September has arrived, which means that Apple will soon start releasing major upgrades for all its operating systems. Apple reviewed these releases at the World Developer Conference in June, and many people have since tested public beta versions. When Apple estimates that macOS 12 Monterey, iOS 15, iPadOS 15, watchOS 8 and tvOS 15 are ready for impact time, the question arises – when should you install them?
(Note that we say when and no if. There’s no harm in delaying a major operating system upgrade until Apple grinds out the rough edges that slipped during testing. But waiting too long puts you at risk of security vulnerabilities, increases compatibility issues, and prevents you from taking advantage of new features. In addition, when you purchase a new Mac, iPhone, or iPad after shipping these operating systems, you will receive the latest version that could be a problem for your existing applications. It is best to be prepared if you have to replace the device unexpectedly.)
In the past, we’ve offered separate steps when you should install each of Apple’s operating systems, but many of this year’s new features are distributed across multiple operating systems. For example, a feature of this season’s releases is SharePlay, which promises users to watch videos, listen to audio, share screens, and more, as long as they’re on a FaceTime call that can include an iPhone, iPad, Mac, or Apple TV. SharePlay sounds technically impressive – we’ll let you decide if you’re interested – but that’s no reason to upgrade right away. Apple has already announced that SharePlay has been delayed and will not be delivered until the end of the year.
Here’s the general upgrade order we suggest, starting with the iPad. Remember, always back up before upgrading your Mac, iPhone, or iPad so you can get back right away if needed.
Upgrade your iPad to iPadOS 15 first. In most cases, iPadOS is a superset of iOS, so why should you upgrade your iPad before iPhone? The big reason is that Apple has swung again in improving the multitasking of the iPad, and the changes are worth exploring. People who rely heavily on iPads are likely to appreciate the new features for more tasks, and those for whom the iPad is less important have nothing to lose by upgrading soon after release.
A multi-task menu at the top of each window is especially welcome, allowing you to create a full-screen view, a split view, a slide, and in some cases (like mail) a center window. There is also a shelf at the bottom of the screen that shows open windows within the app. You can create Split View spaces by dragging one application from the Application Switch to another. Finally, a list of keyboard shortcuts appears when you press and hold the Command key on an external keyboard. Finally, discovery comes to more tasks!
Apple has transferred some improvements to iOS 14 to iPadOS 15. Widgets can now appear anywhere on the home screen, and the new larger widget size allows apps to display more information. IPadOS 15 also comes with an app library that automatically organizes all your apps into categories and allows you to avoid cluttered home screens.
If you’re a Notebook user, you’ll appreciate the new Quick Note feature that lets you create a note by swiping up from the corner of the screen using your finger or Apple pen. A quick note can automatically indent highlighted text or links to a website or app, and it’s easy to add more using an Apple stylus or keyboard.
Other welcome changes include a focus-reducing focus mode; voice search and card groups in Safari; FaceTime enhancements; Live text that allows you to search, select, copy and translate text in photos (on iPads with A12 Bionic chip or later); and increased details of the city in Maps.
It’s usually pretty quick to upgrade to iOS because Apple is making considerable efforts to make the new version of iOS a good experience for those buying new iPhones that come with it. However, since iPhones are so important to our daily lives, it’s probably worth postponing the upgrade to iOS 15 just in case, just in case. You can then install it and enjoy the new features.
Although SharePlay won’t arrive on the first day, FaceTime still gets welcome enhancements inspired by competing video conferencing systems. Finally, there’s a grid view, a portrait mode for blurring the background, various microphone ways to focus on your voice or sound in the room, the ability to turn on Windows and Android users, and a FaceTime web connection for scheduling and sharing calls.
Messages will collect links, pictures, and other content sent to you by friends in the new Shared with You section, which you’ll also find in other Apple apps like Photos, Safari, Apple News, Music, and Podcasts. In addition, when someone sends you multiple photos in Messages, they appear either as a collage or as a bunch that you can swipe through. There are also new Memoji options that you can try if you like.
Other new features are similar to those in iPadOS 15, including focus mode, voice search and card groups in Safari, live text in the camera and photos, and improved city details in Maps, which also get extensive walking directions.
After you upgrade your iPhone to iOS 15, immediately upgrade your Apple Watch to watchOS 8. You may not even notice the difference because no change will force changes to your existing usage patterns.
New features include portrait mode photos on your watch, memories from photos moved to the clock, the ability to share photos via messages and mail, integration with HomeKit security cameras, greater control over scenes and devices in the Home app, digital keys for HomeKit locks, a new app Mindfulness that replaces the Breathe app, the ability of Pilates in the Workout app, tracking your breathing rate during sleep, and the Find Devices app to locate lost devices from your wrist.
Why put tvOS in front of macOS? The decision to upgrade to tvOS 15 is easy for most people. It is unlikely to cause problems for your Apple TV, and the new features will not interfere with basic TV viewing. Additionally, if you have automatic updates turned on in Settings> Software updates, it will be installed automatically at some point after publication.
However, you may not want to wait for an automatic update. There are many small but welcome improvements, such as the ability to sign in to the Apple TV app using Face ID or Touch ID on your iPhone. The playback interface has a redesigned cleaner that displays more information. Apple TV will automatically detect nearby AirPods and display a notification to connect them, saving you a manual step. If you have AirPods Pro or AirPods Max, you can listen to Apple TV sound with dynamic head tracking. The TV application will include the line “For all of you” based on the interests of everyone in the house (via Family Sharing). Finally, you can ask the HomePod to play a specific show on an Apple TV, and it can even use one or two HomePod mini speakers as the default audio output.
macOS 12 Monterey
The hardest upgrade decision revolves around your Mac, as always. In most cases, macOS 11 Big Sur was relatively solid, with fewer complaints than the tortured macOS 10.15 Catalina. Some beta testers believe that macOS 12 Monterey is more of an improvement without the major architectural changes that marked Big Sur and Catalina. This would indicate greater stability and the possibility of easier and earlier upgrades.
In addition, Monterey has some unique features. Most important is the Universal Control, which allows you to work seamlessly between multiple Macs and your iPad, wirelessly or via USB. You can move the cursor from Mac to iPad, type in iPad apps using your Mac keyboard, and even drag and drop content from one Mac to another. Another welcome addition is the ability to use AirPlay to display video, play audio, or present content from another Apple device on a Mac, something that was previously only possible in the other direction. Finally, Monterey brings the Shortcuts Automation app for Mac, making it easy to automate repetitive tasks without learning AppleScript or using the outdated Automator.
Aside from these features, you’ve already read about most of the changes. These include FaceTime enhancements, Focus mode support, Shared collections with you in Apple apps, tab groups (but not voice search, unfortunately) in Safari, Quick Note activation hotspot, text enhancement, and map enhancements.
You may find some of these features appealing, but we recommend waiting for an upgrade to Monterey for at least a few months. Application compatibility isn’t usually a big issue with other operating systems, but most of us rely on certain Mac applications – sometimes older versions – to get the job done. Even when you’re sure your apps will work properly in Monterey, there may be workflow or compatibility issues within the office if some people upgrade and others don’t. And, of course, unexpected mistakes could occur at professionally awkward times – important work takes place on Macs! So please do not upgrade to Monterey without first checking with us. Fortunately, the start of the new year will also bring bug fixes and app updates necessary to give the green light.
Friendly communicator. Music maven. Explorer. Pop culture trailblazer. Social media practitioner.