At today’s 2020 Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple finally unveiled its latest computer-based operating system, “Big Sur,” which continues Apple’s recent tradition of naming its operating systems after regions in California. Big Sur is a follow up to macOS Catalina, and offers the biggest visual update to the Apple operating system since OS X’s initial launch almost 20 years ago, giving Apple users a completely overhauled user interface, a new update to the Messages app, and a much-needed refresh to Safari that brings the web browser to Google Chrome levels of functionality.
Generally, when Apple rehauls their user interface, it comes with changes big enough to make even your most outdated piece of technology feel brand new — unless of course your old device doesn’t meet the system requirements — and Big Sur is no different. Here are all the changes you can expect from the new operating system, which is set to launch as a free update for Apple users in the Fall.
The biggest and most obvious change to Apple’s OS is the visual overhaul enjoyed by Big Sur which sports a spacious new design meant to make the navigation process easier and more transparent. Everything from the curvature of window corners to the palette of colors used for icons has been rethought to deliver a more visually consistent experience across the dock. Certain buttons, controls, and icons now appear when needed and recede when not, allowing you to better focus on whatever creative project you’re currently working on.
Apple has also added the Control Center functionality enjoyed by users of their iOS to Big Sur, allowing you a better degree of control for your brightness, volume, and whatever other functions you see fit — streamlining the interface with functionality in mind, aside from just a pretty coat of new paint.
Safari Gets A Refresh (And Extensions!)
Even hardcore Mac heads use Chrome. It’s just all-around a better web browser than Safari… at least, until now. With Big Sur comes a whole new Safari experience that Apple claims will load websites 50% faster than Chrome, and delivers some long-overdue features. To make the navigation process easier, Safari will now feature tabs that contain the website’s favicon, a much needed a long-overdue change that for the tab-heavy, makes the previous versions of Safari DOA.
The new Safari will also detect and translate entire webpages from seven different languages with the click of one button, and boasts a new extensions feature that will allow you to choose which websites Safari extensions work with. A new browser toolbar called Primary Report will also give you some visibility and control to how Safari is actively protecting your browsing activity, and offer insight into which websites are tracking you and how.
In addition, Apple will also be adding new information to its App Store which will allow users to better understand the privacy practices of apps before they download them, with useful information like which apps collect data, contact information, or location information — a system Apple likens to the nutritional labels on food.
Messages Will Be More Personalized
The reason the Apple ecosystem creates so many more diehards than Android is because of how interconnected it is, and now Apple is taking their Messages app — which works inter connectedly on your iPhone and computer — and adding more levels of personalization and control to enhance the experience. Users can now pin their favorite conversations to the top of their messages list, ensuring your need-to-read messages are always visible and don’t get buried by whatever new conversation you’ve got going on, which is perfect for balancing your work and personal contacts.
Messages search function has also been revamped, allowing you to easily locate links, photos, gifs, and whatever else you need to find much easier — by dropping them in their own respective categories. Users can also further personalize their messages by adding stickers of their own Memojis, and allowing more flexibility within group chats so you can directly respond to specific messages within your chat, which is a godsend for anyone who has a long-running group chat going. You can also now set a photo to your group chat, which is nice. Not needed, but nice!
Maps Gets A Revamp
Like Safari, Apple’s Maps app suffers because Google has a better version out there. We don’t know if this new revamp will cause us to reach for Apple Maps over Google, but some of the features sound pretty solid.
The new Maps app will feature guides from trusted resources and publications and give users the ability to create custom guides of their favorite restaurants, parks, and vacation spots that can be instantly shared with friends and family, which is a literal game-changer for travel writers everywhere. The Maps app will also feature detailed maps of major airports and shopping centers, as well as allow you to plan out electric vehicle or cycling trips that can be instantly transferred to your phone.
A developer beta version of Big Sur is already available via Apple’s Developer Program, and a public beta is set to open next month, with the full version dropping sometime this fall. Because new OSs often have bugs that need to be worked out, if you use a lot of third-party apps, it might be adviseable to wait to upgrade until Big Sur 1.1 hits.