Alex has been writing for MacStories since 2013. As a MacStories contributor he covers Apple and related technology on the site and for Club MacStories. Alex also keeps the site running smoothly and works on new technology as MacStories’ senior software engineer.
Yesterday during their WWDC keynote event, Apple unveiled the updated M2 Apple Silicon chip. While the M2 might not be quite as revolutionary of an upgrade as the M1 was over previous Intel chips, it’s still a very solid year-over-year improvement which continues to boost Apple ahead of the competition.
Debuting with the M2 inside are the all-new MacBook Air and the upgraded 13” MacBook Pro. While the MacBook Pro has very few changes other than the new processor, the MacBook Air sports a completely new industrial design. Let’s take a look at Apple’s latest entires into the Mac lineup.
During yesterday’s WWDC keynote event, Apple announced watchOS 9. As usual, health and fitness are the core areas of focus in the update, with the Workout app in particular getting packed with new features and metric views. The Sleep app will now track in-depth sleep stage data, and an all-new Medications app is making its debut as well. Throw in some minor quality-of-life system changes, a handful of new watch faces, and some nice accessibility improvements, and we’re looking at a fairly standard watchOS update this year.
At this morning’s WWDC keynote presentation, SVP of Software Engineering Craig Federighi took the stage to announce the latest update to Apple’s desktop operating system: macOS Ventura. Ventura introduces a host of improvements, with many going hand-in-hand with their iOS and iPadOS 16 counterparts. A new windowing mode is perhaps the most intriguing addition, but the clearest wins come in the form of smaller app-specific features such as scheduling outgoing emails in Mail or marking conversations as unread in Messages. Altogether, Ventura looks like a very solid year-over-year upgrade for macOS.
Early today The Iconfactoryreleased their latest app, a simple web server utility called WorldWideWeb. Solidly developer-focused in scope, the app serves files from a local directory to an automatically generated URL, making these files available to any device on your local network. While there are sure to be more inventive use cases for such a utility, its general purpose is for testing simple websites built on the Web’s greatest primitive: HTML.
WorldWideWeb’s killer feature is simplicity. The app’s entire main interface consists of two tiny sections: in the first you select a folder, and in the second you start or stop the web server. When the server is activated, a URL is generated. The app uses Bonjour to make the address available to any device on the same Wi-Fi network as the host. Just copy and paste the URL or press the ‘Open in Browser’ button to view the website natively in a web browser.
Runestone is the latest app from Simon Støvring, the developer behind Scriptable, Jayson, and Data Jar. Støvring’s apps tend to be focused on developer or automation use cases, filling holes in the iOS and iPadOS ecosystem to aid power users. Runestone mostly falls into the same category, although it also has some wider potential appeal for general purpose writing.
The new app functions as an excellent plain text editor for anyone who needs to write on their iPhone or iPad. It’s simple and thoughtfully designed, and includes a variety of excellent themes to improve your writing experience. Runestone’s marquee feature, however, is its syntax highlighting. For Markdown writers, the app will use simple color schemes (which can be altered to your liking using the theme settings) and subtle style changes to highlight your links, bold and italic words, footnotes, and more. The result is a very simple, essentially plain-text approach which still makes it easy to see your markup at a glance.
Yesterday during their Peek Performance keynote event, Apple unveiled the Mac Studio and Apple Studio Display. The former is an all-new computer joining the Mac lineup, with specs that are blowing away Apple’s previous offerings due to the introduction of a new top-of-the-line M-series chip: the M1 Ultra. The Apple Studio Display marks Apple’s true return to the consumer display market after a near decade-long hiatus.
At this morning’s keynote event, Apple announced the third-generation of its standard AirPods. The new devices feature a smaller design that is much more akin to the AirPods Pro. True to form for the non-Pro version, the new AirPods hook inside the base of your ear rather than being in-ear headphones. As such, they continue to not support the advanced noise cancelling features of their Pro siblings.
Despite the lack of noise cancelling, the new AirPods introduce Apple’s Spatial Audio technology to the non-Pro line for the first time. Spatial Audio creates the illusion of surround-sound audio for supporting media, and can even simulate the direction of that audio’s origin so that it changes when you turn your head. To aid this advanced audio experience, the new device also includes a brand-new low-distortion driver, which Apple claims will provide more powerful bass, and cleaner high frequencies.
At this morning’s event, Apple Music’s Zane Lowe made his keynote debut to announce the new Apple Music Voice Plan. Coming in at a mere $5/month, the Apple Music Voice Plan is now the lowest-cost way to gain access to Apple’s music streaming service 1.
The Voice Plan has a catch though. True to its name, it only grants full access to Apple Music via Siri. This includes a customized in-app experience in the Music app for Voice Plan subscribers. It’s not yet clear what exactly this experience entails, but based on Apple’s press release, these users will be able to access a limited set of the Music app’s features. Specifically, they’ll be able to access their playback history and Apple Music’s built-in playlists, but it seems unlikely that they’ll be able to create custom playlists using Apple Music songs. Whether or not full search of the Apple Music catalog will be available is unclear, but requesting specific songs from Siri should be possible.
We’ve come a long way from the Wild West of watchOS’ early versions. Changes in recent years have been thoroughly iterative in nature, suggesting that Apple believes that the platform has reached maturity. watchOS 8 heralds no deviation from this path, but as usual, a host of features bring new minor excitements for us to explore.
Health and fitness are established pinnacles of any good watchOS update, and this year’s offerings include a new Mindfulness app, sleep tracking improvements, and expanded workout types. Since Complications can now communicate with Bluetooth devices, health and fitness data from Bluetooth accessories will be more accessible than ever.
The usual host of first-party app updates are back this year too, with Home and Timers getting the most interesting changes. As for watch faces — another common source of easy feature additions — Apple seems to have dropped that ball this time around. Only two new faces are joining the ranks, and existing faces have remained stagnant.
At the system level, text input has received some nice updates. While still a bit clunky, some of the strictest limitations have been lifted, making the Apple Watch useable in more situations where I would previously have never considered it. The always-on display in Apple Watch Series 5 and higher will be far more useful in watchOS 8 as well, as third-party apps are finally able to utilize it.
Despite a lot of tidbits scattered throughout, watchOS 8 is easily the smallest annual update in the Apple Watch’s short history. This shouldn’t be a surprise given that we’re in the second year of a global pandemic, but it still feels disappointing.
Hopefully next year Apple will devote a bit more time and effort to watchOS, but for now let’s dig into the new additions that we do have to explore. Despite the small size of watchOS 8, its features are all positive improvements, and it’s still the best iteration of the Apple Watch operating system to date.