Apple's approach to major software updates has changed a bit
over the past couple of years. Once upon a time, the company would
roll out one big update then do smaller point releases over the
next year or two to fix bugs and occasionally add minor features,
followed by a long life of security updates.
Over the last decade,
those major releases have become yearly, but they still tended to
deliver most of the promised features in one go.
Nowadays, with several major software platforms to keep up to
date, the company has gradually shifted to a strategy of major
software releases which include most of the features the
company announces at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference.
But invariably, a handful of those headline features don't make it
into the initial version and instead trickle out in a variety of
updates over the subsequent months.
So it's been with iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS Monterey. Several
of the most ambitious features have still yet to be released, and
with the clock ticking down on 2021, it's left more than a few
users wondering if we'll even see these features this year.
Most peculiarly out of all of these missing features, Universal
Control -- which Apple's marketing pages still tout as coming later
this fall -- has barely even appeared in the betas for any releases. In one pre-release version, some command-line trickery could
enable it, but it clearly wasn't ready for prime time.
Apple's going to pop this out fully formed with no beta testing in
the next couple weeks, it's pretty unlikely it'll make its
SharePlay was one of the biggest announcements from Apple at
this year's WWDC. The platform-spanning feature promised to make it
easy to share a variety of activities, from watching videos to
enjoying podcasts to screen-sharing, with another user while on a
FaceTime call. While SharePlay did eventually arrive on iPhones and
iPads in the iOS 15.1 update, it's yet to appear for macOS.
However, that will likely change pretty soon. SharePlay is in
the current betas for macOS Monterey 12.1, which have been
circulating for a number of weeks. Given the state of that update,
it seems likely it'll roll out to Mac users in the not too distant
App Privacy Report
In iOS 14, Apple added the ability for users to ask apps not to
track them, a development not exactly greeted with equanimity by
the likes of Facebook. So this year's announcement that iOS would
offer an App Privacy Report screen in Settings that details exactly
what permissions apps are requesting and how often probably won't
be a big hit with the social media giant either.
App Privacy Report should be appearing soon on iPhones and
iPads, as it's working in the current betas of iOS 15.2. Like macOS
12.1, this update seems to be nearing release, meaning that it will
probably show up sometime in the next few weeks.
Another feature that Apple talked up for its latest platform
updates is the Digital Legacy program. This aims to simplify
matters for those trying to access a loved one's Apple ID after
their death. It allows users to specify a Legacy Contact, who will
then be able to request access to their Apple account using a
Like the App Privacy Report, this feature is currently in the
iOS 15.2 beta, meaning that it ought to arrive before the end of
There's a special class of things that Apple announces that are
often too ambitious to roll out quickly, in large part because they
require buy-in from third parties. (Apple Pay is a good example.)
Into that bucket, you can add iOS 15's ability to store ID cards in
the Wallet app on your phone.
Apple has detailed its standard for this program, but it
requires states to sign on. As of this writing, Arizona,
Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Oklahoma, and Utah
have announced they will join the initiative. But it's going to
take some time to implement, so this feature won't see the light of
day until some time next year.
If there was a gasp-able moment in this year's WWDC keynote, it
may have been the announcement that, with the latest major version
of Swift Playgrounds -- Apple's tool for learning the Swift
programming language -- users would be able to write apps for the iPad
on the iPad.
That marks the first time that's been
possible for Apple's mobile platforms, and while the apps in
question will likely not be able to take advantage of all the same
capabilities as those made with Xcode, it's still a milestone.
But that milestone will have to wait for a bit. Swift
Playgrounds 4 is still not available, though recent reports suggest
that some developers have been invited to use a pre-release
version. Apple's marketing page for iPadOS 15 merely says the
update is coming later in 2021.
Speaking of making apps, Apple also teased a new service for
developers back in June: Xcode Cloud. This system, built into the
Xcode app, is a continuous integration and delivery service that
uses cloud-based tools to make the app development process more
For example, developers can have their apps built in the
cloud, potentially freeing them from bottlenecks if they don't have
the latest and greatest hardware available. There are also
cloud-based tools for testing and deployment.
Xcode Cloud has been slowly rolling out as a beta to interested
developers, but it's unclear exactly when it will ship for
Here and there
There are a few other minor features that have yet to appear,
such as a CarPlay version of Apple's new Maps interface, Hide My
Email integration directly into the Mail app on iOS 15 and iPadOS
15, and more wallet-based digital keys for cars, homes, hotels, and
All in all, however, it seems like the bulk of Apple's new
features should be out by the end of the year. Though if you're
waiting impatiently for Universal Control or Xcode Cloud, you may
want to put the kettle on.