Apple Upgrades - Not Sexy, But Awesome

Becky Worley
Special Contributor, Yahoo! Tech
Upgrade Your Life


With the kick off of Apple’s developer conference, the company has announced new hardware and a slew of software advances. Some are true innovations, some are an attempt to catch-up to Android, and some copy features in popular apps. Here’s why you should care - and when the changes will land on your phone and laptop:

New Laptops with Longer Battery Life

The Macbook Air gets a refresh with longer battery life and a price cut. The 11-inch model goes from 5 hours of battery life to 9 hours; and the 13-inch model goes from 7hours of battery life to 12.  Both sport upgraded Intel Haswell processors, but neither has the retina displays of the Macbook Pro laptops that Apple touts as visually superior. The new Macbook Airs cost $999 for the 128GB, 11-inch model and $1099 for the 128 GB, 13-inch model (a $100 price drop from the previous model). Both are available now.

New Mac Operating System

Previous Mac computer operating systems have been named after wild felines. But as Apple used up the species options with Panther, Lion, and Snow-Leopard, engineers joked that this would be the first software release delayed by a lack of big-cats. So they switched gears and announced a new theme: California landmarks. Enter Mac OS X Mavericks. Named after the big wave surf spot, this operating system focuses on battery life, with optimization to reduce CPU use by up to 72% and a reduction in energy consumption by power-hungry websites (in the Safari browser only). It wakes from standby mode faster, adds customizable tabs to the finder for increased file organization, and adds tagging of files for faster searching. Developers can download the new OS now, and it will be available to the public as a download in the fall - presumably for the same cost as the previous version of OS X, $19.99.

New Mac Pro

While full details were not released, Apple hardware guru Phil Schiller previewed a new Mac desktop. A work in progress, the Mac Pro will be 2.5 times faster than the current model, boast dual GPUs and up to a 12 core processor configuration. It can also output to the new 4K displays. It has a total redesign with a piano black exterior, and it’s shaped like a cylinder (iTrashcan? iBin?). It’s much smaller than the current Mac Pro tower but it seems well designed with all the input/output jacks on one side, handles on top, and a fan on the bottom pushing air up through the extensive interior hardware.

iOS 7

The most extensive news from Apple centers on its new operating system for mobile devices. iOS 7 is a significant departure in look and feel from the previous versions of iPhone and iPad software.

A little back-story here: The previous head of iOS development was replaced by Jony Ive,Apple’s superstar hardware designer.  So this version of iOS is Ive’s baby, and it reflects his minimalist ethos: white backgrounds, clean fonts, and hyper-useful design features. The most noticeable design feature is thetranslucency some of the windows employ to show hierarchy and aid in navigation through the UI. A new, more fluorescent color palette and redesigned icons will give the OS a fresh feel, but many are comparing those design changes to similarities in Android.  I also wonder how the white background will affect real-world battery life and eye-strain.  

A few overall technical issues: apps will update automatically, all apps can multitask, and the new operating system is optimized to preserve battery life by freezing apps that are running in the background but aren’t being used. All of these features and improvements have been announced but not tested, so we’ll see how they allrun when released in the real world.

Other features in iOS 7:

iTunes Radio

Apple announced a direct competitor to Pandora. Within iTunes, you will be able to create streaming stations around a song or musical group. If you hear a song you like,you can click the purchase button, and it will be immediately downloaded.

Activation Lock

This much needed security feature could radically change the rapid rise in phone thefts. If a phone is stolen, the user can lock it, and without the password, the phone is completely useless. Even if a thief removes the SIM card or tries to uninstall the Find My iPhone App, without the proper password associated with the owner's Apple ID, the phone will remain locked.

Camera Filters & Photo Stream Organization

New tools to add Instagram-esque filters to your pics, capture square photos (think profile pic thumbnails), and date/location organization of the photos in your phone (Yay - my iPhone photo stream is a hot mess and I need all the help I can get).

Control Center

Swipe up from the bottom of the screen (even from the lock screen) to access your most common controls: WiFi, Do Not Disturb, Brightness, Bluetooth, etc.

Siri Improvements

Apple has added a new option for a man’s voice and control of more features in the phone like turning Bluetooth on or off, playing voicemails and controlling brightness.


To compete with the Bump app and Samsung’s photo transfer feature feature, iOS 7 will allow you to share files with other iOS users over WiFi.  This sounds super handy for photo sharing at events. 

iOS 7 for Cars

The display of certain cars (BMW, Mercedes, Chevy, Nissan, Honda and others) will sync directly with your iPhone and give you control of it through the car’s monitor.

Availability and Cost

The iOS 7 update will be available in the fall, and it will be a free download. It is compatible with the iPhone 4 and up, the iPad 2 and up, and some iPod touches.

Bottom line,Apple has announced some innovative changes and some feature additions that keep them current with the competition. They are holding ground, but no huge announcements today to propel them far ahead of the Android competition. That said, I for one will upgrade to iOS 7 when it comes out.

[Related: Do Apple Products Ever Go On Sale?]