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WWDC 2023: The multiple OS updates

3 minute read

There are new OS updates for every device in the Apple ecosystem, with the new MacOS Sonoma in particular adding some interesting new features. 

[The rest of our WWDC 2023 coverage is here: Apple’s $3499 Vision Pro headset finally revealed at WWDC 23; New Mac Pro, 15-inch Air and M2 Ultra Studio head Apple's latest Mac lineup.]

As usual, WWDC unveiled updates for all its operating systems, with developer versions available now, public betas due in July, and full public release in Autumn.

MacOS Sonoma


Craig Federighi introduced it as a substantial update with new immersive animated screensavers, using ML to smooth out frame loops, and the ability to move widgets out of Notification Centre and onto your desktop, fading in or out behind your primary tasks.

Safari will be once again the world’s fastest browser and more secure still with passkeys, plus (finally) profiles for work and personal use. There will also a way to provide a more app-like experience for web apps such as Instagram or Confluence, turning them into icons in the dock and launching with a streamlined app-like window.

Video conferencing on Mac got a novel upgrade with a presenter overlay so your face could appear in a bubble over your slides, or you could be superimposed with slides in the background. In retrospect, the relationship with Vision Pro was obvious. You can even have reactions - such as fireworks and confetti explosions - to further enliven meetings and the API for these works with Teams, Zoom, WebEx just like FaceTime.

For gamers, there’s a new Game Mode which deprioritises background tasks and offers reduced latency for AirPods, doubles Bluetooth sampling for Xbox and PlayStation controllers to cut vital milliseconds for response times. A new game porting tool can reduce porting time from months to days and legendary game developer Hideo Kojima appeared at Apple Park to talk up an imminent Death Stranding port with more to come.

The downside of all this is that, somewhat unsurprisingly, compatibility requirements are raised to omit 2017 iMac and MacBook Pro amongst other models.

iOS 17


The primary theme this year is more personal and intuitive with expressive communication. The phone app gets personalised contact posters. There’s live voicemail - watch a live transcript of a call before deciding to join. You can record messages in FaceTime, iMessage has a refined interface, plus you can create live stickers from your own photos.

There’s also a new Journal app which pulls together what your iPhone knows about you, the photos you took during the day, the places you’ve been, music you’ve listened to, the contacts you’ve visited to help prompt writing a daily journal. It was reminiscent of DayOne and will be powerful competition.

A new Standby mode leverages the Always-On display of the latest Pro models to offer a nightstand view with stackable widgets. You can customise the Always On display and even set a preference for the charging location in your kitchen compared to bedroom.

Again, compatibility requirements are raised this year to omit iPhone 8 and X.

iPadOS 17


A few weeks ago Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro finally launched for select iPad Pro models using a new subscription price model. At WWDC, we saw iPhone widgets come to the big screen and gain interactivity, so you can close a reminder from the widget without actually opening the app. Stage Manager will also gain further refinements for greater control and flexibility. The Notes app gets a big improvement with enhanced PDF handling - ML can identify fields in a PDF and make them interactive to input data such as from your contacts page. You can feature multiple PDFs in a single note.

Compatibility requirements are raised and the original iPad Pro, amongst others will be dropped.

WatchOS 10


Already it’s the tenth anniversary of Tim Cook’s Apple Watch launch and the interface is refined with Smart Stack widgets. Basically, choose a photo watch face with no information other than the time, but then use the Digital Crown to scroll through a selection of info-rich widgets such as weather or email notifications. There’s also a new Cycling App, a rejigged Mindfulness app to log your mental health, a Myopia app to log your time outside and track your distance from a iPhone just like it logs your screen time, the Compass app is significantly ungraded, and there are two new Watch faces, including a Snoopy one. Despite all the upgrades, compatibility is unchanged from WatchOS 9.

Apple TV


A notable release with more UI tweaks, but also the ability to use your iPhone in Continuity Camera mode and turn your TV into a FaceTime Screen. You’ll also be able to log into your Apple TV from ‘select’ hotels via a QR code starting later this year.

One last thought...

This looks to be a year of refinement rather than major new advances, but whether or not Vision Pro becomes a blockbuster product or an intriguing experiment, it lends a cohesive vision to the entire Apple eco-system. After watching the presentation, it’s hard not to see every new widget and app upgrade in the context of a highly polished AR experience on Vision Pro or some later device.

Tags: Technology