Hands-on: iOS / iPadOS 15 and macOS Monterey

Apple is talking about a major update, but that’s disappointing or not too bad, depending on how you look at it. iOS/iPadOS 15 includes a lot of tricks, but no more than that. Last week, Apple released the first public betas of iOS and iPadOS. Starting Thursday, the first beta build of macOS Monterey is also available.

The fact that you don’t notice such big differences after installing the new system software for iPhone and iPad says a lot about the upcoming release. Apple has been improving its software in small steps in recent years, just as Google is doing with Android. Many additives will not even be noticed, let alone used extensively.

An example is Focus, which allows you to pause the flow of messages in order to focus. This option was already available in iOS, but it has now been expanded. There are special settings for when you go to sleep, you are at work or you don’t want to be bothered at all. You can also create a separate home screen with the apps and widgets you need. But how many people are really going to use this?

Notifications are also getting smarter. You can even choose when those notifications appear, such as morning and evening. In the overview, messages are listed in order of priority, with the most important placed at the top. But the question here, too, is: a nice touch or a necessity?

You can also ask this question about Mail’s new privacy protection, which prevents the sender from knowing if you’ve opened an email. It also hides your IP address so that the sender cannot know your location or use it to create a profile for you.

Or take SharePlay in FaceTime. With it, you can listen to music together, watch the same movie or TV show at the same time, or share your screen to watch the same app together. It seems that this is based mainly on commercial motives, because SharePlay is initially associated with Apple Music and Apple TV. It will support Disney+, ESPN+, HBO Max, Hulu, MasterClass, Paramount+, Pluto TV, TikTok, and Twitch SharePlay.

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City areas, shopping streets and buildings can be viewed in detail in Apple Maps and elevation information is available, at least in a few large cities and not in the Benelux at the moment.

For example, there are more jobs that are not yet available here and may never be available. In a number of states in the US, you can put your driver’s license or ID in Wallet later this year. In the US, the Transportation Security Administration has begun adapting entrance gates at airports, so that you only need your digital ID in Wallet to be able to pass through. But not in Schiphol at the moment.

The translation app doesn’t seem to work at all at first, until you find out that Dutch isn’t supported yet. You also encounter this problem with the most useful add-on Livetext. It uses machine learning to recognize text in images. The camera recognizes the text in such a way that you can copy the WiFi password hanging on the wall in the coffee shop.

With Visual Look Up, you will learn about famous artworks, points of interest and also learn about plants and flowers. Admittedly, Apple is very late in this matter. Google’s comparable lens has been available with Android for years.

The Weather app has been greatly improved and is now somewhat reminiscent of the excellent Yahoo weather app. You still need it for the iPad, because Apple still chooses to develop certain apps (stock, calculator) only for the iPhone.

I’m less excited about the new tab design in Safari. Apple has a knack for making tasks that were previously reasonably manageable, like mail.

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The new Safari tab bar combines tabs, a toolbar, and a search field into one compact group. Apple wants to emphasize tab groups, which on your Mac automatically sync with your iPhone so you can continue your projects anywhere or quickly share your tabs with someone else.

All of this still works on the big screen like the iPad, but it gets quite clumsy on the iPhone. The URL bar is not immediately visible, but must be taken out with a click at the bottom. With the iPad, bookmarks are now more prominently shown on the left, although this option was already present in the current version. While it’s easier to switch between web pages, better than the “rolodex method” in iOS 14, I’ve honestly read quite a few positive comments about the design. It is hoped that Apple will modify this based on the feedback.

Support for extensions is useful, although there are almost none at the moment.

However, for the iPad, one change is immediately obvious: the UI elements are located in a different place and can be placed anywhere on the desktop.

The most significant change for the iPad is the new multitasking menu that lets you enable Split View or Slide Over functionality with a single click. The new Appstrip also lets you multitask with apps that use multiple windows, such as Safari and Pages (see the how-to video below). As such, this does not change the multitasking capabilities already present in iPadOS. The iPad is not a replacement for a laptop, although you can go a long way with it. If you want to use several apps side by side, it is best to do it on a Mac.

To view videos from Youtube, you must accept analytics cookies and tracking cookies.

With iPadOS 15, the app library will also be available for iPad. In it, applications are automatically categorized into categories.

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For example, new versions of the system are full of tricks that will attract some people more than others, but will not be missed anywhere. It’s really time for Apple to take a more critical look at the ease of use of individual apps before the next release.

Mac OS Monterey

The new, according to Apple, macOS Monterey “ultra-social and super-capable” (software for Macs) has become quite an enigma. At first glance, you won’t see any changes at all, although after installation, you must select the options you want to use for the new iCloud Plus, such as Private Relay in iCloud, Hide my email address, and comprehensive support for Secure Video in HomeKit.

A number of new features from iOS 15 are now available on the Mac: SharePlay for FaceTime, Focus Focus, Quick Notes, and Live Text in Photos.

Some features are just for the lucky few: AirPlay for Mac, for example (sharing, viewing, listening or presenting content from another Apple device on your Mac’s screen) and assignments (automatic tasks).

Again, the most significant change is the redesigned tab bar in Safari, where the web page extends all the way to the edge of the window. New floating tabs are combined with a smart search field. It takes a while to get used to, but it works better than your iPhone or iPad.

Of all the recent upgrades, the Monterey is unfortunately the least attractive by far, although you can’t blame Apple for that either. The system software has already been developed.

The new system software is expected to be released in September. Although we encountered quite a few really annoying bugs, it is recommended that you do not install trial versions on devices that you will need to use every day.

Winton Frazier

 "Amateur web lover. Incurable travel nerd. Beer evangelist. Thinker. Internet expert. Explorer. Gamer."

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