What you need to know about the new macOS Catalina

Apple rolls out major macOS Catalina update.
Image: Apple

Today marks an exciting milestone for Apple as it has rolled out its newest macOS: 10.15 Catalina. Of course, with any major OS update, there are bound to be some good things and some bad ones.

Apple has already had a rough fall when it comes to software updates. Both its iOS and iPadOS have suffered from debilitating bugs. Those issues are leaving Mac users wondering if they should jump on the new OS update or wait for a while to see how things work out. Even so, Catalina promises some exciting new features.

There are plenty of things to break down with the Catalina update, so let’s jump right in.

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Bye, Bye, iTunes

Perhaps the most notable change in the post-Catalina Mac world is the death of iTunes. Though this move has been known for some time, it appears that today marks the beginning of the end for the digital music library that revolutionized the music industry.

Once users update to Catalina, they’ll notice that iTunes is no longer an app. Instead, it has been broken apart into multiple successors that each build on a strength of the original service. These include Music, Apple TV, and Podcasts.

Interestingly, these new apps don’t seem to be fully realized. It’s almost as if Apple rushed the transition and decided to release unfinished apps. For example, per a report from The Verge, the Apple TV app does not pull in content from other platforms as it does in the iOS version. Meanwhile, Music, a great iOS app, is clunky, difficult to navigate, and filled with pop-ups for the “Find Friends” feature on Mac.

Although iTunes has been doomed for a few years thanks to the rise of Spotify, Amazon Music Unlimited, and even Apple’s own Music, it would have been nice to discontinue the service with its successors operating in a flawless fashion.

Sidecar is a Cool New Trick

While the death of iTunes is a bit of a disappointment, Catalina makes up for it with a new feature called Sidecar. This nifty inclusion lets users utilize their iPad as a second display that operates seamlessly alongside their Mac.

Sidecar is great for power users that are on the move as it connects with either USB or wirelessly. With hardly any latency either way, the feature is actually extremely useful. It gives users the convenience of firing up some dual-screen action without the need for a bulky monitor. The new feature also includes the option to use Apple Pencil for touch input.

If there’s one downside to Sidecar, it is that the feature only works with iPads. Of course, given Apple’s love for killing third-party compatibility, this shouldn’t be a surprise. Still, access to the Sidecar setup means that users have likely spent upwards of $2,000-3,000 on a Mac capable of handling Catalina and an iPad to go with it.

Bad Omens for Catalyst

A few months ago, Apple announced that it would be bringing iPad apps to the Mac. Users have been highly anticipating this feature as it would hypothetically give Mac owners access to thousands of iPad apps that were previously unavailable. Unfortunately, the feature known as Catalyst is bearing some bad omens.

Throughout Catalyst’s beta run, developers have complained that Apple isn’t doing its part to ease the process of porting apps to the Mac. Instead, iPad apps running on macOS are feeling very out of place in a point and click world.

As of now, even Apple’s Catalyst apps haven’t seen a true refresher for the Catalina update. For example, Home, Stocks, and Apple News should have Mac functionality in the new update. Instead, they awkwardly function like an iPad under the control of a trackpad.

This is a bad sign for the future of Catalyst. Still, users can hope that Apple devotes a little more attention to the feature now that Catalina is up and running. If not, a major feature of the OS update could be a huge flop.

Miscellaneous Updates

Amid the excitement of the new trio of media apps, Sidecar, and Catalyst, some smaller updates have been lost in the shuffle. For example, core Apple apps like Mail, Reminders, and Notes each got a facelift that makes them similar to their respective iOS relatives.

Meanwhile, Apple bundled its friend-finding feature with its device-finding feature in the new (awkwardly named) “Find My” tool. Let’s face it, whose Mac isn’t basically one of their friends at this point.

Finally, Catalina gives Photos a slight refresh. While nothing major has changed, the app also now operates more similarly to its iOS counterpart. See the trend? The new Photos includes a slightly more refined editing interface as well as a better “at a glance” view of pictures grouped by months and years.

Hang Tight

While it might seem exciting to jump on the new Catalina update right now, users should probably err on the side of caution. This is generally a good rule of thumb when it comes to any major OS update. Waiting to upgrade gives the developer time to work out any bugs that arise during the first few weeks following an OS launch.

So far, it seems that Catalina is relatively bug-free (knock on wood). Nonetheless, it would be wise to wait a few weeks just to be safe considering Apple’s poor track record this fall. There isn’t really anything wrong with the previous OS version and the new features aren’t worth rushing into an update that could prove faulty.

Besides, waiting to update will give you a few more weeks to take a stroll down memory lane with your iTunes playlists before they start to disappear in Tom Holland Spider-Man fashion. iTunes doesn’t feel so good.