m guessing you’ll need an M1-equipped iPad if you want to play No Man’s Sky when it comes out.
“Whatever the case, this is a long time coming as a No Man’s Sky mobile port has been rumored for literally half a decade, so it’s exciting to see one finally come to fruition, even if Apple didn’t deem it worthy enough to mention during their big keynote today.”
Expanded! Bolded! Italicised!
Not to be outdone, we’ve saved the biggest change from WWDC to the end. A chance that will impact every Apple user, be it macOS, iOS, iPadOS, watchOS, tvOS, or any of the applications…. yes, Tim Cook and his teams have updated Apple’s San Francisco font!
“Discover the latest additions to San Francisco — the system font for Apple platforms — and find out how they can provide more control and versatility when designing interfaces. In addition to weights and optical sizes, San Francisco now supports three new width styles: Condensed, Compressed, and Expanded. We’ll also take you through the linguistic expansion of San Francisco and learn more about the feature-rich Arabic system font families: SF Arabic and SF Arabic Rounded.”
European regulators have taken a critical step forward to make USB-C charging a universal requirement for any device solid in the EU… which will impact the lightning-port equipped iPhone, assuming the regulation is given formal approval.
“The European Union (EU) has reached an agreement that will make USB-C charging no longer just a convenience but a requirement for iPhones and all other mobile phones by the fall of 2024. The plan extends to additional consumer electronics using wired charging, including digital cameras, tablets, and, at a later date, laptops.”
Apple Loop brings you seven days worth of highlights every weekend here on Forbes. Don’t forget to follow me so you don’t miss any coverage in the future. Last week’s Apple Loop can be read here, or this week’s edition of Loop’s sister column, Android Circuit, is also available on Forbes.