Last Week on My Mac: When we’re almost twelve

Just now Monterey seems a curious mixture. By all accounts, there are headline features like Live Text, originally announced for M1 Macs alone, that work well on many Intel models, while others like Universal Control don’t seem to have surfaced yet. With Apple about to reveal something on Tuesday, it’s time to take stock and work out what’s going on.

Although no one outside Apple knows the details, we know there are lots of new models due in the next month or two: iPhones, iPads, Watches and Apple Silicon Macs at the very least. That’s far too many for a single event, and will undoubtedly take at least two between now and mid November. As new hardware and operating systems go hand-in-hand, it’s most likely that new iPhones and iPads will be accompanied by iOS/iPadOS 15, and new Macs by Monterey.

Last year, iOS/iPadOS 14.0 was released on 16 September, and the first devices with it preinstalled started shipping just two days later. Lead time on new Macs was greater: when M1 models started shipping with 11.0 preinstalled on 17 November, the next release of Big Sur 11.0.1 had already been available for five days. Apple is likely to follow a similar sequence this year, making Tuesday’s event primarily about iPhones and iOS 15.0, and a later event confirming the release dates of new Macs and Monterey. Whether that second event will be delayed as long this year as last depends on chip supply rather than the maturity of macOS.

Monterey could therefore still have another couple of beta-releases to go.

That may be just as well. Although a great deal of Monterey’s seemingly endless list of new features have been seen and used by beta-testers, there are some glaring gaps in their reports. The most obvious is Universal Control, one of the headline new features which attracted a lot of attention when it was demonstrated at WWDC back in June. Yet Universal Control doesn’t seem to have surfaced in any of the public betas, and has only been enabled by ingenuity.

SharePlay also hasn’t been reported as working yet, and MacRumors states Apple has indicated that it won’t be present in the first release of Monterey.

Another headline feature which seems to be taking longer than many had been expecting is the jewel in the crown of Apple’s new iCloud+ service, iCloud Private Relay. According to 9to5Mac, this is “currently in beta” and its release has been delayed in order to fix problems connecting to some websites.

From the outset, the only substantial changes in Photos, to its Memories feature, have been earmarked as coming in a later release of Monterey. As far as I’ve heard, that remains true.

I’ve been particularly interested in Object Capture, which others have already declared a killer feature in Monterey. After the WWDC demonstration, I too was really looking forward to trying this out. As it happens, we’re all going to have to wait a bit longer: although Monterey does have extensive features to support this, what’s missing is an app. I’m sure that something suitable will be along shortly, and that it will prove as stunning as it looked at WWDC, albeit later in the year.

If you think these delays weaken Monterey, then try summarising the remaining features which do look as if they’ll make Monterey’s first release. I’ve been working on a monster article detailing them, and after 13 dense pages there’s plenty that I haven’t covered in any depth. Apps like Maps, which hasn’t figured particularly among the new features, have been so improved that I lost much of a day exploring parts of London and San Francisco.

What these delays suggest, though, is the sense of urgency in making the deadline for release of Monterey 12.0 so that it can be preinstalled on those second generation Apple Silicon Macs which have yet to be announced. If they’re going to ship by late October or early November, Monterey needs to be ready to ship fairly soon, even if Apple delays its release for other Macs as it did with Big Sur last year.

This is very encouraging for those of us wanting one of the new Apple Silicon Macs, and for everyone contemplating upgrading to Monterey. It’s far better that the first releases are stable and their features are ready for use. I’m sure that we’d prefer waiting another couple of months for Universal Control, SharePlay, iCloud Private Relay, Photos Memories enhancements, and some excellent apps using Object Capture, instead of struggling with fragile and incomplete beta-features.