Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference keynote (full video or 2-minute recap) is primarily an opportunity for Apple to give developers a first look at new features coming in its operating systems, and this year was no exception. However, Apple sandwiched those feature reveals between announcements of new Macs and the unveiling of its mixed-reality Vision Pro headset, due next year. Here’s what you should know.
Apple introduced three new Macs, the 15-inch MacBook Air, Mac Studio models with faster chips, and the first Apple silicon Mac Pro, all of which are available to order now and start shipping on June 13.
With the release of the Mac Pro, Apple dropped the last Intel-based Mac from its lineup. That doesn’t mean the company will stop supporting recent Intel-based iMacs in the next version or two of macOS, but that will happen sometime in the next few years. Plan to replace Intel-based Macs eventually—you’ll appreciate the significant performance gains from Apple’s M-series Macs.
As always, Apple previewed oodles of new features while covering many more on its website. We’ll focus on those we think will make the biggest splash in your Apple experience, but take a moment to scroll through Apple’s pages for each operating system to see the full list of what’s coming. Those are linked below, along with their basic system requirements so you can see if your devices will be eligible to upgrade (not all features will be available on all devices):Mac Pro
Here are some new features we think will most impact your Apple experience.
Although you can share your preferred photo with others for use in Messages, Contacts, and Photos, when you call someone, all they see is your name. In iOS 17, Apple is introducing Contact Posters, which let you pick a photo or Memoji, along your preferred font. Then the Contact Poster will appear whenever you call someone, making it easier for them to identify who’s calling at a glance.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could take a FaceTime call on your living room TV? It wasn’t impossible before, but Apple didn’t make it easy. With tvOS 17 on an Apple TV 4K, you’ll be able to leverage your iPhone or iPad camera and microphone through Continuity Camera to bring FaceTime conversations to the biggest screen in the house. Center Stage will let you move around the room while staying framed onscreen, and gesture-based reactions let callers create onscreen effects. These capabilities will also arrive later this year for other videoconferencing systems like Zoom or Webex, creating another reason to put an Apple TV in the conference room.
Widgets have become commonplace on iPhone and iPad Home screens, but on the Mac, they’ve been relegated to Notification Center. With macOS Sonoma, widgets can now migrate to the desktop, where you can position them anywhere. They’re also interactive, enabling you to control music, toggle the lights, and mark reminders as done. Thanks to Continuity, you can add your iPhone widgets to the Mac desktop, even when there’s no Mac app. Your iPhone has to remain nearby or on the same Wi-Fi network. Remember that you can use a hotkey or hot corner to slide all your windows aside to reveal your desktop at any time.
Sharing phone numbers has never been easier with the new NameDrop feature. Just hold your iPhone near someone else’s iPhone or Apple Watch (Series 6 or later, sometime after the initial watchOS 10 release) to exchange contact information—which you select—along with your Contact Poster. Alas, you’ll still have to type in phone numbers for Android users manually.
We all have websites that we use heavily, just like a native Mac app. If there’s no Mac version of the app, Safari in macOS Sonoma will let you add the website to your Dock, where it will look and work like a standalone app with its own window, toolbar, and notifications. (If you’re longing for this capability now, check out Unite from BZG.)
For more reasons to upgrade once these new operating systems are out and stable, consider the following additional features:
Apple usually releases its new operating systems in September or October, and we’ll be writing more about them as we have a chance to test them. Generally speaking, it’s OK to upgrade to everything but macOS shortly after release; with macOS, we recommend caution to ensure all your existing apps and workflows won’t be impacted.
And now for something completely different. Apple devoted the final third of its keynote to unveiling a mixed-reality headset it calls Vision Pro. Even though it fits on the user’s head like bulbous ski goggles, Apple prefers to call it a spatial computer. That’s probably to avoid charged terms like metaverse, although the Vision Pro does provide both augmented reality, where digital objects are superimposed on a view of the real world, and virtual reality, where an immersive digital environment blocks out the real world.
Apple said the Vision Pro would ship early next year, starting at $3499. The high price accurately reflects the impressive amounts of technology Apple has shoehorned into the device but puts it out of reach for all but the most inquisitive and flush early adopters. What will the Vision Pro make possible for that money?
The Vision Pro blends digital content with the physical world, providing a three-dimensional interface controlled by the user’s eyes, hands, and voice. Users can display apps as floating windows or bring a Mac’s screen into Vision Pro as an enormous 4K display. Along with controls triggered by eye tracking and hand gestures, plus a virtual keyboard, users can use the Magic Trackpad and Magic Keyboard for faster interaction.
FaceTime calls using the Vision Pro take advantage of the space, putting other callers in life-size tiles and providing a shared screen. Speakers in the headset provide spatial audio, so it sounds like people are speaking from where their tiles are positioned. Vision Pro users don’t show up looking like they’re wearing the headset; instead, they’re represented by a digital avatar Apple calls a Persona. Will it escape the uncanny valley?
The Vision Pro is an easier sell for entertainment, where many people prefer immersive experiences, whether watching a movie on what seems like a 100-foot screen or playing a game where you see nothing but its virtual world. A Digital Crown lets the user control how much of the physical world seeps through around the edges.
If you’re thinking it would be unsettling to be in the same room with someone wearing a Vision Pro, you’re not alone. In an attempt to reduce that sense, a technology called EyeSight makes the device seem transparent—it shows an image of the user’s eyes on a front-facing display for others to see. How effective this will be remains to be seen, but it’s hard to imagine the Vision Pro becoming a fashion accessory.
There’s a great deal more to the Vision Pro, such as its ability to record and play back 3D movies with spatial audio, wrap panorama photos around the user, and use familiar iPhone and iPad apps. Despite the incredible hardware and software that Apple has invented to bring the Vision Pro to fruition, it feels like a technology demo. And it does demo well, judging from reports from people like tech analyst Ben Thompson.
But the Vision Pro is at least 6 months from emerging from Apple’s reality distortion field, and many people are already highly dubious that the company’s vision for the future of computing will do a better job with the real-world tasks we already do with today’s digital devices.
(Featured image by Apple)
Social Media: At WWDC, Apple announced new Macs and new features in the upcoming macOS Sonoma, iOS 17, iPadOS 17, watchOS 10, and tvOS 17. It also unveiled the Vision Pro mixed-reality headset, which offers a glimpse at Apple’s vision for the future of computing.