What’s really coming in Monterey and other macOS updates next week

When Apple announced details of Monterey in the summer, features varied considerably according to model. To help discover exactly what your Mac would benefit from when upgraded, I produced a chart. Now that Monterey is going to be released next week, and its first release candidate is out for testing, Apple has gone firm on which features will ship in the first public release, and which models are supported.

On Monday 25 October Apple is expected to release the following:

  • macOS Monterey 12.0.1
  • macOS Big Sur 11.6.1, a security update
  • macOS Catalina Security Update 2021-007

The first shipments of new MacBook Pro M1 Pro and M1 Max models will start next week, and they should come with Monterey 12.0 pre-installed, the only release systems to run that version. When yours arrives, the first thing you should do before migrating anything is to update it to 12.0.1.

Apple has confirmed that three of the features slated for Monterey will now ship in a later version:

  • SharePlay in FaceTime,
  • Universal Control,
  • Memories additions to Photos.

Although Universal Control won’t be enabled as a beta, it may well be possible to enable it in 12.0.1. To do that, you need to download or create a Property List named Ensemble.plist, detailed by Zhuowei Zhang, and install that in /Library/Preferences/FeatureFlags/Domain/, a folder which you may need to create yourself. Once there, restart and the feature should appear in your Mac’s Displays pane, probably with a BETA warning beside its checkboxes. Please only do this if you’re confident that you can recover from any problems which this might cause: this definitely isn’t for the regular user, and may still not work at all. Indeed, those currently testing the first release candidate report that this no longer enables Universal Control. Should a method to enable it be discovered, I’ll post details here once I know them.

There’s another feature which remains in beta-test, iCloud Private Relay, which currently can result in some sites failing to connect, and others getting confused by your location.

The list of main features and changes shipping in 12.0.1 is long, and includes:

  • Portrait mode, grid view, audio modes, FaceTime links in FaceTime
  • Shared with You and photo collections in Messages
  • Tab groups, Intelligent Tracking Prevention in Safari
  • Focus
  • Notifications improvements, including Time Sensitive notifications
  • Tags and other improvements in Notes
  • Quick Note
  • AirPlay to Mac
  • Live Text
  • Shortcuts
  • Improvements in Maps
  • Mike access indicator
  • Hide My Email and Mail Privacy Protection
  • HomeKit Secure Video
  • Accessibility improvements
  • Digital Legacy programme and Account Recovery Contacts
  • Object Capture
  • Books improvements
  • Extended language support
  • Game Center improvements
  • Low Power Mode
  • Erase all contents and settings (Intel T2 Macs and M1/Pro/Max models only)
  • Passwords pane
  • Tags in Reminders
  • Tips
  • Translation available system-wide.

As in the summer, not all features are available on all models supported by Monterey. Just three – FaceTime Portrait mode, Maps Interactive Globe and city experiences – are only available on M1 models. Two others have more complex requirements.

Spatial audio is only supported by certain sound input/output devices: “Mac models (2020 or later) with the M1 chip using internal speakers, wired headphones or AirPods; Intel‑based Mac notebooks (2018 or later) using internal speakers or wired headphones; and Intel‑based iMac (2018 or later) using wired headphones”.

Object Capture, which needs apps to be able to use it, is available on all M1 Macs, and on Intel models which have at least 16 GB RAM and 4 GB VRAM.

AirPlay is available on older Macs which are supported by Monterey, but at lower quality: Apple explains that Mac models may share content at a lower resolution to supported Mac models when “Allow AirPlay for” is set to “Everyone” or “Anyone on the same network” in Sharing preferences.

Apple provides a detailed listing of features and their availability on different Macs.

One oddity remains: according to that list, Low Power Mode isn’t available on any MacBook Air. I believe that’s an oversight, and it’s definitely available on the M1 MacBook Air, and may also be available on some Intel models too.

This is the colour version of my updated compatibility chart:


And for those who prefer monochrome:


Happy updating and upgrading next week!

Thanks to Pico and John for helping me to get all the details correct.