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Apple WWDC 2022: a new MacBook Air and lots of software goodies

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At its worldwide developer conference, US gadget giant Apple unveiled a new lappy and refreshes of the operating systems that run its armada of high-end gadgets, including smart home and smart car updates.

Apple dropped an array of updates at WWDC 2022, it’s annual ostensibly developer conference which doubles as a launch extravaganza. Ranging from the interesting to the incremental, here is a roundup of what was announced.

iOS 16

The iPhone operating system has always been about evolution rather than revolution, which could also be applied to Apple’s hardware strategy for the last decade. As such there are a few quality of life upgrades here but nothing that would cause users to do a double take.

First off, there are updates to what you can do with the lock screen, such as personalise the info that’s on there, add widgets, and choose from collections of dynamic background images.

The update will also add support for the ‘Matter smart home connectivity standard’ which is expected to drop in the Autumn. This is designed to allow various smart home accessories to work together across platforms, providing Apple with more flexibility to work with the huge amounts manufacturers producing various gizmos for the home, such as lights that turn on with a thought and digital picture frames that console you when you are feeling down (probably).

Elsewhere, iCloud Shared Photo Library is a separate iCloud library that up to six users can plug their phones in to, while sent messages can be edited or recalled, recently deleted messages can be recovered, and some updates to Apple Pay now allow things such as splitting payments into chunks.

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MacBook Air

What can you say, it’s the latest iteration of the more budget-end Apple laptop range, which has always been seemingly defined by how svelte it is, as opposed to the more tooled up and expensive MacBook Pro range.

New specs wise, it has a larger 13.6-inch Liquid Retina display, 1080p HD camera, MagSafe charging, the new M2 chip, 24GB of fast unified memory, ProRes acceleration, up to 20 hours of battery life, and comes in four colours, no less.

But how thin is it, you insist impatiently? It’s aluminium unibody enclosure measures 11.3 mm, and it weighs 2.7 pounds. Is that slim enough for you?

Most of the updates seem to stem from the new M2 chip, though Apple says it’s been ‘completely redesigned’. While we’d love to report on a new laptop that has three screens, a U-shaped keyboard, and folds out into an umbrella or something – we think you’ll find the design of this latest MacBook Air not so very far away from the previous iterations.

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CarPlay

CarPlay, software which is designed to work with a suitably teched up car’s hardware, can now provide content for multiple screens within the vehicle, while the radio and air con settings can be can be through it. Soaking up data provided by the car, CarPlay will also display the speed, fuel level, temperature, and other such info on the instrument cluster, while whether data and music can be shown on the dashboard. Compatible vehicles are expected to be announced next year.

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M2 chip

The latest version of Apple’s proprietary chipset is built using second-generation 5-nanometer technology and is apparently 18% faster overall than its predecessor, the M1. Specifically, it has a 35% more powerful GPU, a 40% percent faster Neural Engine, 50% more memory bandwidth, and has up to 24GB of fast unified memory.

Apple boats the Neural Engine can process up to 15.8 trillion operations per second now, and the  ProRes video engine enables playback of multiple streams of both 4K and 8K video. But the bottom line according to Apple is just how energy efficient the new silicon is, which it ties to its ambitions ‘to have net-zero climate impact across the entire business, which includes manufacturing supply chains and all product life cycles’ by 2030.

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WatchOS9

The latest version of the software which runs Apple’s wrist gizmo has some aesthetic updates to how you can customise the watch face, but the biggest changes seem to be around its fitness apps. There are now more measurable metrics to measure performance, with alerts for pace, power, heart rate, and cadence.

It can also tell what form of exercise it is you are doing via movement patterns detected on motion sensors, and automatically flips its monitoring metrics depending on whether you are swimming, biking, or running. There’s no metric for measuring how long you’ve been sat on your arse instead, but perhaps that will come later.

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MacOS Ventura

Apple’s laptop/desktop operating system now has an improved Stage Manager to juggle between windows, Continuity Camera allow you to use your iPhone as the webcam on Mac, and users can now start a FaceTime call on their iPhone or iPad and lob it over to their Mac mid call, should they so wish. A new passwordless feature is provided with passkeys, and there are some upgrades for desktop gaming capabilities, which has always been a bit of a drag for Macs in the Apple vs PC debate.

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iPad OS 16

Some less grandstanding but probably useful updates for its tablet OS were also dropped. There are new features to juggle windows in a similar way to the desktop version via Stage Manager, a new weather app, and new power features such as Reference Mode and Display Zoom to give more grunt for those using iPads for more than just browsing about.

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What was missing was anything to do with the metaverse – which could imply either Apple doesn’t have very much to say on the meta (sorry, matter), or that they are waiting for the dust to settle following big moves from Facebook and Google. The reaction to the entire area has been mixed to be put it gently, so it wouldn’t be a bad move for Apple to wait and see how it evolves before making a big song and dance of its own.

 

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