Apple unveiled macOS Monterey during the Worldwide Developers Conference held on 7 June 2021 and formally released it on 25 October 2021. As a successor to macOS BigSur, this is the 18th and current major release of the macOS operating system.
The new version of the infamous operating system for Macintosh devices introduces new features and changes. Some of these features expand the functionalities of current apps while most maximize the advantages and technical specifications of newer Mac devices running on the Apple M1, Apple M1 Pro, and Apple M1 Max system-on-chips.
Notable New Features of macOS Monterey
Updates to the FaceTime and Messages Apps
The new macOS version includes new updates to the native FaceTime and Messages apps. These include the SharePlay functionality of FaceTime that allows users to share their screens, watch streaming movies or listen to music together with other users, synchronize playback of shared music, and multiple device support.
Furthermore, the video messaging app now includes portrait mode for blurred background, grid view of up to 18 people, spatial audio, Voice Isolation mode using machine learning to clear background noises, a Wide Spectrum mode, and web-based use of the app on non-Apple devices. These new features can relatively compete with popular video conferencing platforms such as Zoom Video Communications, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet.
The Messages app boasts the “Share With You” feature that enables organized access of shared content and easier sharing of content from other sources or apps such as the Photo gallery, the Safari web browser, Apple Podcasts, and Apple TV.
Focus, Notifications, and Universal Control
macOS Monterey also equips Mac devices with new functionalities. The Focus feature allows users to choose a predetermined setting based on what they are doing: whether they are working, gaming, reading, having their personal time, away from their devices, or sleeping. Each setting has filters for notifications and auto-reply options. Users can customize these Focus settings. What is more, the chosen setting is automatically set across all other Apple devices.
There is also a new look for notifications, including photos of contacts and larger icons for apps. Notifications from different apps are also streamlined to feature the contact photo of a particular individual to make him or her easier to identify. There are also muting suggestions for active threads and Time Sensitive notifications for important messages and reminders.
Another new feature of macOS Monterey is Universal Control that enables the seamless use of keyboard, trackpad, and mouse across Mac and iPad. To illustrate, a mouse can be used for both a MacBook and an iPad with seamless transition. Content can be dragged and dropped between Apple devices using the input accessories.
Updates to the Safari Web browser and Note Apps
The new Safari web browser also gets an overhaul. The color of the tab bar adapts to the major color theme of a particular website to make the individual user interfaces of both the app and website look as if they are one. To maximize viewability, tabs are now located to the right of the Smart Search instead of below it.
In addition, tabs can be saved and grouped based on the preferred category of a particular user. The Tab Groups can be accessed outside a Mac device and from other Apple devices such as an iPad or an iPhone. Note that the Share and New Tab buttons now only appear when a user clicks the “More” button to minimize clutter on the screen.
With regard to the Note apps, the new Quick Note feature makes the Note app quickly accessible from other apps such as Safari, Maps, Apple Music, and other supported apps. The Quick Note window is adjustable in terms of size and position so that a user can easily write down a note without blocking a portion of the screen.
AirPlay Wireless Communication Protocol
The AirPlay protocol used to be a feature accessible only to iOS and iPadOS devices. It allows users to stream videos, audio, other media content, and device screens across supported devices, including supported receiver devices such as Apple TV and HomePod. The arrival of macOS Monterey now equips compatible Mac devices with this capability.
Users can use this wireless communication protocol to send content to their Mac devices from an iPhone, iPad, or another Mac device. Music and videos, as well as Keynote presentations, can be streamed to Mac from another compatible device. They can also mirror their iPhones and iPads or extend the display by using a Mac as a secondary display.
With macOS Monterey, Mac devices compatible with AirPlay can also function as third-party speakers or as a secondary speaker for multiroom audio, thereby enabling users to enjoy a high-fidelity sound whenever they play music or a podcast.
A Look Into Pros and Cons of macOS Monterey
Of course, because it is an updated version of macOS, most of the major advantages of macOS Monterey revolve around the inherent benefits of using the proprietary operating system from Apple. These include the inclusion of free productivity apps such as Pages, Numbers, and Keynote, as well as GarageBand, iMovie, FaceTime, and Messages.
It is also worth mentioning that macOS has a simple and clean user interface that is noticeably more upfront than Microsoft Windows or other Linux distributions such as Debian and Ubuntu. The overall user experience is straightforward, and can be compared to the user interface and user experience of iOS and iPadOS devices.
However, for the specific advantages of the macOS Monterey, it is interesting to note that this new version is a stable release that builds on the advantages and accomplishments seen on macOS BigSur. Take note that the introduction of macOS BigSur marked a major change in the design language of the operating system in which Mac computers become visually similar to iPhones and iPads as far as the user interface is concerned.
But the key benefits of macOS Monterey rest on the expansion of the functionalities of some of the apps native to Mac devices. For instance, the new and improved FaceTime can somewhat replace more popular video communication platforms with a specific proposition geared toward personal use and virtual social interactions.
In addition, because of the notable software-hardware optimization of the macOS operating system, this major release also takes advantage of the computing capabilities and power efficiency of new Mac devices featuring the ARM-based Apple M series of chips.
There is a major downside, however. Not all can enjoy its new features and functionalities. A key disadvantage of macOS Monterey is that it is not available for older Mac devices, including MacBook Pro and MacBook Air devices from 2013 and earlier, as well as the non-Retina 2015 MacBook and the 2014 iMac desktop computer.
Another drawback is that it fails to demonstrate a more significant overhaul to the entire macOS experience. The addition of some of the new features and functionalities seem to be catch-up efforts to the improvements introduced in macOS BigSur. While it is still a major release, the overall look and feel are not different from its predecessor.