KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 1 — Apple released updates for its mobile devices, smartwatch and the Mac in September. The new versions, iOS 12, Watch OS 5 and Mojave have so far gotten more praise than complaints but what’s life actually been like living with the updates?
Here’s my experience actually living with the software changes and my thoughts on whether the tweaks have changed much about what it’s like to use Apple’s products.
(Disclaimer: the products used for testing were provided by Apple for review purposes, and remain the company’s property.)
iOS 12: All about priorities
When Apple announced at this year’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference (WWDC) that iOS 12 would prioritise performance over fancy bells and whistles, many in the audience cheered. I suspect most of them were harried developers.
Before the official release of iOS 12, I installed the beta version on an iPhone X. Yes, it was mostly to test the Memoji, I’m not going to lie.
Apple’s Memoji, your own personalised Animoji avatars are adorable but the novelty wore off soon enough. The beta had other more interesting things to look at. One of them was Screen Time, an app that monitored just how much time I spent on my smartphone.
It made me a lot more mindful about just how much time I was spending on my social media apps as well as what other apps got my attention. But not to the extent I felt I needed to set limits on how much time I spent on the phone or my apps.
I didn’t really feel that much of a performance boost with the beta but once the official release, with its weird little quirks ironed out, came onto the phone I liked how it had simplified the closing of apps. No more annoying tap-pauses, just flick a window to kill it for good.
The grouping of notifications has also made the process of checking them off less annoying. No cluttering of my screen with various notifications; they’re grouped now and less stressful to glance at.
Honestly, the camera also felt better, with the Portrait mode being a little less fiddly to use. The camera also launches a lot faster and I like that using it as a QR code reader is easier thanks to the new shortcuts.
If you own a newer device, updating to iOS 12 is a no-brainer. But on some older devices, even though it’s made to support phones as far back as the iPhone 5S, it might push you to decide whether it’s time to update. Your mileage will vary from what I’ve gauged from users of older models.
Here’s the thing — sometimes it’s not that your older phone can’t run it. If your phone is already pushing the three-year mark, hardware degradation and not the OS itself could be the issue. For some users, a clean format of the phone solved whatever issues they had.
Shortcuts though is something I’m still grappling with. Working from home and being fairly irregular as to my habits, I like changing things up a lot. But that might be different for people who commute daily or take classes, and have other established routines.
What I’d like to see Apple do is create more shortcuts to creating Shortcuts. Installing it by default would be a nice feature, and personalised suggestions or short embedded videos. Right now it feels it still needs too many steps to get working and thus, little motivation for busy users who have no time to fiddle with their phone.
Almost like a new Watch
Updating to the new Watch OS was refreshing. I felt the Watch Series 3 was zippier, even if it was already a fairly fast watch.
I’m not in love with the new Breath watchface I’ll admit it. My feelings about the Breath app have somewhat soured and I’m not always keen to be reminded to breathe. My blood pressure is already really low, thanks Breathe app.
Still, I would see why some people would like the active reminder, even to the extent of seeing it on your watch.
I like that the watch now better detects workouts and has added Yoga as well as Hiking to the list of workouts that can be recorded. It’s been tweaked so whether you do yin yoga or the more vigorous ashtanga, the watch will be better positioned to accurately detect your workout and fitness metrics.
Being able to raise the watch to my mouth when I wanted to talk to Siri feels very James Bond-y. I admit I wasn’t that keen on using the Watch for dictation but talking to Siri with the raise to talk feels more natural than pressing a button.
I bet Siri is thoroughly sick of me now.
Moving onto Mojave
I was more excited about Mojave than the other updates; before testing the new machine, the last Mac OS versions I used were named after big cats.
What was irksome: my favourite browser Firefox (it’s not you, Safari, I’m sorry) has a known bug which makes it crash in Mojave. I hope they fix the attachment-related bug soon because it is disrupting my daily workflow.
The Dark Mode, while much lauded, is nice cosmetically I guess. But power users would already have tweaked interfaces such as their browsers to incorporate darker themes. Still, Dark Mode is a popular trend and I can’t live without it on my Twitter app.
For me the biggest gamechanger will be the redesigned Mac App Store. It’s less clinical and tweaked to make finding apps to your interests a lot easier.
The emphasis on developing with the dedicated Develop tab is also pretty nifty. My background was in coding though I realised I like prose more than I do Java. Having developer tools more accessible will encourage more people to see what’s out there as far as tools and learning aids go.
With Apple curating and vetting apps it also creates a safer environment as opposed to downloading unverified apps. Apple might get a lot of flak for its walled garden approach but considering the alternative — virus-laden, security liabilities, I’d take my chance with the App Store.
Overall, Mojave promises better privacy protections online thanks to its tweaks to Safari. No more ad trackers following you all over the Web. There’s better password management in Safari with the OS helping you craft stronger passwords as well as remind you if you’ve reused a password, based on your passwords already saved.
Stacks, as far as Desktop management is concerned is a nice timesaver — perfect for people who use the Desktop as a random bin for various items. Dump on Desktop, choose to rearrange and it’s cosmetically easier on the eyes. Even if you can just search for that file you want on Finder anyway.
Speaking of Finder, I appreciate how much more powerful it is. With the Quick Look function, you can now annotate PDFs, crop and rotate images as well as trim media files (audio and video) without needing to pen separate apps.
Convenient though I still prefer the ease of Preview when doing simple edits to photos (renaming/resizing) but it’s good to have when I just need to look at the size or data of an image.
Improving the experience
Overall Apple has delivered on its promise to prioritise performance and not add too many fancy features, only to burden users with bugs and constant irksome security updates.
This might go far in restoring the trust that may have eroded in Apple’s ability to maintain its software, keeping it both functional and fresh. Fewer bugs, more payoffs in updating. Besides the usual “backup first” caveat, I see no reason why current users shouldn’t update.