The macOS Big Sur is finally here. Apple took just a bit longer this year to finally release macOS Big Sur to users and that is probably good news. Expect macOS Big Sur 11.0.1, which the version you can download on your Macs right now, to be better optimized than its predecessors, out of the box. Let us just say that the release of macOS Big Sur perhaps is the proverbial cherry on what has been a good year for Macs. The new Apple M1 chip, more power than ever before for the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro 13 and the Mac Mini, big updates for the iMac series and in particular the iMac 27-inch and now the biggest software update of them all. In rolls macOS Big Sur, which much like its predecessors, is an annual macOS update. Yet, it has to be more than just that. Even more so, because it has to unlock a lot of the potential that the Mac line-up is getting with the new Apple M1 chip.
Mind you, the macOS Big Sur is version 11.0.1 at this time and is about 12GB in size. That will take some time depending on your internet connection speed. But what awaits on the other side is an update that isn’t a typical annual refresh with some improvements and some tweaks. In fact, there are significant changes, under the hood and what you interface with every time you use your Mac. An updated design, new control center, boost for security and privacy, optimized battery charging for the MacBooks as well as the closest we have ever had to Macs seamlessly plugging in with iPhone and iPad apps.
It Is Cleaner And Looks Good To The Eye
There are significant visual changes that you will immediately notice when the update from macOS Catalina to macOS Big Sur is complete. New app icons, more rounded corners, full length sidebars in Apps such as Mail and Photos, a new control center, a redone dock as well as widgets and updates in the notification center all get more than just a fresh coat of paint. Take the dock for instance. Gone are the slanted icons for the likes of Calendar, Notes, Mail and Address Book. Replaced with new icons that are now uniform in shape and dimensions for all apps. Complete with rounded corners. The control center for Mac is very similar to what you see on an iPhone or an iPad, complete with quick controls for connectivity, brightness, volume, music playback controls, keyboard backlight brightness and switching Dark Mode on or off. Notification center gets widgets just like iOS 14 for the iPhone and iPadOS 14 for the iPad.
There Is No Stealing Data From A Mac User On Safari
Security and privacy of user data remains a critical element for Apple’s latest line of operating systems, and there is a sense that it is all about uniformity across the board. Much like iOS and iPadOS, the macOS Big Sur also gets the Intelligent Tracking Prevention with the Safari web browser. There is that never-ending debate about how you are tracked across web browsers and apps, to be served contextual advertisements based on your web usage history, what you have been searching for and even any products that you may have been looking up on shopping websites. And it is true. The adds that you see often on the likes of Facebook and on other websites are eerily similar to what you may have been browsing a few hours or days ago. Yet, the Safari web browser, isn’t giving up.
The Safari browser has something known as Intelligent Tracking Protection. Basically, everything that advertisers do to create a virtual profile of your device using trackers and then target you based on characteristics like your browser history, will be disarmed. Safari simply shares a simplified system profile with websites you visit. Making it even more difficult for data companies to identify you. The AI and machine learning work is done on the device itself (which means no data is shared with any third-party services) and this feature is on by default on all Safari browsers. To find how each website may be tracking you, simply click the Privacy Report button in the Safari toolbar and it’ll list out all the trackers that were blocked. You will be surprised how many times the same suspects turn up, only to return empty handed. This is in line with the updates that Safari has received for the iPhone and iPad over time, and I have often noted how social media apps such as Facebook and Instagram are now gasping for data on what I’m browsing for these days. They do not get access to any of my browsing history on Safari, and are clueless about contextual adverts they need to serve up!
There are further changes with Safari. And this one in particular is something that Google Chrome users would probably want to sit up and take notice. The browsing speeds in the new Safari are 50% faster than Google Chrome, says Apple. And for MacBook users, there will be one more hour of battery life when using Safari instead of Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox.
Updates Across The Board, And Uniformity With iPhone And iPad
There are significant updates across other apps too. Be it Siri, Reminders, Voice Memos, Notes, Spotlight, Podcasts, Arcade and more. Messages, for instance, get pinned conversations, reply to comments, enhanced group messaging, message effects and more. This is in line with Messages for iPhone and iPad, something that iMessage users will appreciate. I often find myself replying to iMessage notifications on the Mac while working, and the closer similarity between the experience on the macOS Big Sur and on the iPhone, is a step forward.
Music now gets new search that now lists music based on genres and moods too as well as a new personalized library layout. Photos app in macOS Big Sur gets more detailed photo and video editing capabilities as well as smoother navigation and enhancements to Movies that include a larger selection of music.
We never read those realms of pages of privacy policies and fine print before downloading an app, do we? That is exactly where the loopholes lie, which app developers have been known to take advantage of when you question them as to why your data was sold, for instance. Apple is putting an end to that never-ending cycle of laziness and being taken advantage of. There will now be “nutrition labels” for each app on the App Store—this is basically developers admitting up front about what data will be used to track you, what data will be collected and what data is already anonymized and cannot be linked back to you.
Smarter Updates And MacBooks Get Optimized Battery Charging
For MacBook users, they will now be able to take advantage of an Optimized Battery Charging feature that was till now limited to the iPhone. If you do enable this, the MacBook battery will charge up to 80% when you leave the Mac plugged in for long periods of time—it will learn your usage over time and be able to predict when to fully charge the battery.
You may notice this at some point in the future, but macOS Big Sur will be able to save you a lot of time when it comes to updating your Mac. The incremental updates for macOS Big Sur can begin in the background while you continue working as normal—this will save a lot of time when you need to finally reboot the Mac to complete the update process. The reboot will be quicker, and you can resume working sooner.
The Last Word: It Is A New Direction For Macs and macOS Big Sur Is Playing Its Part
If you happen to upgrade to a Mac that runs the new Apple M1 chip, there is even more goodness that awaits you. Instant wake for your Apple M1 chip powered Mac, much like your iPhone and iPad. Universal apps that let developers create one app for all Mac computing devices, irrespective of Intel or M1 chip power. The ability to run the iPhone and iPad apps directly on the Macs, with macOS Big Sur. Better image processing for the FaceTime camera. Faster storage. Machine learning that is 15 times faster than before. And much longer battery life—up to 20 hours. For Mac users, the ability to run iPhone and iPad apps directly on the Mac would be priceless. And that immediately gives the macOS its single biggest leap in terms of app availability.