Another WWDC is in the books. While I don’t do any development related to Apple’s ecosystem, I look forward to conference each year to see what new announcements come along with it from a consumer perspective. I have a MacBook Pro for work, an iPhone, an iPad Air, an Apple Watch SE, and a HomePod Mini; suffice to say, I’m quite the fan of many Apple products. The only major pieces of technology I have that aren’t from Apple are my laptop (currently a Lenovo running Fedora) and an Amazon Fire tablet that I mainly purchased during a sale to use as a lighter e-reader than my iPad; it tends to get heavy after a while. A big item for me this WWDC, though, was a new MacBook Air announcement since I’ve been debating replacing said Lenovo with one; I had just been waiting for a new device since I didn’t want to buy the previous model with an M1 if a new design with a new processor was right around the corner. Here are some of my thoughts on all of the big announcements:
Note: Basically everything here was covered during the keynote, the recording for which is available on YouTube.
iOS kicked off the keynote with some decent changes coming in the next version. The one which got the most fanfare is the fact that the lockscreen, which has more or less been static for the entirety of the iPhone’s existence, is getting quite a bit of customization. Along with being able to tweak how the lockscreen image appears, things like the font and font color for the time will also be up for users to change. I personally don’t really care about this since I’m not one for customizing the look of my devices too much beyond enabling dark mode if that’s an option. For example, I don’t even remember the last time that I changed the wallpaper on one of my devices from the default. However, the new notification system for the lockscreen does appear rather compelling. Instead of having notifications filing in from the top of the screen like they always have, they now appear at the bottom. I’ve already seen some speculation that this was done to facilitate an even bigger iPhone coming in the iPhone 14 generation. Along with the position, though, a new API will allow for notifications to be more dynamic. Instead of having an app send you multiple notifications over a brief period of time due to a changing sports score, arriving Uber, or breaking news story, for example, going forward apps will be able to have something reminiscent of a Windows Phone “live tile” as their notification, which can dynamically update in real time. I think this could be pretty neat, though I admittedly don’t use many — or maybe any — apps which would really benefit from this today.
The other big announcement was related to changes coming in the Messages app. Going forward, iMessages can be edited or even recalled after they’ve been sent. While this may end up being helpful, I’m curious how they’ll end up handling some of the potential problems with this, which is what I always think of every time I see someone clamoring for the ability to edit tweets, which I’m still not convinced is actually a good idea. I presume there will have to be some indicator that a message was edited, similar to what happens when you edit a message in Slack. I’m also curious if there will be any indication that a message was sent and then later recalled — e.g. how Signal will show that something had been there but was later removed — or if the recipient will be none the wiser. Likewise, I’ll be interested to see what the sender experience is if they try to recall a message which has already been opened. Overall, though, I think the changes will be good; it’ll just be interesting to see how some of the intricacies are handled.
There wasn’t much announced here that I really cared about. The workout pieces weren’t super relevant to me, and while improved sleep tracking is cool, I unfortunately can’t take advantage of it. I’ve found that I can’t wear the watch to sleep because it starts to significantly irritate my wrist if I’m wearing it basically every moment except when I’m taking a shower. Admittedly, while I’ve enjoyed my watch, I find it to be the most “meh” product of Apple’s lineup, to the point where I don’t know if I’ll actually end up buying another one. Mine is only about a year old, though, so hopefully I have quite a bit of time for there to be some new, groundbreaking innovations before I have to start contemplating that decision.
This was the big announcement I was waiting to see. As expected, the new MacBook Air has the brand new M2 chip. While a solid step above the M1, it’s still not boasting the specs of the M1 Pro or M1 Ultra. I think a lot of this starts to be a moot point, though, unless you’re getting to the point of really doing heavy media work which would require this type of horsepower… and if that’s what you’re doing, a MacBook Air probably isn’t the device you’re going to be doing it with.
Along with the new chip, the new MacBook Air also shows off a redesigned body, featuring a much nicer, blockier aesthetic that does away with the awful wedge shape that used to plague MacBook Airs. On top of a few other things, there’s a new Liquid Retina display, new speaker setup, significantly improved webcam — which is already impressive… the webcam in my work MacBook Pro is noticeably better than the external Logitech one I have — and a handful of new colors. The package still sports the same, fanless design of the previous model. This doesn’t surprise me at all considering that my device at my last job was an M1 MacBook Pro, and the only time I can recall the fans actually kicking on was while working from a car and my device was sitting in the sun. Apple’s chips manage to churn out impressive performance while staying shockingly cool. Conversely, my current, Intel-based work device has the fans kick on all the time while I just have a code editor and a Terminal open.
Perhaps one of the more welcome announcements included with the MacBook Air was the return of the MagSafe charger! While USB-C is great for ensuring I can pretty much always have a cable usable for charging my device, MagSafe is just so much more convenient.
While the new MacBook Air seems impressive, this is something you pay for, as the new M2 MacBook Air starts at $1199 USD, a full $200 more than the last model, which is staying available for $999. This causes me some issues, but more on that later.
Apple announced the name of their next version of macOS, which will be “Ventura.” While I don’t particularly care about what trendy-sounding name they try to come up with, the new Stage Manager UI looks… interesting. It’s essentially a new way to organize apps by clustering related ones together. Then they can all be brought to the forefront at the same time while other app groupings are moved over to the side of the screen. On one hand, I can potentially see some value in this since I tend to have certain apps that are related to one another from a workflow perspective. For example, Visual Studio Code, Terminal.app, and a web browser are all things I tend to be using actively while working on code while everything else that I have open just represents noise. I’ll be curious to see how it works in practice on macOS, though, especially in the context of multiple screens.
This actually ended up being the biggest announcement for me. You may have noticed at the end of the last section that I said:
I’ll be curious to see how it works in practice on macOS…
I had to specify this because iPadOS is also getting Stage Manager for grouping apps. It’s yet another step in the right direction for making the iPad an actual laptop replacement as opposed to a laptop compliment. Additionally, iPads with the next OS will be able to leverage external displays as well, which works in conjunction with Stage Manager to allow the iPad to have both more active apps than before, and overlapping apps for the first time ever. Apps can actually even be resized on the display, just like you would typically expect if you were using macOS rather than iPadOS.
The announcements as a whole left me feeling a bit conflicted. While I’ve been waiting for a new MacBook Air, and the new MacBook Air looks reallynice, the price is a bit hard for me to stomach. On one hand, I get it; this new MacBook Air is going to be releasing in a world where supply chain issues, inflation, and out of control fuel prices mean that everything is more expensive. By releasing the new Air for $200 more, Apple passes those costs on to the consumer while still offering the previous version at the original price. On the other hand, though, I need to decide if I really want to pay that price. As things stand today, I typically use my personal laptop a couple of times a week, mostly for either:
- Writing blog posts
- Working on code for a personal project
Is it worth $1199 for that? On the flip side, I use my iPad quite literally every day. I typically use it for things like reading Apple News or Feedly, checking Mastodon, watching videos, browsing the web, etc. The new support for things like Stage Manager and external displays immediately got me wondering if I could finally make the jump to just using an iPad for everything.
Immediately a few things spring to mind for me. First off is that I’d need a better keyboard. When I got my current iPad Air (the last Bionic model, not the M1 model), I purchased the Smart Keyboard folio. While it works relatively well, it’s still not nearly as enjoyable of a typing experience as typing on a laptop. If I want that, I would need to spend just over $100 USD more for the Magic Keyboard. A friend of mine has the Magic Keyboard for his iPad Pro, though, and I can confidently say that it’s a joy to type on from the couple of brief moments I’ve used it. I’d also be curious if they would eventually move to allowing the iPad to be docked; if I could connect my iPad to the same dock I use with my MacBook Pro for work in order to use the external display, keyboard, and mouse, that would be perfect.
On the other hand, I also realize that Apple has a vested interest in keeping the functionality of the iPad and MacBooks separate, no matter how closely they may flirt with overlapping them. As Apple literally mentioned during WWDC, the MacBook Air is the world’s best selling laptop. Why would they allow an iPad to make a MacBook Air unnecessary? While it would be great for consumers, that doesn’t help Apple’s bottom line when today many MacBook Air owners are also iPad owners. I’m not saying that I like this scenario; I’m just being practical about it.
With all of this bouncing around in my mind, I decided that for my next course of action I’m not going to immediately pre-order a new MacBook Air, which is what I had originally been planning to do. Instead, I’m currently doing a bit of an experiment to exclusively use my iPad for my personal computing in order to see what the experience is like if I didn’t have a laptop to use. As a part of this, I took my iPad to a brewery last night where I wrote up yesterday’s post on Atom and put together my notes for this post. However, I am mindful of the fact that, if I were to roll solely with an iPad, even blogging would be a bit more limited than it is now. I’d almost have to stay with a SaaS offering like Write.as or WordPress, as something like Hugo would require a VPS I could SSH into in order to create and publish content.
However, that might still be necessary if I choose to go this route, as the other thing I commonly use my personal laptop for is coding. There isn’t really much in the way of coding I can do from my iPad, meaning I’m likely to need another device. Over the next few weeks I intend to experiment with some different SSH clients, cloud IDEs, etc. to see if I can either find a decent solution on the web or to connect to a Raspberry Pi for writing code. Naturally, I need a solution that doesn’t cost me too much money since I’m not looking to spend more on a coding solution over the span of a couple of years than it would’ve cost me to just buy the MacBook outright.
At the end of the day, I’m pretty geeked on a few of the WWDC announcements, and I think some of the changes coming down the pipeline will be great. In the meantime, I have a decent bit of experimentation ahead of me, so expect further posts with some of the results over the coming weeks!