Everything you need to know about the new Apple M2 laptops and WWDC 2022
Here are all the new features coming to your iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac this fall.
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At its WWDC 2022 keynote presentation on Monday, June 6, Apple unveiled its next-generation M2 chipset, which will power a new wave of Mac laptops and desktops. The new chip promises performance improvements over the M1, Apple’s original first-party processor, which we’ll get to see in a redesigned MacBook Air and an updated version of the 13-inch MacBook Pro coming in July.
As expected, hardware was a secondary concern at WWDC, as Apple also announced the new versions of its various operating systems for its many devices. Coming this fall, the various software updates included iOS 16 for iPhones, macOS Ventura, iPad OS 16, and watchOS 9. Though there’s plenty of overlap, each system will have distinctive new features, including customization features for the iPhone lock screen, revamped multitasking on iPads, and more robust health tracking in Apple Watch. It was an action-packed event. Here’s a quick rundown of the highlights.
M2 Apple Silicon
Apple unveils next-generation M series chip
In the realm of “new stuff,” Apple’s M2 chip made its debut, promising some big performance gains over the current M1 Macs and even bigger ones over older Intel-based Macs. The new M2 chip is constructed using a second-generation 5-nanometer process, and consists of over 20 billion transistors—25-percent more than the original M1. The additional transistors result in an 18-percent faster CPU, 35 percent faster GPU, and a 40-percent faster Neural Engine.
Like the M1, the M2 is an 8-core processor with four high-performance cores and four high-efficiency cores. It features 50 percent more memory bandwidth than the M1 and up to 24GB of fast unified memory.
The M2 gets an even bigger bump in the graphics department. The new 10-core GPU is bigger than the 8-core design of the M1. That allows it to hit 25-percent higher graphics performance benchmarks than an M1 at the same power level, and up to 35-percent higher performance at max power. The M2 also introduces an updated media engine that supports 8K H.264 and HEVC video, allowing you to play multiple streams of 4K and 8K video.
Presumably, we’ll see M2 make its way into all of Apple’s computers (and some iPads) over the next few years. The new wave begins in July, when Apple launches the first two M2 laptops, including the newly designed MacBook Air, which ditches the line’s signature tapered “wedge” design for the first time since the original Air launched in 2008.
MacBook Air gets a big redesign
The 2022 MacBook Air is the signature machine showcasing the M2 chip at launch. As with every Air, the new is set to deliver outstanding performance in a svelte package, albeit a more evenly shaped one. The new MacBook Air is 11.3mm thick, weighs 2.7 pounds, and features an all-aluminum unibody enclosure. According to Apple, that’s a 20-percent reduction in “overall volume” from the current M1 MacBook Air. With a smaller body, it should be no surprise that the port situation remains essentialist, with the same two Thunderbolt ports and a 3.5mm audio jack with support for high-impedance headphones. That means no HDMI port or SD card reader, so you’ll have to rely on a USB hub for additional connectivity.
That said, the new Air will feature a slightly larger 13.6-inch Liquid Retina Display—up from 13.3 inches on the M1 Air—with a notably enhanced top brightness of 500 nits. Like the newer MacBook Pro, the new MacBook Air features a display notch, which makes room for a long-awaited 1080p FaceTime HD camera. The MacBook Air will be available in four colors, including Midnight and Starlight, and will feature the same MagSafe that was reintroduced on the MacBook Pro.
There’s also a “new” 13-inch MacBook Pro
Speaking of the MacBook Pro, Apple will also bring the M2 to the entry-level 13-inch form factor, which offers a big performance bump, but not the extra ports and improvements found in last year’s outstanding M1 Pro and M1 Max redesigns. (Touch Bar fans, this one’s for you.)
While the design remains the same, users will see an improvement in performance when using graphic-intensive apps thanks to its active cooling system. For example, editing RAW images in Affinity Photo can be up to 40-percent faster thanks to the M2’s 8-core CPU and 10-core GPU. The 13-inch MacBook Pro also promises up to 20 hours of battery life for video playback.
Those looking for a redesign can find it in the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models, which feature more powerful specs (and heftier prices) in addition to M1 Pro and M1 Max chips. By keeping the 13-inch MacBook Pro around, Apple is offering a much more affordable entry into the pro category, while continuing to ditch Intel for its in-house silicon.
The MacBook Air with M2 chip will start at $1,199, while the 13-inch MacBook Pro with M2 will start at $1,299. Apple didn’t reveal an exact launch for the MacBook Air but did say it’ll be available in July.
Apple brings widgets and customization to the lock screen
In iOS 16, Apple has redesigned the lock screen to bring you more information at a glance. You will be able to customize what you can see before unlocking your phone beyond setting a photo, adding widgets like your calendar, the current forecast, and Apple-Watch-style activity rings. You’ll also be able to change the font and color of the time, and add filters to the entire lock screen for some added style. Apple said you can create multiple lock screens, which you swipe through, similar to changing watch faces on Apple Watch. A new Photo Shuffle feature will let you choose a set of photos that will automatically change throughout the day.
You’ll also see a “Live Activities” feature on the lock screen, which effectively combines a widget and a notification for frequently updating events. For example, if you’re a sports fan, a notification for a game you’re following will update your lock screen and bring you the latest score and other relevant updates. Developers can create custom Live Activities, so you can check the status of a delivery or shipment without leaving your lock screen.
Messages will get an edit function
Messages are also getting a few new user-requested features. You’ll be able to edit messages, cancel texts with an “undo send” feature, and mark them as unread. The edit function will allow you to edit typos, while undo will let you unsend a message after sending for up to 15 minutes after sending a given message. These additions give you a lot more editing power and should make texting feel a little more like using chat apps, such as WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger.
Apple Wallet, CarPlay, and more
There are a ton of miscellaneous new features coming to iOS 16, including changes to Focus, a shared photo library for shared iCloud accounts, SharePlay for Messages, and Live Text support in videos.
Apple Wallet will add a “pay later” function that will allow users to break up Apple Pay purchases into four installments over a set period without interest charges. Once you place an order, Apple Wallet will help you track your orders so that you can receive detailed information throughout your package’s journey to your doorstep.
Finally, CarPlay will get its most significant update yet, setting the stage for deep integrations with dashboard systems in new cars. You’ll be able to perform actions like changing the temperature, controlling the radio, and seeing deeper vehicle data, including your current speed, fuel level, and fuel economy. Though iOS 16 will include some of this CarPlay functionality, Apple said automakers like Ford, Volvo, and Jaguar won’t announce new vehicles that support the system until late 2023.
Apple Watch adds new health features
Apple also unveiled watchOS 9, which adds four new watch faces, workout updates, and deeper integration with Apple Fitness+. If you’re a runner, watchOS 9 will introduce more insights into how efficiently you run. For example, you’ll be able to track your stride length, ground contact time, and vertical oscillation, giving you valuable data whether you’re a casual runner or training for a marathon.
Apple will also add an FDA-cleared atrial fibrillation (AFib) history feature, which will provide those who have been diagnosed with AFib with deeper insights into their condition. The hope is that this information will allow people to make lifestyle changes that can potentially improve their condition.
WatchOS 9 will also add deeper sleep insights. By tapping into Apple Watch’s accelerometer and heart rate sensor, the wearable will detect when you’re in REM, Core, or Deep sleep—metrics that better help you understand your sleep quality.
Perhaps the most significant addition in watchOS 9 is the ability to manage and track your medications, vitamins, and supplements. The feature will allow you to create a medications list, set up schedules and reminders, and view information about your medication in the Health app. You can also receive an alert if there are potential critical interactions with medications you’re already taking.
The iPad introduces multitasking upgrades (and a weather app)
The most significant feature coming to iPadOS is called Stage Manager (also available in macOS Ventura), which organizes apps and windows into a pane on the left side of the display. By default, the apps and windows are arranged in order of recency, but you can also group apps together to quickly access them, like if you need Safari and Notes to plan for a meal. You can now open apps as overlapping windows and resize them, bringing them more in line with the conventional macOS experience.
Stage Manager also brings full external display support in up to 6K resolution and will allow users to run four apps on their iPad Pro, as well as four apps on the external display. These features are only available on iPad Pro and 2022 iPad Air with an M1 chip.
Collaborate with the new FreeForm app
Additionally, iPadOS 16 will introduce Freeform, a collaboration app that offers a scalable whiteboard, so there are no limits on the page size or layout. You’ll be able to see the updates people have made and even hop on FaceTime to discuss ideas. The new Freeform app brings to mind Figma’s FigJam app, which offers a similar collaboration tool.
Other additions coming to iPadOS 16 include Apple’s Weather app and “Reference Mode,” a color calibration tool for creatives that allows the iPad Pro and Liquid Retina XDR display to match the color requirements in workflows like review and approve, color grading, and compositing. This will ensure that photo and video editors get consistent, color-accurate edits across their projects, making the iPad Pro an even more powerful tool for creatives.
Expanded continuity comes to Mac
Ventura, the next big update for macOS, offers one of the most exciting features of the day. Continuity Camera will allow users to turn their iPhone into a webcam. Macs will automatically recognize your iPhone when it’s nearby and use it for video conferencing. You’ll be able to take advantage of modern iPhone camera features like Center Stage, which automatically adjusts the camera’s framing to center on you, and the background-blurring Portrait mode.
Ventura also brings updates to some of Apple’s core apps, including Safari. In Ventura, you’ll be able to share tab groups with friends and family and start a FaceTime call right from the page you’re browsing. Meanwhile, Mail is introducing more robust search features and the ability to schedule emails and undo send for up to 10 seconds after hitting send.
Spotlight gets more powerful
Finally, Apple has updated Spotlight to bring more information to searches. In addition to launching apps, you can type in a musical artist and get information about who they are, when they were born, where they’re from, etc. You can also set timers, create a new document, and run a shortcut from Spotlight.
Final thoughts on WWDC 2022
We rarely expect major hardware announcements at WWDC, so color us pleasantly surprised that we got to hear about some new Macs at WWDC 2022. Of course, these are all just promises until we take the time to test the M2 Macs later this summer. And, of course, we’re looking forward to checking out all the new features coming to Apple’s various devices as roll out in beta ahead of their wide launch in the fall.