Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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Mail Merge and M2 milestones

In an earth-shattering event, Mail Merge returns to Pages. Oh, and the M2 arrived, too! (This episode also includes the audio of our 50-minute livestream from Wednesday morning about the M2 and MacBook Pro, for those who prefer podcasts to YouTube livestreams.)

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by Jason Snell

A typeface from the Danish forest

Bjørn Karmann created the typeface Occlusion Grotesque by tracing and carving an initial typeface into a beech tree in Denmark.1 The tree is then left alone for a year, at which point the natural growth processes of the tree cause the trunk to expand, stretching the bark while also attempting to close the wound caused by the letter carvings. Karmann explains:

Returning to the tree reveals an unsupervised transformation that is unique to each letter of the alphabet. The artist now takes on an observant role and meticulously documents the letters with a camera and measurement tools. This is repeated every year with the important detail that the camera settings, lens, distance, and measurements stay consistent at every observation. 

The digitalization from the tree to a usable font invites the artist to become the design interpreter. For the most part, the letters can be traced, but occasionally due to unexpected bark behavior, edge cracking, and blurring of boundaries, the artist has to take decisions without diverting from the tree’s intent. 

The annual growth of the type is not represented in traditional font weights, but denotes the year of growth being used. What a fascinating and beautiful project.

[Via Paul Lukas and Michael Hochman.]

  1. “No trees were harmed in this experiment,” Karmann notes. 
—Linked by Jason Snell

by Jason Snell

‘Take Control of FaceTime and Messages’

My pal Glenn Fleishman has a new book out, and it’s all about FaceTime and Messages. You’d think that there would be little information to be gleaned about these stock Apple apps. But you’d be wrong. As Glenn writes on his blog:

I learned so many new tricks and hidden features in writing this book, I can’t even begin to describe them all. (That, I guess, is what a book is for).

  • Both FaceTime and Messages support screen sharing, but in different ways with different sets of features. I explain both, and why to choose one over the other.
  • iPhones and iPads (on supported models) can simulate direct eye contact in FaceTime—even when you’re not looking at the camera.
  • Include friends and colleagues on Android and Windows in your FaceTime calls.
  • Point your iPhone at a sign or piece of paper with a phone number and dial that number with a couple of taps (using Live Text on supported models).
  • Insert threaded replies in a multi-person chat.
  • Watch streaming video or listen to streaming audio with friends over FaceTime with SharePlay.

There’s a lot more to these apps than meets the eye, and Glenn is especially good at digging out all of the details and nuances.

—Linked by Jason Snell

By Jason Snell

13-inch M2 MacBook Pro Review: The future, wrapped in the past

Image: Apple

What the 13-inch M2 MacBook Pro is… depends on your perspective.

If you’re taking the 1000-foot overview of the Mac market, it’s most notable for being the first shipping product to include the M2, Apple’s second-generation home-designed Mac processor. If you consider it out of context, it appears to be a thin, light, powerful laptop for a reasonable (for Apple) base price. And if you glance around at the rest of Apple’s other laptops, it seems like a relic from a bygone era that’s somehow survived into the present.

Every one of those views is absolutely true.

The debut of the M2

The M2 processor is the beginning of the second turn of the wheel for Apple’s Mac processor designs. Like the M1 before it, it’s the base model, undoubtedly to be followed up by the likes of M2 Pro and M2 Max and M2 Ultra and… whatever comes beyond Ultra?

A lot of the differences between the M1 and the M2 are purely generational. The M1 was based on the A14 processor used in the iPhone 12, and the M2 is based on the A15 processor used in the iPhone 13. That means updated generations of CPU and GPU cores, the Secure Enclave, and the Neural Engine.

The M2 also includes some features that previously existed only on the higher-end members of the M1 chip family. It has increased performance in 4K video encoding and decoding and supports faster LP5 memory—and that memory can be a little denser, allowing the maximum RAM of the M2 to be 24GB, up from 16GB on the M1.

All the tests I could run on the M2 MacBook Pro bore this story out. Yes, the single-core result of an M2 MacBook Pro will beat any M1 device; that’s because this is an A15-based core, and therefore it’s faster. But of course, so much performance these days comes from using multiple cores together. And while the 8-core M2 will run faster than the 8-core M1 for obvious reasons, it can’t keep pace with the many, many cores in higher-end M1 processors.

M2 tests

It’s important to keep in mind that this is a base-model processor in a base-model laptop. Yes, the name has “Pro” in it, but this particular laptop holds down the bottom of the MacBook Pro product line, with a starting price that’s $700 lower than the middle-priced model. Those laptops are using Pro or Max chips, and this one doesn’t even offer those as an option. So while, yes, this is technically a MacBook Pro, it still has many of the limitations of its fellow M1 (and soon-to-be M2) Macs. It can only drive a single external display, can’t accept more than 24GB of RAM, and is limited to 10 GPU cores.

Overall, the M2 is an impressive update to the M1. Just switching to the new equipment from the A15 would have provided a nice boost to performance; adding in faster RAM (with a higher RAM ceiling) and dedicated video-encoding engines is a bonus. I am even more intrigued about what Apple might bring to future, higher-end M2 processors.

It comes in a laptop

This isn’t (just) a review of a chip, of course. The new 13-inch MacBook Pro integrates the M2 into a familiar case. It’s got two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports. The 13.3-inch retina display is bright. It’s got Touch ID and is the last Mac to offer a Touch Bar. If you’ve seen a MacBook Pro since 2016, you basically know what you’re getting.

Reviews of products like this are so focused on how they differ from the previous generation of computers and processors that it’s worth pointing out the obvious: most people or organizations who buy this laptop will not be upgrading from an M1 MacBook Pro. They will be upgrading from Intel-based Macs from previous years.

So I ran some comparisons with the Intel-based Macs that remain in my house, and they are a good reminder of how far we’ve come. Across the board, the M2 MacBook Pro is about six times faster than a 2018 i5 MacBook Air. (Its multicore score even beats the Intel Xeon processor in an 8-core iMac Pro.) Graphics were ten times faster than on that 2018 Air, and the intense computations of my iZotope Denoise task took one-sixth of the time on the M2 MacBook Pro as on the 2018 Air.

M2 charts vs Intel

So… yeah. If you didn’t make the move to Apple silicon with the M1 because your old laptop was still working fine or because you were reluctant to use first-generation processor hardware, all those performance gains are still there for you to be had. And they’ll be even better now because M2 is faster than M1 across the board.

It’s all the same

If you upgrade to the 13-inch M2 MacBook Pro from an Intel-based Mac laptop, you’re going to be blown away by the speed. Unfortunately, everything else about this laptop will seem remarkably familiar. It’s the last vestige of an old Apple design era that is obviously being kept around to hit the $1299 starting price point and to give organizations a “pro” laptop to buy that doesn’t cost $2000.

There’s no shame in buying this laptop, but the reasons to choose it over another modern Apple laptop are vanishingly slim. It’s got better battery life than the M2 MacBook Air (which ships next month), and its integrated cooling fan means that the MacBook Pro will be able to keep up sustained graphics performance without any throttling. However, I am skeptical about how much that matters: the M-series chips are so efficient that it would take a prolonged assault on all the GPU cores to make an uncooled processor throttle. If you’re someone who maxes out your GPU for prolonged periods of time and can’t afford a 14-inch MacBook Pro, this laptop is a better choice than the Air.

Likewise, if you love the Touch Bar, you should snap this laptop up because it’s probably your last chance. I’m not sure what’s left to say about the Touch Bar; it was a flawed feature that still held a lot of promise, but it was doomed by Apple’s own refusal to do anything to improve it.

With all that said… If you’re not a Touch Bar fan, someone who stresses out GPUs at length, or someone who needs that extra hour or two of battery life, I can’t recommend that you buy this laptop. The M2 MacBook Air will match its performance in all but the most extreme conditions but in a smaller, lighter, and more stylish case. It’s not just about style, either: the M2 Air also supports MagSafe, which is not only a superior (and safer) charging technology but essentially gives you an extra port for peripherals since you don’t need to use one of your two ports for charging.

The M2 Air and the 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro models all feel… modern. They’re Apple’s current state-of-the-art visions for what laptops should be. They have so much in common with each other visually, with flat edges and rounded feet and MagSafe and a full-height function key row and bigger displays with shrunken bezels and extra screen space around a notch featuring a 1080p webcam. They are the present. The design of the 13-inch MacBook Pro is the past.

It’s quite a contradiction. The M2 processor represents the future of the Mac for the next year or two—and yet it has made its debut in a holdover from a previous generation.

The arrival of the M2 processor is something to celebrate, regardless of the identity of the messenger. I look forward to many exciting and innovative M2-based Macs to come. But the 13-inch M2 MacBook Pro isn’t one of them.

By Jason Snell

What’s the role of tomorrow’s CarPlay?

One of the most unexpected announcements at WWDC was probably Apple’s preview of the next generation of CarPlay, which will apparently include deep integration with automotive subsystems that allow Apple to take over some, or all, of a car’s in-car interface.

For a company that famously doesn’t discuss forthcoming products, it was an interesting move. Cars that support this new version of CarPlay won’t be announced until late next year, which means the odds of someone driving a new car with this level of CarPlay integration before sometime in 2024 are pretty low. This is a far-off product demo the likes of which Apple hasn’t made in years.

Of course, the auto industry moves slowly. And this is a product announcement that’s fraught with politics, too, because any car company that prides itself on its own in-car interface design would presumably feel bad if the iPhone simply took that design and threw it away.

And yet… this evolution of CarPlay makes sense. Our phones are personal in ways our cars just can’t be, because we’re always with our phones but not always in our cars. When I see cars with their own built-in maps and navigation, I always roll my eyes because no matter how slick their interfaces and how recent their map updates, I’m pretty confident that the maps app on my phone is slicker and contains better data.

That’s why CarPlay (and for those on the other side, Android Auto) is a good idea, and why car companies that don’t allow smartphones to connect to their interfaces are allowing their ego to override the simple act of doing the right thing for their customers. (I appreciate Tesla’s love for its home-built interface, but letting me control Overcast or Apple Music via a CarPlay window would make me like their interface more, not less.)

Beyond the hold-outs, though, there’s another problem I can see with this CarPlay-enhanced future we’re apparently headed for, eventually: namely that CarPlay—at least as it’s currently defined—doesn’t actually solve any fundamental problems for carmakers. This new CarPlay might create an Apple-designed interface for many (or all) of a car’s controls, but since the car also needs to operate without an iPhone present, the carmaker will still need to build its own interface. And at that point, we’re back to carmakers being so proud of their interfaces—not to mention entirely aware of how much it costs to build them—that they’re less likely to hand over the interface to Apple.

Google addressed this problem with something called Android Automotive, which is basically a version of Android that’s designed to run on hardware in a car and provide an interface for the car’s systems. Many of Apple’s declared partners for the new CarPlay have also announced support for Android Automotive.

One possibility is that cars running Android Automotive will be able to connect to iPhones and allow the new version of CarPlay to replace the Android Automotive interface with its own. Some early Android Automotive cars already offer CarPlay support, so it’s not a stretch to imagine carmakers using the customizable open-source Android variant as a vanilla implementation—and then letting iPhone users replace it at will.

Alternately, Apple could make a CarPlay equivalent of Android Automotive, a base-level CarPlay interface that works in a car even if an iPhone isn’t attached. Carmakers would get the reflected shine of an Apple user experience, and their cars would be functional without a paired iPhone. Of course, a paired iPhone would be what would make them shine.

Or perhaps despite all of Apple’s big talk, it’s actually a hard sell to get carmakers to embrace CarPlay and let Apple take over their instrument clusters and hardware controls. By claiming that nothing will happen on this front until late next year, Apple has some time to figure out how to make it all work.

Stage Manager, M1 iPads, and M2 Macs

Using Stage Manager reveals facts about how sophisticated the underlying windowing system is, and we’re about to enter the M2 era with a laptop that’s exciting exactly nobody.

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By Jason Snell for Macworld

Why the 13-inch M2 MacBook Pro actually makes sense–in theory

The 13-inch M2 MacBook Pro is coming soon, with preorders beginning Friday and models shipping June 24. It’s a notable product for a bunch of conflicting reasons. First and foremost, it’s the first Mac ever to ship with the M2 processor, so how it performs will give us our first glimpse into how Apple plans on advancing the Mac processor line-up from generation to generation. It’s also the only Mac laptop shipping without a MagSafe charger and the last to have a Touch Bar.

So while the 13-inch M2 MacBook Pro is going to get attention because of the M2, it’s also worth asking the question that was on everyone’s lips last week after it was announced: Why does this computer exist at all?

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


(Image: Shadowfacts)

According to Shadowfacts, Clarus the Dogcow has made a return in macOS Ventura.

Congratulations to the world’s #1 Clarus fan, Stephen Hackett.

—Linked by Jason Snell

by Jason Snell

Apple inks 10-year deal with Major League Soccer

Another sports franchise is headed to Apple’s streaming efforts, as the company has announced that it’s signed a 10-year deal with Major League Soccer:

Apple and Major League Soccer (MLS) today announced that the Apple TV app will be the exclusive destination to watch every single live MLS match beginning in 2023. This partnership is a historic first for a major professional sports league, and will allow fans around the world to watch all MLS, Leagues Cup,1 and select MLS NEXT Pro and MLS NEXT matches in one place — without any local broadcast blackouts or the need for a traditional pay TV bundle.

From early 2023 through 2032, fans can get every live MLS match by subscribing to a new MLS streaming service, available exclusively through the Apple TV app. In addition to all of the match content, the service will provide fans a new weekly live match whip-around show so they never miss an exciting goal or save, and also game replays, highlights, analysis, and other original programming. This live and on-demand MLS content will provide in-depth, behind-the-scenes views of the players and clubs that fans love. A broad selection of MLS and Leagues Cup matches, including some of the biggest matchups, will also be available at no additional cost to Apple TV+ subscribers, with a limited number of matches available for free. As an added benefit to fans, access to the new MLS streaming service will be included as part of MLS full-season ticket packages.

The interesting things to note in this announcement:

  • It’s “exclusive” for “every single live MLS match.” It’s unclear from the release if there will be linear broadcasts of MLS games—the rights deal doesn’t include them!—but if there are, they’ll also be on this new service. It gets them all, no blackouts. We’ll see what the market for non-exclusive MLS rights is.
  • Note that this is not a “free with Apple TV+” deal. There will be a “new MLS streaming service, available exclusively through the Apple TV app.” It sounds a bit like Apple’s Channels subscription model, except this is a channel that is only available via Apple. (Some games will be free, and some available to TV+ subscribers, but the bulk will be behind this specific paywall.)

  • Throw in the rumors that Apple has also bought the rights to NFL Sunday Ticket beginning next year, and it’s becoming clear that Apple is dead serious about dragging live sports away from being last bastion of cable TV and into a streaming future. (It also suggests that, should that NFL Sunday Ticket deal happen, it will probably also be a “new streaming service” on top of Apple TV+.)

International soccer fans may scoff at MLS, but it’s growing fast in a valuable market, and the 2026 World Cup in North America will stoke more interest. It’s also a league small enough for Apple to write a check and get its entire content for a decade.

—Linked by Jason Snell

by Jason Snell

Apple, WhatsApp add iPhone migration feature

Apple and WhatsApp announced on Tuesday that the popular chat service has been rolled into Apple’s Move to iOS system, which allows Android users to migrate their data to the iPhone. Here’s the announcement from Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook page(?!):

We’re adding to WhatsApp the ability to securely switch between phones and transfer your chat history, photos, videos, and voice messages between Android and iPhone while maintaining end-to-end encryption. This is a top requested feature. We launched the ability to switch from iPhone—>Android last year, and now adding Android—>iPhone as well.

Here’s how this works: When Move to iOS requests WhatsApp data, it gets an encrypted bundle that Apple can’t read. That bundle is sent to the iPhone via peer-to-peer networking, like everything else in the migration process. When a user taps on the WhatsApp icon on the home screen on the iPhone, the app is downloaded and installed from the App Store. When they log in to WhatsApp (with the same phone number as the old phone), they’ll then be able to unlock and import the transferred bundle of data.

Interestingly, the infrastructure to enable this change is already enabled in both iOS 15.5 (the currently shipping version) and in the current version of the Move to iOS app in the Google Play Store. What’s changed today is that WhatsApp has flipped the switch on the server side to allow this feature to begin rolling out slowly, first to people opted into the WhatsApp beta testing environment over the next week, and then eventually to everyone on the service.

—Linked by Jason Snell

by Jason Snell

Friday Night Baseball: Still free

There was a lot going on last week, but I wanted to note this announcement from Apple about July availability for Friday Night Baseball:

“The 2022 season is off to a great start, and we’re proud to bring all baseball fans a new way to watch their favorite teams each week, all without local blackout dates or the need for a cable subscription,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Services. “‘Friday Night Baseball’ brings the best of Apple’s signature design and commitment to the highest-quality experience together with the time-honored traditions of MLB, and we’re looking forward to offering fans more great games to watch throughout the summer.”

Apple had previously announced free games through the end of June. This latest announcement extends the window in which anyone can watch Friday Night Baseball, no Apple TV+ subscription required, through the end of July.

I wouldn’t be surprised if this entire first year of Friday Night Baseball were free, but we’ll have to wait for the next wave of games to find that out.

—Linked by Jason Snell

WWDC 2022 report

The iPad’s journey, the arrival of the M2, and we stopped by Touch Bar’s house on our way to Apple Park.

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By Jason Snell for Macworld

The pandemic forever changed WWDC–in the best way possible

It pains me to admit this, but I’ve covered Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference for more than a quarter of a century. I’ve seen it go from a sleepy conference in San Jose to an electrically charged event in San Francisco to a can’t-get-a-ticket event back in San Jose. And, like everyone else, I participated in WWDC remotely for the past two years via session videos posted on Apple’s developer site.

The lesson here is that WWDC is nothing if not changeable. Apple changes with the times, and so does its relationship with outside developers. But having spent a day on the Apple Park campus as a part of the company’s reimagined WWDC this year, I can say this: I don’t think we’re ever returning to the old WWDC, and I think that’s the right decision.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦

By Jason Snell

WWDC 2022: “desktop-class” iPad apps

Editable toolbars come to the iPad.

Lost in the excitement about Apple finally breaking the iOS multitasking paradigm and introducing overlapping windows and support for external displays with Stage Manager was something that will probably have an even greater impact on users. Apple’s referring to it by the catch-all title of “Desktop-Class Apps”, but it’s a collection of feature updates and app updates in iPadOS 16 that should make using an iPad for productivity, especially with a keyboard and trackpad, a lot better.

Apple seems to have instructed everyone at Apple who’s building system iPad apps to take a hard look at their apps and ask, “Is there something this app can do on the Mac that it should be able to do on the iPad?” The answer isn’t necessarily going to be yes. Still, I suspect that it highlighted many features that only don’t appear on iPad because they were deemed too complicated to be used on the iPhone… and after that decision was made, it was never revisited.

(I’ve run up against this very problem myself, most notably in Numbers, where things would go swimmingly until I reached for a Mac feature and just couldn’t find it on the iPad. It’s frustrating, to say the least.)

The result should be nice improvements in stock Apple apps, including Calendar, Mail, Contacts, Safari, and Files. In particular, I noticed that Apple’s list of “desktop-class” features includes a bunch of printing-related features—unsurprising since printing has always been an afterthought on iOS.

A File menu, of a sort.

Apple’s also making changes to iPadOS 16 that will allow non-Apple apps to become more capable, too. Most notable is the addition of a much more complex, flexible set of toolbar styles. There are default toolbars in three different styles, based on the kind of app being built, each with specific defaults. Document-centric apps will get to populate a new menu next to the document’s name with document-related features, including renaming the file in place. (Think of it as… the File menu.)

But the big news here is that Apple is trying to get features out of the “more” button in the corner of the screen and display them front and center as toolbar icons. App developers can place a default set of toolbar icons, but—as has been on the Mac since the early days of OS X—they’re now editable, so users can customize their iPad app toolbars to make them fit the way they work.

The edit menu—that little floating lozenge that you see when you tap on an item or select text—has also been rejiggered. If you’ve got a pointer attached to your iPad, that menu becomes a vertical contextual menu similar to what you might see on macOS.

iPadOS 16 also rethinks the concept of making multiple selections. Owing to iOS’s history with touch-based devices, making multiple selections involved entering a selection mode and choosing items by tapping on them. (You can use the pointer to select multiple items, but they trigger the same multiple-selection mode.)

In iPadOS 16, you can use a cursor to select items by dragging around them or by holding down Shift or Command and clicking as you would do on the Mac—all without entering that multiple-selection mode. You’ll also be able to perform a secondary click1 to bring up a context menu full of actions to perform on the selected items. This will be an enormous productivity boost for certain apps in certain contexts.

Performing a search.

Another feature that always seemed to lag behind on iOS is search (and, perhaps more pointedly, search-and-replace). iPadOS 16 introduces a more advanced search feature systemwide that appears above the software keyboard—or, if you’ve got a keyboard attached, as a floating lozenge at the bottom of the screen. This is a productivity necessity, and it’s been frustratingly complex and inconsistent on the iPad for a long time.

iPadOS 16 also introduces a sortable table format that developers can use to display data. It’s got column headers that—stop me if you’ve heard this one before—you can click or tap on to sort the items in the table. This will be great in Files, or any app that displays a file browser. Shortcuts is also getting a new table view, complete with sorting.

Of course, all of these features have a second purpose: they will also make these iPad apps better citizens on the Mac when brought over via Mac Catalyst. Apple continues to push the iPad and Mac closer together, and as someone who uses both platforms to get work done, I’m happy to see it.

  1. I keep wanting to call this a “right-click” but of course it’s also a Control-click or, for most of us, a two-finger click. 

By Jason Snell

WWDC 2022: All about Continuity Camera

A surprising part of Apple’s macOS Ventura announcement on Monday was Continuity Camera, which lets Macs use the iPhone camera as a webcam. It’s not surprising in that it’s a feature that’s been used by apps like Camo to take advantage of the fact that most Mac users have a really, really good camera with them at all times. But it’s a tacit admission by Apple that the cameras it puts on Macs just aren’t as good, too. In the end, the pride over the quality of the iPhone camera seems to have overridden the judgments about Mac webcam hardware.

And it’s all for the better. People can complain that this is another example of Sherlocking, in which Apple takes a feature pioneered by outside developers and rolls it into the system. And, yes, it is that. Sherlocking has a couple of interesting aspects that aren’t as widely known, though: First, there’s usually room left behind after a “Sherlocking,” and there are several features in Camo that Apple isn’t bothering to replicate with Continuity Camera. Second, the platform owner has powers far beyond those of third-party app developers—and with Continuity Camera, it shows. There’s no app to launch, nothing to configure, no awkward attempt to mount a phone while not touching the wrong button or the wrong place on the screen. When you bring an iPhone (running iOS 16) close to a Mac (running macOS Ventura), the phone’s rear camera can be used as a video source by the Mac. That’s pretty great.

Continuity Camera can be used either wired or wirelessly on any iPhone XR or later. You can plug in a phone to a Mac, or just have it in range with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi turned on on both devices.

As a part of introducing Continuity Camera, Apple is also introducing the concept of a System Camera to macOS. Your System Camera is the one that macOS thinks is the camera that should be used by default—essentially, macOS is choosing a camera for you automatically. This is relevant because it enables auto-switching from a Mac’s standard webcam to Continuity Camera when an iPhone is ready and willing to serve.

There are actually two different states that a Continuity Camera can be in. The first is when the iPhone is detected nearby and recognized by the Mac as offering Continuity Camera. At that point, the iPhone becomes available as a video source that you can select and use. Think of an instance where you switch during a Zoom call from your webcam to your iPhone, so you can show a close-up of something on your desk or on a whiteboard.

The second state is when your Mac decides that the Continuity Camera is ready to be used as the default webcam. This only happens when the iPhone is in a particular orientation, with the camera perpendicular to the table and with the iPhone not shaking. In essence, the iPhone is automatically detecting when it’s been mounted on or behind your screen and is now ready to be used as a webcam. That’s when the switch of the System Camera occurs. (Apps will need to be updated to recognize the System Camera state, but users should be able to switch between their preferred video sources, regardless.)

As Apple showed on Monday, Continuity Camera has a bunch of extra features that will be familiar from other products. It optionally can be set in Center Stage mode (on iPhone 11 and later), which automatically pans and zooms in order to keep people in frame. If you use Center Stage, then Continuity Camera will use the iPhone’s ultrawide camera in order to have the widest possible coverage area. (If you don’t use Center Stage, it’ll use the iPhone’s wide camera instead.) Studio Light, an effect that lightens the subject in the foreground and darkens the background (on iPhone 12 and later), and Portrait Mode, which fuzzes out the background (on iPhone XR and SE 2 and later), can both be independently toggled on and off, all via Control Center.

Then there’s Desk View, which provides an image of what’s on your desk, as if it was being viewed from an overhead camera. Desk View always uses the ultrawide camera because it needs that wide field of view to look all the way down to your desk surface. (If you’re not using Center Stage, your face will be captured by the wide camera while Desk View is captured by the ultrawide. If you are using Center Stage, then both views will be calculated simultaneously from the ultrawide camera.)

Desk View is an odd one. It’s actually an app called Desk View that displays that faux overhead view, calculated by rotating and de-skewing the output from the ultrawide camera. The reason it’s an app is so that you can use screen-sharing mode in video conferencing apps to capture the Desk View window and share it when you want to. (There’s also a Desk View API that means that video apps should be able to use Desk View as a camera directly if they want to.)

For me, the most exciting part of Continuity Camera might be that it finally prompts someone—apparently Belkin—to make a bunch of different mounts to attach iPhones to the top of desktop and laptop displays. I’ve been using Camo and my iPhone to make a better webcam for nearly two years now, and I’ve never found a mount that I’ve been happy with. Come this fall, it looks like that won’t be a problem anymore.

By Jason Snell

Hands on with the M2 MacBook Air

MacBook Air

The new M2 MacBook Air isn’t going to be on sale until next month, but I was fortunate enough to spend some time with several of them on Monday at Apple Park. Unlike the M1 MacBook Air, which was about providing a comforting shell around the then-new concept of a Mac running an Apple-designed processor, the new Air takes a bold step into modern Mac design without losing what’s great about the MacBook Air.

When I picked one up for the first time, I felt reassured. It was noticeably lighter (a tenth of a pound, or about 50 grams) than the M1 Air I pick up all the time. It’s also quite thin, though instead of the classic wedge design, Apple has kept it a consistent 0.44 inches (1.13cm) thick—thicker than the thin end of the wedge but thinner than the thick edge.


The design is definitely a riff on the 2021 MacBook Pro; the flat, circular feet are taken right from those laptops. (There’s no “MacBook Air” inscription on the bottom, though.) The edges of the laptop are flat, reflecting Apple’s current hardware aesthetic.

When you open it up, you’ll see a bigger trackpad and a full-height function row, again picked up from the MacBook Pro. And, yep, there’s the clincher: the screen has small bezels and wraps around the webcam hardware, creating a telltale notch big enough to tuck a menu bar in. And perhaps most importantly, the MagSafe charging is back on the Air!

4 non colors

Macbook Air colors

Ever since the M1 iMac launched with six bright color options (plus silver), rumors abounded that the next MacBook Air would join the party and embrace color. Many of us daydreamed of toting bright and shiny MacBook Airs around, with color not seen since the days of the original iBook.

Well, about that. Apple has instead chosen to present the MacBook Air in four “colors,” though I’d be hard-pressed to consider them colors. They are, in fact, Apple’s two old choices for boring non-colors and Apple’s two new choices for extremely restrained shades that look colorful from certain angles and in certain lighting conditions.

There’s Silver and Space Gray, who y’all know. And there’s Starlight—it’s basically silver but with a yellow undertone instead of blue—and Midnight. Midnight is black, except when it isn’t. Hold a Midnight MacBook Air and angle it just right at a light source, and the laptop will suddenly look dark blue. But in most circumstances, it just looks black.

I lament the loss of more fun colors for these laptops, but I have to admit that Midnight looks great to me. I miss the days of a truly black Apple laptop, and while Midnight isn’t quite that, it’s very close. It’s a striking look in a way that Space Gray just isn’t—because Space Gray is just Silver dialed back a few notches. Midnight will never be mistaken for Silver or Space Gray.

MagSafe, and color matched at that.

In better color-related news, Apple is offering color-matched USB-to-MagSafe cables, both in the box and on the Apple online store, so a Midnight MacBook Air can be charged by a Midnight cable. This is in contrast to last year’s MacBook Pro, which shipped with a Silver cable, even if your laptop was of the Space Gray variety.

Presenting the M2

m1 vs m2 chip

The MacBook Air also represents a major milestone, namely the debut of the second-generation Apple silicon chip, the M2. It’s a major advancement that offers a bunch of improvements from the M1, including next-generation CPU cores, Secure Enclave, Neural Engine, and GPU cores based on the A15.

There are also some M2 features that first debuted in the higher-end M1 family chips but have now rolled down to the base-model M2. The memory bandwidth is much faster, and the memory on the chips is the same LP5 memory used in the M1 Pro and Max, rather than the LP4 memory used in the original M1. That RAM format allows for a higher density RAM die, so Apple can fit more RAM on the M2—a maximum of 24GB, up from 16GB on the M1. Video encodes and decodes are also dramatically faster on the M2 than the M1, thanks to dedicated hardware blocks on the M2 chip that previously appeared on the high-end M1 chips.

Unfortunately, the M2 is still the base-model chip of its generation. And Apple has chosen not to provide it with enough I/O power to drive a second external display. This was a dealbreaker for some multi-display fans back when the M1 Air was released, and it hasn’t been addressed with the M2.

What about the MacBook Pro?

So, there was another laptop announced on Monday: the 13-inch MacBook Pro. To call this a new laptop would not be right. It’s the shell of the old 13-inch MacBook Pro with an M2 instead of an M1. It’s still got the touch bar, lacks MagSafe charging, and doesn’t have the larger 13.6-inch screen of the Air. It feels very much like Apple still has a bunch of Touch Bars and laptop shells laying around and is going to keep selling this thing until they’re all gone.

What do you get if you buy a 13-inch M2 MacBook Pro instead of an M2 MacBook Air? A bigger, heavier computer (with a smaller screen!) that must be charged via one of its two USB-C ports. If you’re a fan of the Touch Bar, it’s for you. Beyond that? Hmm.

It is true that because the MacBook Pro has an active cooling system and the M2 Air does not, the MacBook Pro will be able to sustain very intense activity for longer while the Air will heat up and have to throttle back performance. But if the characteristics of the M1 are any indication, that would only ever happen if you maxed out the GPU for a very long time, perhaps while playing a game or performing a very complicated render.

If you’re planning on doing that a lot, the 14-inch MacBook Pro might be a better buy. For most users, the M2 MacBook Air will be more than powerful enough to handle just about any job. On Monday, Apple claimed that the MacBook Air is the most popular laptop model in the world. After the time I spent with the M2 model, I have no doubt that its winning ways will continue.

By Jason Snell

It’s WWDC time

Apple Park

Hello from Apple Park! Dan and I are in our seats (in the shade, fortunately!) for today’s Apple media event. Stay tuned to Six Colors for coverage throughout today and all week.

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