It's Monterey, Jack

Imagine that history were different, and Apple was based not in Cupertino but Basingstoke. Right about now, we'd all be considering upgrading to MacOS Bedford (from MacOS Norwich). As it is, we can all follow Apple's geographical wanderings through the vastness of the USA - welcome to Monterey, Jack!

It seems like I'm just about getting used to Big Sur. Boy, this is one fast journey. So what will this new MacOS mean for your Apple computer?

Age is relative

I'm going to start this quick rundown of the new OS where other reviews end. Compatibility.

I love my Macs, but haven't  bought a new one for over a decade. I go the refurbished route, as it's way more cost effective for me, as well as being kinder to a troubled planet. For the past few years, I've operated a 'ten year rule':- i.e. ten years seems to be the 'useful' lifespan of a Mac to me, before it can no longer cope with the last couple of operating systems, at which point third party developers also leave the poor old relic behind. A once cherished friend becomes a doorstop.

You'll be able to run MacOS Monterey on the following machines -

  • Mac Pro - Late 2013 and later
  • MacBook Air - Early 2015 and later
  • MacBook Pro - Early 2015 and later
  • MacBook - Early 2016 and later
  • iMac - Late 2015 and later
  • iMac Pro - 2017 and later
  • Mac mini - Late 2014 and later

I'm forward planning. My trusty (and highly capable) Mid 2014 MacBook Pro is now stuck forever at Big Sur, so I'm thinking that I've got another year or so before getting some ££ for the old dear before upgrading. Again.

Machine lifespans appear to be shrinking, in main due to Apple's introduction of the new M1 chip.

The new OS

I won't list all the features here, just the major updates. Take it as read that there are numerous upgrades to everything from the Finder to Siri - lets say enhanced utility capabilities. You can run down those on the Apple site. It's important to note that there are also a bunch of new features limited to M1 Macs. Is the writing on the wall for older machines? Will MacOS Detroit lock us out?

I won't run down the new M1-only features here. Again, the Apple site is your go-to for that - I just thought it important to mention.


Universal Control

This is a major new feature in the Monterey. It allows a single Mac to control multiple Macs and/or iPads, so you can use your mouse, trackpad or keyboard to control all machines. Your cursor will transition from one display to another, and crucially for me, supports drag and drop between machines. That really is a gamechanger. This feature is an automatic feature and requires no setup. Nice.

Airplay for Mac

While we're in the realm of your Mac family having better conversation skills, it's now possible to Airplay to your Mac, allowing content exchange between your Mac and iPhones, iPads and other Macs. So, aside from transferring data, you can also use another machine as an external display or speaker (or Airplay 2 speakers). Airplay to Mac can be wireless or over wired USB-C if latency is an issue for you. However - AirPlay to Mac only works with -

  • MacBook Pro/ MacBook Air - 2018 or later
  • iMac/ Mac Pro/ iMac Pro -     2019 or later
  • Mac mini -                           2020 or later

Live Text

Character recognition for photos, baked into the new OS. Lovely. Live Text can recognise both printed and handwritten characters, ready to paste into your app of choice (although I bet it won't 'get' my appalling handwriting).

Live Text supports URLs, addresses, phone numbers and much more. All detection is on-device, so no cloud security issues. I'm sure that I'm not the only one who's been waiting for this. Hallelujah.

Translate

Safari's translate feature has now been made system-wide, so you can simply right-click just about anywhere to bring up l'option de traduction (the translate option).

Several languages are currently supported, but this list will no doubt quickly grow. This feature also works with the new Live Text - OCR and translate in one!

Focus

I'm liking the new Focus features very much - it's a kind of upgraded Do Not Disturb mode, allowing you to allow or block depending on what you're working on. We all need focus.

You can customise your focus 'modes' - for example minimising or silencing notifications from selected apps, and your preferences will be synced and mirrored to all your devices. If an incoming message is silenced, the third party will be notified (and reassured that you still love them). It also supports third party (non-Apple) apps. The first one I'll be turning off when I'm working will be WhatsApp. Ping ping ping ping ping........

Notifications also have a new, smarter look and new mute features.

FaceTime and SharePlay

FaceTime has had a major makeover, and has introduced the integrated SharePlay, which allows you to share open apps, music, TV and video content directly inside FaceTime. Game night anyone?

SharePlay also supports Spatial Audio while the new Voice Isolation mode cleans up background audio. The new Wide Sound mode is almost the opposite of Voice Isolation, useful for highlighting all the sound large groups calls. No more stuttery moments where everyone is cutting everyone else off!

Crucially, FaceTime now supports non Apple users by sharing call links, and group calls have been greatly improved with Grid View.

Safari Tab Groups

Nice one, this. With Tab Groups, you can save groups of web pages that you want to keep open but don't want to clog your main menu bar.

Safari can save and even share these tab groups for later visits - a truly useful feature.

Notes - Quick Note

Notes has also had a makeover in Monterey. You can make notes anytime by moving your cursor to the bottom right of the display where the note icon will appear. A great feature for general use, but may need switching off when it's getting in the way of Photoshop editing.

Private - keep out!

Apple is (quite rightly IMHO) obsessed with privacy, and has introduced the new iCloud+ service, which adds many privacy oriented features including iCloud Relay. iCloud Relay encrypts and protects internet activity by routing connections through two discrete internet relays - no-one will be able to use your IP address, browsing preferences or location to profile you. iCloud+ also includes a nifty Hide My Email function - I'm liking this. It generates random email addresses that forward to your mailbox - useful for those online forms/ newsletters etc. No more mailbombing everytime you sign up.

There are privacy protection upgrades to the Mail app, password improvements in System Preferences and much more.

Apple has also announced new child safety features that will be unveiled with software updates in the new year. Long overdue.


Third party politics

Monterey certainly looks to be a very capable OS with all of these new features, but....a word of warning...

I'm a music producer, so rely on a very large number of third party apps for my work. For obvious security reasons, Apple doesn't 'warn' third party developers pre OS release, so right now all of those hardworking boys and girls that develop the software I use are busy rolling up their sleeves and updating their apps so they're compatible with MacOS Monterey. But it takes time,so be sure that you can run everything that you need before pressing the upgrade button.

My usual modus operandi on major OS releases is to update my MacBook Pro long before the MacPro that I rely on for work. I'll only go for it when the MacBook will run everything that I need. As a result, I only went to Big Sur last month. That's just how long it takes for developers to catch up.

So now I'm off to install Monterey on my MacBook Pro.

Except imy MBP is a Mid 2014, so I can't.

Bah, humbug.....


Thinking of buying a MacBook Pro from new? Think different.

Apple are working hard to reduce their carbon footprint, but computer manufacture is notoriously carbon and rare earth heavy - not to mention the sumptuous packaging!

We all have a part to play in maintaining the environment we live in. By buying a refurbished MacBook pro, we are collectively reducing our carbon footprint and preserving the planet now and for our future generations.