MacOS Big Sur Brings Elements of iOS & Next-Level Privacy

One of the biggest announcements Apple made at today's WWDC keynote was its new macOS, which it ambitiously named Big Sur. While it's currently unclear whether the version will be called macOS 10.16 or 11, the name Big Sur encapsulates Apple's goal for the OS, which is to be "entirely new yet instantly familiar." Almost every aspect of the design is new to macOS but borrowed from iOS, from app icons and symbols, to a whole new suite of sounds. The goal is to add consistency across Apple devices. Floating buttons, a new sidebar design, and a space-efficient toolbar are all exciting features of this redesign aimed toward making it easier to access what you need. Arguably the most exciting feature of Big Sur is the new Privacy Report in Safari, which gives you a look at which sites are using (and sharing) your data, as well as keeps tabs on which of your passwords may have been compromised. In an age when data can spread like wildfire, these updates are not only reassuring, but needed.

Related: What WWDC Features Excite You Most?

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Availability & Compatibility

The shipping version of macOS Big Sur will be available as an update sometime this fall, while the public beta version of macOS will be available in July.

The new version of macOS will be compatible with:

  • MacBook, 2015 or later
  • MacBook Air, 2013 or later
  • MacBook Pro, late 2013 or later
  • Mac Mini, 2014 or later
  • iMac, 2014 or later
  • All models of iMac Pro, 2017 or later
  • Mac Pro, 2013 or later

Features of macOS Big Sur

Let's take a closer look at what this bad boy has to offer:

Intuitive Design: Customizeable Menu Bar, Control Center, New App Icons

Besides changing all the icons and symbols to match iOS, exciting features of this redesign includes buttons and controls that appear when you need them and disappear when you don't. The menu bar is customizeable, making it easier to access your most-used apps without having to sort through all the extras you never open. Each app has its own theme color, and these colors appear in the selection bar. The notification center is also updated, grouping relevent notifications together and offering updated widgets that will be customizeable.

Enriching Your Favorite Apps: New Sidebars, Memojis, Safari Updates

Big Sur offers some exciting updates to the most-used apps macOS has to offer, from design to fun new features.

Photos

In a fully refreshed design of the Photos app, you can now navigate your photos using a sidebar. We've also heard big promises for smooth transitions, which we're excited to see, despite being unclear on what exactly that means.

Messages

We'll see a variety of new tools to enhance the messaging experience on the Mac, which will closely mirror Messages for iOS. Like on the iPhone, you'll be able to pin your most important conversations to the top, search using improved visual search, and add media with a photo picker. You can also now create and customize a Memoji on your Mac, adding fun ways to express yourself and connect with your friends and loved ones.

Maps 

Maps offers an entirely new design with details that make it easy to navigate any location. For the first time on Mac, you can favorite locations and create your own guides. The Indoor Maps feature will allow you to do things such as check the exact location of your gate at the airport, completely with a lookaround function. You'll also be able to see the progress of friends who have given you an ETA. This update is exciting, but as Maps has never been an area where Apple has been able to strongly compete with Google, it remains to be seen if this will take off in the way Apple envisions.

Safari

Safari has many exciting design updates, including a customizable start page, redesigned tabs, and translation capabilities. The App Store will now have a section specifically for Safari extensions, with clear information on what each one will have access to and an ability to customize that.

Privacy Report

The new Safari Privacy Report captured my attention far more than any other feature. The report will offer visibility on how sites track users, as well as inform you of which known trackers you were protected from. It will also monitor your passwords and inform you if any have been compromised from a data breach, giving you the chance to change them almost instantly once someone else gets ahold of them. You can also control the access your plugins have, limiting them to certain sites or timeframes. 

Mac Catalyst

Mac Catalys, a function introduced last year which helps iPad developers bring their apps to the Mac, will have all their apps automatically take on the new look of Big Sur. It also brings developers new levels of control over their apps, such as offering Family Sharing and the ability to bring extensions made for other browsers to Safari.

Will Big Sur Mean Big Changes?

All in all, these are exciting—if not entirely groundbreaking—developments, with the strongest feature definitely being the Privacy Report. I'm most curious to see how users will take to the Maps function in light of the heavy competition from Google Maps. I anticipate Memoji to be one of the most warmly received updates, as there is little to complain about with the option of designing a little cartoon of yourself, especially with the extensive options Apple has to offer. 

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Author Details

Amy Spitzfaden–Both's picture

Author Details

Amy Spitzfaden–Both

Amy Spitzfaden Both is a Feature Writer at iPhone Life, an award-winning novelist, and an iPhone enthusiast. Over the past decade, her work in the publishing industry has included live coverage of industry events including the Yale Publishing Course and Magazine Innovation’s ACT 9 Experience, providing editing services for several start-up publishing houses, and acting as newsstand consultant for magazines such as The Old Farmer’s Almanac and The New York Review of Books. She graduated from M.I.U. with a Bachelor’s in Literature and Writing, and has gone on to publish two novels and two short stories. Her debut novel Untold won the 2014 Chelson Award for Fiction.
Writing everything from book reviews to skincare tips, Amy discovered a passion for bringing exciting and useful information to even the most casual researcher. The mix of usability and endless possibilities is what drew her to Apple products originally, and the more she learns, the more she loves.
Amy lives in New Hampshire with her husband and daughter. When she’s not writing or glued to her iPhone, she enjoys hiking, traveling, and creating her own tea blends.