One of the best things about using Apple products is that, as a consumer-centric company, they understand the value of making a marketing splash heading into the Christmas season. At June's Worldwide Developers Conference, we were teased we many new products for fall. Now it's nearly time for those products to reach our hands.
This fall, Apple will release new versions of Mac OS X and iOS. In addition to software, we're likely to see new MacBook Pros based on Intel's latest Haswell microprocessors, with battery life similar to the 12 hours observed in the new MacBook Airs. We should also see the completely redesigned Mac Pro which, while undeniably stylish, innovative, and powerful, is also undoubtedly overkill for what legal professionals do. This is probably a good thing given that its rumored starting price is "guestimated" at north of $3,500. All of these Mac introductions don't include the new iPhones, rumored to be revealed on September 10, and new iPads and iPad minis. And, of course, revised iPods, if you are among the few who care.
Lets Focus on Software
The primary excitement, assuming you're not in the market for new hardware, should focus on the revisions to iOS and Mac OS X. Fortunately, these are also the two cheapest things you can acquire from Apple this fall. As has been true for all iOS releases for iPhone and iPad, iOS 7 will be free. The only requirement is that your iDevice is sufficiently new to run it. Check the bottom of this page to see if your iDevice made the cut. With the new version of Mac OS X, named Mavericks, after a surfing spot in California, no pricing or system requirements have been announced. However, given past releases, I would expect a price of about $20, and that most Macs that run Mountain Lion can run Mavericks.
iOS' New Features
iOS 7 is the first version of Apple's mobile OS overseen by its famed designer Jonathan Ive. The man responsible for Apple's hardware look is now also in charge of software appearance. Therefore, iOS features an entirely new look. All of the icons have a "flatter" appearance and the entire user interface is more colorful and brighter than before. The system has more whitespace and interface elements (buttons, etc.) aren't as "heavy" in appearance.
In addition to the new visual appearance, Apple has also added many new features to make your iDevice more useful and fun:
• Control Center - This does for system functions (WiFi, Bluetooth, Lock Screen, Time, etc.) what notification center did for pop-ups in iOS 4. The Control Center is an easy swipe-up from the bottom of the screen to access these often-used functions.
• Improved Multitasking - Application switching is now much more visual. You can swipe through running applications horizontally and close them by swiping upwards on the screen. In the background, applications group their data requests so that the iDevice only has to fire up the cellular radio one time and bulk-download data updates for multiple apps at once. Ultimately, this translates into less battery drain and therefore longer battery life.
• Camera / Photos - Apple has added filters to the camera app, so that you can change the image straight from the built-in camera without relying on an external app. Regarding photos, they've also added new sorting features so that the Photos app automatically divides pics by collections.
• AirDrop - This is a really cool feature. It allows you to share content with other nearby iDevices over Bluetooth. The setup is automatic, and there's no physical connection or even "bumping", ala the recent Samsung commercials.
• Safari - In addition to faster performance, and improved image handling, Safari now has the ability to store passwords in iCloud, which sync back to any Mac running the Mavericks version of OS X. It also has the ability to create secure passwords, so you no longer have an excuse to use "password" as your website passwords. Please stop doing that even if you don't upgrade to iOS 7.
• The App Store - It gets the simplest, but nicest upgrade that you can think of: apps will automatically upgrade themselves in the background. No more constant number badges on the app icon. Maybe we can thank John McCain for this feature.
Mac OS X Mavericks New Features
The changes to Mavericks are not as fundamental as those to iOS 7. If you think about this, it make sense given that desktop operating systems are approaching 30 years old versus just six for iOS. But, there are some new features to celebrate:
• Calendar - This application has finally been rethought and no longer has the hideous and stupid leather color scheme. You can now schedule "travel time" automatically before appointments, and have the system calculate that time to your destination. Relying on the new Maps app in Mavericks, the Calendar app can show you the location of your calendar event and the weather forecast for that location.
• iCloud Keychain - I mentioned this under the "Safari" description for iOS 7, but it is also integrated into Mavericks. Your passwords and other information you store in Keychain syncs automatically between all your Apple products.
• Multiple Displays - Anyone who has used Macs with multiple displays has probably experienced the same nuisance. When you make a single app fullscreen, it turns the "subordinate" display into a linen black background. You can't use it for anything. Apple has finally fixed that in Mavericks. Now you can have multiple apps running fullscreen, one on each monitor. And each monitor can have its own menubar at the top, so there's no more turning from one monitor with the app to another with the menubar. Its sort of a dull thing to describe, but this is one of those "sleeper" features that you'll use every day if you have multiple monitors.
• Finder - The Finder, one of the few features of Mac OS that everyone uses everyday, has a couple of excellent enhancements. First, you can have a tabbed view on Finder windows, just like you do now with your web browser. Second, you can now add "tags" to individual files. The idea of tags is not new, and we've had labels in the Finder for years. But now, in addition to using labels to color file names, you can now "tag" files in the save dialog box, i.e. "Smith Proposal", to multiple file types in different applications. And the number of different tags you can have is limitless.
As I said, no pricing has been announced, but the last updates to Mac OS X have been very affordable as operating systems go - about $20 through the Mac App Store.
As you can see, the fall will be an exciting time to be a Mac user and iOS aficionado. The new hardware should be excellent, but the coolest new features will come for virtually free on your existing hardware.
- Jeffrey Schoenberger, Esq., Affinity Mac Specialist and Consultant