Apple Software includes everything from development software to operating systems. By controlling the hardware and software, Apple can make highly efficient programs and operating systems for its platforms.
● Software built exclusively for Apple hardware
● Optimizations and special permissions for Apple software
● Operating systems like macOS, iOS, tvOS, and watchOS
● Apps like Safari, Translate, and Xcode
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The operating system will now iterate its version number similar to Apple's other operating systems. Expect macOS 12.0 to be announced during WWDC 2021.
macOS Big Sur
Apple built macOS Big Sur to be the transition operating system for Apple Silicon. It introduced new design aspects like rounded windows and squircle iconography.
This operating system brings optimized apps for the new ARM system architecture, universal apps, and better responsiveness across the board. Also, use your iPhone and iPad apps on the Mac when running an M1 processor.
macOS Catalina was the next step in Apple's modern initiatives to control the user experience from top to bottom. This update closed off more walls, built up more security, and offered more ecosystem parity across devices.
This update also ditched iTunes in favor of three new apps; music, podcasts, and TV. The Files app now handles local backup and syncing of iPhone and iPod devices.
A precursor to the Apple Silicon transition, Mac Catalyst allows developers to directly convert iPad apps into Intel-based apps. This option still exists for developers but is less likely to be used since Intel is on its way out.
The operating system for iPhone is called iOS. It was based on Mac OS X and built for touch.
Apps are distributed via the App Store, and Apple controls which apps are approved for sale. This method of software distribution has lead to many lawsuits and accusations of monopoly power.
Apple is expected to launch "iOS 15" in 2021. The company will announce it at WWDC in early summer and release the final version in September. It will likely drop support for older devices after multiple years of supporting iPhone 6s and up.
Despite being released during a global pandemic, iOS 14 delivered some of the biggest changes to the operating system in years. Home Screen widgets, App Library, and picture-in-picture were major debut features.
Apple added Apple Watch unlock when wearing a mask via iOS 14.5. The same update introduced the ability for Apple to patch security exploits without full operating system updates.
Apple forked iOS into iPadOS with version 13.1. Since then, it has added full cursor support, external storage support, and improved file system management.
The changes made by iPadOS strengthen the iPad and give users more versatility when using the tablet as a primary computing device. iPad-specific features include Scribble for Apple Pencil and Magic Keyboard support.
Sidecar allows users to extend or mirror a Mac desktop on an iPad. It works in both wired and wireless modes. It also supports the Apple Pencil and provides essential Mac controls in a touch-friendly sidebar.
Apple TV has a dedicated operating system and software platform called tvOS. It is optimized for use on large screens with big icons and simple on-screen navigation. Siri acts as one of the primary input options for navigating content.
The Apple TV app is the center of tvOS and connects users to Apple TV+ and iTunes purchases.
tvOS 14 was introduced in 2020 with updates to Apple Arcade and PiP support. The Apple TV platform is focused primarily on media, so user-facing updates are few and far between.
watchOS has evolved from an extension of iOS into a standalone operating system with its own App Store. The relatively new platform has seen multiple large revisions since its launch, and each update brings Apple Watch closer to becoming an independent device.
watchOS 7 updates include improved dictation and translation features through Siri, custom cycling directions, and the ability to share watch faces with others. Apple Fitness+ support arrived in the version 7.2 update.
Safari debuted on macOS in 2003 as the default web browser running WebKit. It is the default web browser on iOS and iPadOS, and developers are restricted to building browsers with WebKit on those platforms.
Apple builds Safari with speed and privacy as top priorities. Tracking Prevention is a built-in protection that keeps companies from following users around the web.
iWork is an office productivity suite consisting of three applications — Pages, Numbers, and Keynote. They replace the Microsoft equivalent apps Word, Excel, and Powerpoint, respectively.
Apple's productivity apps focus on simplicity and collaboration via iCloud.
Final Cut Pro
Final Cut Pro is Apple's professional-level, non-linear, non-destructive video editing software. It is optimized for the M1 processor and can edit videos up to 8K resolution.
Apple Health is an iPhone app that collects app and user health data in one place for easy viewing and metrics. Users can connect their health providers for even more health tracking features.
The Health app replaces many of the invasive apps that offer to track user's health. Apple's focus on privacy and security makes it the best place to keep such sensitive data.
HomeKit enables smart home developers to build devices that run within the Home app. Smart lights, locks, cameras, and more show up within the app for easy control and automation.
Apple introduced a native language translation app in iOS 14 called Translate. The feature uses on-device processing to translate text or audio between 11 different languages.
Translation features also exist within Safari and Siri. Previously, users would have to rely upon Google Translate or other services that had privacy implications.
Rosetta 2 is a stop-gap feature that translates application code on the fly. It enables Intel-based applications to be used on M-series Macs.
The M1 has been so efficient at performing this translation that some Intel-based apps work better on M1 than natively on Intel. Apple expects developers to transition their apps to M-series native since Rosetta 2 isn't meant to be forever.
Xcode is Apple's IDE, made for producing software on Mac for use on iOS, iPadOS, macOS, tvOS, and watchOS. Free to download and use, the IDE is chiefly used by developers to create iPhone and iPad apps, as well as programs for the Mac.
While the software is free, participating in developer features like app submission and beta programs requires an active paid developer account.
Swift is an open-source modern coding language created by Apple, designed to build apps within the Apple, Mac, and Linux system. While based on Objective-C and other languages, it was designed to be more lightweight, more intuitive, safer, and easier-to-use compared to many of the alternatives.
Apple's gamified development environment, Swift Playgrounds, aims at teaching novice coders to comfortably be able to write in Swift. Available on both the iPad and macOS, the app is designed to quickly offer programmers feedback without the hassle of constant recompiling after tweaks and inspires experimentation through its approachable interface.
CarPlay allows users to connect an iPhone or iPad to their vehicle's infotainment system. Once connected, either wired or wirelessly, the device will show an iOS-like interface on an integrated display.
Apps like Apple Maps, Phone, and Messages will appear for easy access while driving. Third-party apps can also be developed for the platform, though it requires a special approval process.
Announced at WWDC 2020, CarKey will replace the physical key fob in modern cars. Unlock, start, and control your car via a built-in interface within Apple Wallet.
Users will be able to share keys with trusted friends and family members and set restrictions like distance and speed. The rollout of CarKey has been glacial as the car industry is slow to adopt new features.
Apple AR and VR
ARKit is Apple's software development kit that enables app developers to incorporate augmented reality into their apps. ARKit handles many of the tough tasks associated with AR, including detecting movement and the local environment, simplifying the process for developers to place virtual objects in an everyday scene.
Apple has shown some interest in Virtual reality experiences and hardware. While AR glasses are still years away, a VR headset could arrive in some form at any time.