Apple set iTunes off on a farewell tour at its Worldwide Developers Conference this week and gave all of us first glimpses of iOS 13 software for the iPhone, MacOS Catalina for the Mac, watchOS 6 for the Apple Watch and a new iPadOS for the iPad.
The company’s various announcements raised key questions for consumers. We answer several:
Where is my music?
Apple’s decision to finally kill off a media player that has been around since 2001 marks one of those moments in the tech biz that gives you pause. Not that iTunes, which had become bloated through the years, was necessarily a favorite even among some Apple diehards.
If you’ve been a Mac user, the likelihood, though, is that your music library and carefully curated playlists have long lived in iTunes, starting back when you ripped music or burned CDs, if not bought individual tracks directly from Apple. You’re left wondering: What happens to that collection?
Fear not, it will all be safe and sound. You just have to look elsewhere on your Mac for certain music-related functionality, with Apple splitting up features of iTunes into separate Apple Music, Apple Podcasts and Apple TV apps.
To sync your music collection on a Mac to your iPhone, connect the device to the computer, go to sidebar in the Finder, and click on the name of your handset (e.g. Edward’s iPhone). From there, you will see familiar options for not only syncing music but also TV shows, movies, audiobooks and so on.
Otherwise, when it comes to songs you’ve imported or purchased, and the playlists (or smart playlists), you’ve created in iTunes, you’ll be spending time in the Apple Music app.
That’s also where you’ll now find what is likely to be a less cluttered music store, for those of you who still choose to buy tracks from Apple. You will find the iTunes store in the sidebar for the Apple Music app.
iTunes Gift Cards and credits will be maintained there as well, Apple says, and the store will also be available for music purchases through iOS, PCs, and Apple TV.
Of course, for most of you nowadays, the Apple Music app is about the $10-a-month ($15 for families) subscription-based streaming service that lets you listen on demand or download 50 million available tracks, or listen to some custom radio stations.
If you go the subscription route, you can choose to hide the iTunes Store.
Meanwhile, if you’re tuning in as a person who uses iTunes on a Windows PC, for now nothing will change.
Is the iPad now a true laptop replacement?
Getting closer maybe, but for many, not yet.
The big news for Apple’s tablet is that for the first time it gets its own dedicated operating system, iPadOS; iPads previously ran off iOS.
The new software brings tools and gestures designed to help you better exploit the extra screen canvas you have on an iPad, starting with a layout that lets you pin more widgets on the home screen. Improvements to the “Slide Over” and “Split View” tools promise to enhance multitasking.
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You’ll also be able to plug in thumb drives and SD cards on the iPad and use finger gestures to select text, and handle cut, copy, paste and undo tasks. How much of a learning curve there is will go a long way toward determining how much simpler all this may turn out to be.
Apple claims the browsing experience in Safari on the iPad will bring you an experience that is closer to what you may be accustomed to on a desktop. We’ll see.
Other improvements require the optional Pencil accessory. But, alas, the iPad still does not support a mouse or trackpad, for those of you who really want to turn the tablet into a suitable PC replacement.
Will I want to “sign in” with Apple?
Quite possibly. Apple has been making a lot of hay around privacy, even going so far recently as to run privacy-themed TV spots around what has become a sensitive topic in the tech community.
At WWDC, Apple announced a number of privacy initiatives. In Maps, for example, you’ll be able to share your location with an app developer “just once,” and Apple is turning off the ability for third parties to track you via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.
The Find My feature that may help you uncover a lost Mac also takes privacy into account. If the missing computer is in sleep mode it can still send out a secure Bluetooth beacon to other nearby Apple devices. The signal, in turn, relays the machine’s location back to you, but does so in an encrypted and anonymous manner.
But the privacy development that seems to have generated the most attention is a new “Sign in with Apple” feature that you can use to authenticate your identity when you attempt to log into third-party apps, similar to familiar “sign-in” buttons from rivals Facebook and Google.
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The big difference is that Apple will let you sign in without revealing personal information that will let that app developer track you. If you want the benefits that might come by sharing an email address with that developer, Apple will let you do so with a randomized email alias address that will be forwarded to your real email address.
Apple is reportedly requiring developers who already offer the sign-in Facebook and Google buttons to offer its own button as well. How that plays with Department of Justice regulators who are reportedly already looking into Apple’s antitrust practices bears watching.
Many of the above solutions come with iOS 13. Should I upgrade then?
It’s a bit early to tell for sure, but the answer will almost certainly be yes, with the caveat that the first iteration of any new operating system has the potential to introduce a few kinks that need to be addressed. (If you’re feeling especially brave, you’ll be able to fetch the public beta of iOS 13 in July).
While the Dark Mode motif that is coming to iOS is an entirely optional aesthetic, all users will appreciate the zippier responsiveness, smaller downloads and beefier security that Apple is promising, not to mention improved photo editing tools, especially when it comes to video.
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One of the features I’m most excited about is audiosharing: If you and a loved one both have Apple’s AirPods, you’ll be able to pair them so that both of you during a commute say, can listen to the same song or watch the same movie off one iPhone.
What’s up with the Apple Watch?
With the latest watchOS, Apple’s smart timepiece gets a dedicated store and some new watch faces, though still no support – regrettably – for third-party watch faces.
The most interesting enhancements to come to Apple Watch are health-related, an area of emphasis for Apple. There’s the ability to track menstrual cycles (where Apple is playing catch up to Fitbit and Garmin). And there’s a Noise app that can warn you if it is so loud around you that you may be damaging your ears if you stick around.
I’d still like to see Apple push the watch even further in health with built-in sleep tracking feature but that will go beyond software and require a whole new watch model, one with a strong enough battery to cover more than a single night or two of sleep.
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