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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

What changes might be coming to new Mac hardware?

macOS Big Sur
macOS Big Sur is a big software change. Will the hardware follow?

This week on Upgrade, Myke Hurley and I had some fun envisioning what features Apple might have been waiting to add to Macs until the switch to Apple-designed processors.

When the Intel transition happened, Apple was extremely restrained. The first Intel Macs were more or less the existing PowerPC Macs, but with Intel processors inside. The message was clear: Steady as she goes, no need to be concerned, these Macs are the same ones you loved, but with a different kind of chip inside.

I suppose Apple could play that game again with this transition, but I don’t think it will. Part of it is my guess that Apple’s been champing at the bit to roll all sorts of iOS features into the Mac for years, but has been limited by Intel’s architecture. What the Mac has gotten is the stuff that was enabled by the T2 chip—biometric ID, better camera control, secure storage, and security features. But there are plenty of features that haven’t come over from the iPhone and iPad, and now might be the time.

Then there’s macOS Big Sur. If Apple intended to send a message that this fall is all part of a simple, orderly transition that won’t affect users and will keep the Mac we all know and love chugging away, it would release a boring OS update with some new features and some bug fixes. Big Sur is the opposite. It’s a new interface design, and on Macs with Apple silicon, it will be paired with the ability to run unmodified iPad and iPhone apps.

Take a look at Big Sur’s rounded corners, spaced-out menus, and expanded Control Center and tell me that there isn’t going to be some dramatic new Apple hardware to go with this dramatic new operating-system release. I can’t see it. Big Sur is the start of a new Mac era, and the hardware designed to run on it will be new and exciting and different, at least a little bit.

Myke and I ended up coming up with nine features that Apple could bring over from iPhone and iPad to next-generation Macs. Here they are, in a rough order of most likely to least likely of appearing on a Mac in 2020:

Rounded screen corners. The original Mac display had rounded corners. The iPad Pro screen has rounded corners. The iPhone screen has rounded corners. Every single interface element in macOS Big Sur has rounded corners. Gee, do you think that the next wave of Macs will have rounded corners?

Touchscreens. Apple has steadfastly refused to make Mac with touchscreens, but times have changed. macOS Big Sur’s interface has been influenced by iPadOS, and maybe all the changes are is an attempt to create more of a family resemblance, but it sure feels like Apple is making an interface that’s a little more navigable via touch. But the clincher here, to me, is the arrival of iPad and iPhone apps on the Mac. Yes, you can drive those apps via keyboard and mouse—especially iPad apps that have been optimized for it—but they were designed for touch. No, the Mac is not likely to ever be a touch-first device, and it shouldn’t be. But just as the iPad accepts keyboards and trackpads and the Apple Pencil as secondary input methods, the Mac can handle touch.

Face ID. I don’t know why Apple doesn’t have Face ID on Macs already, but it’s long past time. Windows Hello has allowed users to log in with their faces for ages now. Apple’s already built a face-authentication system for iOS, and it’s time to bring it to the Mac—especially to the iMac, which can’t take advantage of Touch ID. Along the way I’d assume we’d also get a better webcam in the iMac, which I can heartily endorse.

No more tapers, and super thin. Myke thinks that Mac industrial design is going to take its cue from the iPad Pro and go flat, and thin, without a lot of the tapered edges we seen today. I can see it, at least on some products, if not all of them.

Apple Pencil. If you’re going to add touch, why not add Apple Pencil? It all comes down to ergonomics. Apple Pencil support on the Mac only makes sense if Apple is going to change up the ergonomics of the Mac. But that’s something Apple absolutely could do.

New desktop ergonomics. Microsoft’s Surface Studio got our attention a few years ago because it’s a take on how you’d make an iMac that could be lowered to a more ergonomic position for touch and pen input. Apple’s best iMac design was a floating display attached to a base by an adjustable arm. After seeing the clever way Apple designed the iPad Pro Magic Keyboard, is there any doubt that this company could build an iMac that would work great in traditional keyboard and mouse mode, but also could lower down like a drafting table to allow touch and pencil input? I’d love to see that iMac.

New laptop ergonomics. For years, there have been PC laptops that let you get the keyboard out of the way in order to focus on touch or pen ergonomics. So why not a convertible or two-in-one MacBook? Such a Mac is never going to be an iPad, because on the iPad touch comes first and keyboard and pointer come second. On a convertible MacBook, keyboard and pointer would come first and touch would come second. It doesn’t mean there isn’t a market for a product like that.

ProMotion. The iPad Pro has benefited from a display with a 120Hz refresh rate for a few years now, and it’s spectacular. While making scrolling smoother might seem like a minor feature, in practice it really makes the entire interface sing. The Mac could similarly benefit from a high refresh rate, especially if the Apple Pencil is involved.

Cellular modem. It’s frustrating that you’ve never been able to configure a Mac laptop with a cellular modem, given that you’ve been able to do it on the iPad from the very start. I wouldn’t buy an iPad without a cellular modem at this point, in fact. Still, part of the story here is that macOS isn’t as good as it should be at being able to change its networking behavior based on what kind of connection it’s on. I expect cellular Mac laptops to finally happen—someday. But not until Apple’s making its own 5G modems, which won’t be this fall.

The chances that all of these things happen in 2020, or even in 2021, are almost zero. But I really do think that we’re going to see Apple import a bunch of features from its other products that have been waiting in the wings for just this moment. The next couple of years promise to dramatically change the Mac in all sorts of ways. With macOS Big Sur we’ve gotten some clues about how the software is changing. It’s hard to imagine the hardware won’t be doing the same.


By Jason Snell

iPhones without chargers

David Sparks comments on the rumors that the new iPhones won’t ship with power adapters in their boxes:

If I were Apple, I’d be looking at ways to ship the phone without a charger or cord, but also have some mechanism where, if customers need those things, they get them with zero delay, friction, or cost. Apple is a pretty smart company. They can figure it out.

Yes. What Apple needs to communicate is that they are doing this because of waste and not because they want to nickel-and-dime the customers who are paying a lot of money for a new iPhone.

The most straightforward way to do this is be to allow iPhone buyers to request an adapter for free (or for a very modest handling fee) when they buy an iPhone. If you need it, take it. If you have plenty of adapters, don’t.


July 3, 2020

The long, slow side into summer betas. Jason’s working on a bunch of projects behind the scenes. The long and short of long and short operating-system reviews. And Dan dares to ask AT&T for an eSIM.

Become a member (members, sign in) to listen to this podcast and get more benefits.


By Dan Moren

The Back Page: We Are Absolutely Not Merging macOS and iPadOS Except It Depends on What You Mean by “Merging”

Thanks so much for coming to WWDC, everybody. Even though this year’s conference is being held virtually, we still found it a delight to have our huge and wonderful developer community all here. Now turn off your Wi-Fi. You’re slowing everything down.

We know this year’s keynote was full of big announcements, and that some of those announcements may have caused consternation amongst our most devoted users. So, once again, we want to make something abundantly clear to all of you out fretting there: We are not merging macOS and iPadOS.

Totally.

And when I say “totally,” I mean we are not totally merging them.…

This is a post limited to Six Colors members.


Apple adds web interface for managing Apple Card

Apple emailed customers of its Apple Card to let them know that it’s now added a web-based interface for managing the credit card:

We’ve added the ability to access and manage Apple Card online. You can use card.apple.com to make, schedule, or cancel payments; check your available credit; view Monthly Statements; and review your Apple Card Customer Agreement, APR, and other rate information.

Hard to believe, but before this you couldn’t manage your Apple Card on either an iPad or a Mac. It seems pretty close to the iPhone interface, only there’s no way (that I could see) to export your transactions in formats other than PDF at present. But it took a while to add those to the Wallet app too, so not a huge surprise.

Update: As eagle eyed reader Biff points out, you can manage some elements of the Apple Card on the iPad under Settings > Wallet & Apple Pay > Apple Card, although it doesn’t let you view statements or give you information about your spending habits.


This week we have a fabulous deal for our listeners: more us! Have a listen for more information.


This week, on the 30-minute tech show where our information is never second-hand, Dan and guest host Jason Snell welcome Brianna Wu and Matthew Cassinelli to discuss our strategy for adopting Apple software betas, the future of gaming on Apple silicon, when we’ll buy an Apple silicon Mac, and what we’d like to automate for social good. Be sure to listen all the way to the end for some extra special bonus content.


By Jason Snell

Command Performance: URL powerhouses

Get Contents of URL

URLs make the world go round. In their simplest form, of course, they load web pages. But there’s hidden complexity beneath the humble URL. As many people who build web pages already know, they can carry enormous amounts of data from place to place, all by tacking on extra stuff in the query portion at the end of the URL—that’s the stuff that follows the question mark symbol.

So, for example, https://my.example/?name=Jason contacts a web server and passes across the field name containing the name Jason. Of course, most URL queries are far more complicated—and they don’t always use web servers.…

This is a post limited to Six Colors members.


By Jason Snell for Macworld

Why the Mac is (once again) central to Apple’s future

The 2010s were kind of a rough era for the Mac. Apple was busily improving the iPhone and iPad, while Mac models spent years between updates. There was a real question about whether the Mac was being readied for retirement, a legacy platform that would fade away as Apple shifted to its shiny new devices.

Last week’s announcements suggest that Apple has something else in mind for the Mac in the 2020s. First there was the word that the entire platform is moving to the same Apple-designed processor architecture that powers the iPhone and iPad. Then came the news that those Macs will run iOS and iPadOS apps as well as Mac apps. That means the Mac is no longer going to be an outlier. In contrast, it will become the center of Apple’s computing universe, where all of its platforms come together.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


By Jason Snell

YouTube TV raises its rates 30 percent

YouTube TV is raising its price to $65/month, up 30 percent from its previous $50/month level. In a blog post, YouTube TV’s Christian Oestlien wrote:

We don’t take these decisions lightly, and realize how hard this is for our members. That said, this new price reflects the rising cost of content and we also believe it reflects the complete value of YouTube TV, from our breadth of content to the features that are changing how we watch live TV.

It’s probably not coincidental that today YouTube TV is also adding 14 new CBSViacom channels to its base service. That’s the “rising cost of content” right there. (Hulu + Live TV and AT&T TV Now are currently $55, and Sling is $45.)

I think what I said to cord cutters years ago was, “They will always get their money.” Whether it’s over-the-top services like YouTube TV, or pure streaming plays like Netflix and Hulu and Disney+ and the rest, in the end the TV industry is going to work very hard to make sure that people still pay about the same for streaming entertainment as they used to do for cable.


By Jason Snell

What’s with all the purple posts?

Earlier this month, the entire Six Colors web infrastructure cut over from Movable Type to WordPress. You might not have noticed. That’s because I have spent the past few months learning the ins and outs of WordPress and rebuilding the site’s design, created by the talented Christa Mrgan, in an entirely new system. It was an experience.

Now that we’re on this new platform, which is slightly more actively developed than Movable Type, I can begin to add features that were impossible before. For example, we can now post items to Six Colors that were previously available only in our monthly membership newsletter. This means that members who prefer to read Six Colors on the web or via RSS can now see all those items there rather than in email. (Members, log in to your member page to get a link to a members-only content RSS feed.)

This week we’re putting out our June issue of the newsletter, so you’ll be seeing these posts on the site every day. (On the web, they’re marked in purple.) But this is the last time that the volume will be like this. Going forward, there will be an average of one members-only post on the site per week.

In addition, the Six Colors Podcast is also being posted to the website now. If you’re not a member, you may not know that another member benefit is an exclusive weekly podcast featuring me and Dan Moren chatting about the news of the week in a casual format for about 30 minutes. That podcast will now play right in the browser for logged-in members, and there’s also a member-specific podcast feed available from the Member Center.

Six Colors memberships help us navigate the complicated waters of being independent writers and podcasters. As you may have noticed, we very rarely have advertising on the site anymore—that source of revenue has dried up over the past couple of years. Today Six Colors is almost entirely supported by members.

If you’re not currently supporting the site, I hope you will consider doing so in the future. But I have no plans to turn Six Colors into a membership-only site. We’ll still be posting all the same stories and links here regularly, as we’ve done for more than five years. Only those weekly members-only pieces and weekly podcast posts will be limited.

Thanks for reading Six Colors! If you have any questions, you can contact me at jason@sixcolors.com.


By Jason Snell

New Mac ransomware spreading via piracy

Thomas Reed at Malwarebytes reports on some new Mac ransomware and how it works:

A Twitter user going by the handle @beatsballert messaged me yesterday after learning of an apparently malicious Little Snitch1 installer available for download on a Russian forum dedicated to sharing torrent links. A post offered a torrent download for Little Snitch, and was soon followed by a number of comments that the download included malware. In fact, we discovered that not only was it malware, but a new Mac ransomware variant spreading via piracy.

I’ve been critical of Reed and Malwarebytes before, but this sort of research is truly vital to the health of the Mac platform. And if you’ve ever wondered about how malware tries to do its thing, Reed’s article is fascinating. (And no, you don’t have to buy Malwarebytes to use it to remove malware.)

Reed’s conclusion:

The best way of avoiding the consequences of ransomware is to maintain a good set of backups…. If you have good backups, ransomware is no threat to you. At worst, you can simply erase the hard drive and restore from a clean backup. Plus, those backups also protect you against things like drive failure, theft, destruction of your device, etc.

Co-signed. Backups are vital. You should have them, on-site and off.

But, y’know, not downloading pirated software is also a really great way to avoid malware.


  1. Oh, the irony of a pirated copy of Little Snitch — an app used to monitor your network connection that can be invaluable in discovering unauthorized data leakage from your Mac! — being used to cloak malware. 

By Dan Moren

Service Station: iPhone Upgrade Program

After years of spending every fall hemming and hawing over whether or not I was going to buy a new iPhone, I decided in 2015 to sign up for Apple’s newly unveiled iPhone Upgrade Program. First offered alongside the iPhone 6s, the Upgrade Program allows you to pay for your phone on a month-by-month basis over the course of two years. While that might not save you on the cost of the phone outright, it helped avoid having to plop down several thousand dollars in a single go.

But, of course, the kicker is that after twelve months of payments, iPhone Upgrade Program members are eligible to send back their current phone and upgrade to a new phone—and, conveniently enough, that’s usually how long Apple goes between new iPhone models.…

This is a post limited to Six Colors members.


Why AnyList isn’t supporting Sign in with Apple

AnyList, a popular app and service for creating and sharing lists of all kinds, won’t be supporting Sign in with Apple, and a blog post by co-founder Jeff Hunter explains why:

Another sign of Sign in with Apple’s immaturity is the sad state of the documentation for it. Good documentation is critical to facilitating developer adoption of any service. Since Apple is expecting developers to adopt this service by June 30th, it seems reasonable to expect decent documentation. Sadly, like most of Apple’s recent developer documentation, it’s sorely lacking. For example, Apple vaguely states that you can implement Sign in with Apple on Android, but there is no direct documentation on how to do it.

So, there’s a lot going on here. I think, for the most part, AnyList’s concerns are well-founded for their particular offering. There are a number of things that the app needs to do that aren’t supported well by Sign in with Apple—for example, the ability to share lists with another user. Or cross-platform support with Android.

Other concerns are perhaps more overblown, such as the recent, now patched, security flaw in the system. It’s not that such a vulnerability isn’t serious, but extrapolating a huge fundamental flaw in the program is perhaps overstating the matter.

Certainly, not every app should be required to use Sign in with Apple. My wife and I use AnyList to share our shopping list, and I have no compunction about having created an account with their service.1 But mandating Sign in with Apple in cases where apps already support a different sign-in service seems not unreasonable.

I think it’s fair for AnyList to say Sign in with Apple simply isn’t the right solution for its product. As part of compliance with the new rule, AnyList will be removing Facebook, the only other third-party sign in option they offer, which Hunter points out had lots of its own problems, including poor privacy protections.

The deadline for the new rule takes effect today, so it’ll be interesting to see how many apps implement Sign in with Apple, and how many follow AnyList’s example.


  1. That said, if they got bought by Facebook, Amazon, or some other big company, I would probably reconsider. 

This week we welcome Apple’s Bob Borchers and Ronak Shah to the show to discuss macOS Big Sur, including all the new features in Safari. There’s also an awful lot of follow-up from the busy WWDC week that was, and we discuss the possible features of new Macs running Apple silicon.


New York Times will no longer be in Apple News

The Verge’s Chaim Gartenberg reports that New York Times articles will no longer be available in the Apple News app:

While Apple has had a tougher time getting publishers (including the Times) to sign on for its monthly News Plus subscription — which costs $9.99 per month and offers access to a variety of magazines and newspapers (including The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, The New Yorker, Wired, and more) — the free version of Apple News has offered a much larger array of news. While the Times only offered a few free articles to Apple News, its departure still makes it one of the biggest names to abandon Apple’s service since The Guardian left in 2017.

Even Apple can’t snap their fingers and fix the challenges of news journalism in the 21st century.


By Stephen Hackett

The Hackett Files: Life After WWDC

WWDC 2020 has come and gone, and for the first time in the event’s 31-year history, the conference was entirely online.

In the Ye Olden Days, developers could get copies of WWDC sessions on VHS or DVD, and eventually watch them online. Over the last few years, Apple has worked hard to get session videos online faster and faster.

Of course this year, none of those edit-and-upload-as-quickly-as-possible skills were needed, as the entire conference was done in advance, ready to stream online like content from Netflix or Hulu.

This revised format, forced upon Apple and its community due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, worked very well.…

This is a post limited to Six Colors members.


By Dan Moren for Macworld

What WWDC20 tells us about where its device roadmap is going

The keynote at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference may be one of the biggest events of the company’s year, but it only ever scratches the surface. Not every change or update makes it into the presentation—even when it’s pushing two hours, as it was this year.

As people begin to dig into the betas and watch all of the attendant technical sessions, there’s a lot more that’s coming to light. And while much of that information is about things happening in the here and now, or perhaps about the products that will be released in the near future, this is Apple we’re talking about. The company plays the long game.

That, in turn, has encouraged those in the Apple community to start digging into the details and, of course, read the tea leaves about not only what’s in the pipeline for later this year, but also what some of these changes mean for the future of Apple’s device roadmap.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


Safari 14 doesn’t block Google Analytics

Developer Simo Ahava breaks down exactly what the effect of the new Safari’s Privacy Report on technologies like Google Analytics is:

Not really. The fact that google-analytics.com has its ability to leverage third-party storage neutered means nothing to how the tool is actually used.

Google Analytics is a first-party analytics platform. [emphasis original]

It’s downloaded from Google’s servers as a JavaScript library, any identifiers are stored in first-party cookies, and any HTTP requests to the GA endpoint use these identifiers and these identifiers alone to specify the source of the tracker. No third-party storage access is being used with the requests to google-analytics.com.

It’s a bit technical, but the main thrust of it is that Privacy Report specifically aims at cross-site tracking prevention, so analytics platforms may have their capabilities limited, but they’ll continue to operate.

Ahava makes a good point, though, that the way Apple presents this information is either misleading or just not as clear as it could be. Hopefully, further refinements during the beta process will help improve that.