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(Pocket-lint) - Every year Apple launches a new version of macOS, its software for Apple laptops and desktop computers.

This year is no exception, especially as Apple gears up to launch even more new Macs during 2021 - with updates to the 27-inch iMac and MacBook Air expected as well as an all-new MacBook Pro lineup (14 and 16-inch) running M1X or M2 processors. Because so much new hardware is on the horizon, Apple, of course, used WWDC 2021 to announce macOS 12, also known as Monterey.

What did Apple officially name macOS 12?

  • Officially, it's software update version 12 of macOS
  • Apple also gave it California-themed name: Monterey

Apple announced macOS 12 at WWDC 2021. It's also calling the software macOS 12 Monterey - a name inspired by the Big Sur coastline.

Keep in mind last year saw the release of macOS 11, also known as macOS Big Sur. Apple typically names its operating system updates for the Mac after California landmarks. However, Apple's early OS X versions were known after Big Cats (Jaguar, Tiger, Leopard, and so on).

When will macOS 12 Monterey be available?

  • First beta is now available for developers to test
  • Free "official" update for consumers coming this autumn

The Monterey‌ developer beta launched 7 June 2021. A public beta will be available to Mac users in July 2021. For everyone else, ‌macOS 12 Monterey‌ will be available as a free software update in autumn 2021. While iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and watchOS 8 usually land in September, macOS 12 Monterey might roll out in October, if Apple's recent release date schedule for operating system updates remains the same.

Which Macs can run macOS 12 Monterey?

Apple has promised macOS 12 Monterey will support "the broadest lineup of Macs in history, including the latest iMac, MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, and Mac mini, as well as Apple’s Intel-based Macs." Here are the devices that can run macOS 12 Monterey:

  • iMac: Late 2015 and later
  • iMac Pro: 2017 and later
  • MacBook Air: Early 2015 and later
  • MacBook Pro: Early 2015 and later
  • Mac Pro: Late 2013 and later
  • Mac mini: Late 2014 and later
  • MacBook: Early 2016 and later

What's new in macOS 12 Monterey?

Apple previewed macOS 12 Monterey at WWDC 2021, describing it as offering "new ways for users to connect, get more done, and work more fluidly across their Apple devices". Below are the biggest features Apple highlighted during its presentation, though the update includes many other, smaller upgrades. (Note: As the software goes through the beta-testing process, some features may be removed or even added.)

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AirPlay

Apple has brought AirPlay to the Mac, which means you will be able to use your Mac or MacBook as a speaker or video output. More specifically, you can play, present, and share anything on your iPhone‌ or ‌iPad‌ directly to a Mac display. Mac speakers can be used as an ‌AirPlay‌ speaker.

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FaceTime

Like iOS 15, macOS 12 Monterey includes several new FaceTime features, including spatial audio support. That means, depending on where a person is sitting during a FaceTime call, their audio should feel like it's coming from their position. FaceTime also brings Voice Isolation, which uses machine learning to eliminate background noise and make voices clearer. There's Wide Spectrum, too, which boosts ambient sounds.

FaceTime also includes a new feature called SharePlay, or the ability to listen to music or watch streaming content with others during a FaceTime call. Macs using Apple's M1 chip can blur user backgrounds, too, via the Neural Engine. But perhaps the biggest update is that now you can invite Android and Windows PC users to your FaceTime call - because FaceTime is coming to the web and will be end-to-end encrypted.

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Focus

The new Focus feature in iOS 15 is coming to ‌macOS 12 Monterey‌, as well, allowing you to focus on a task and filter out notifications. Also, if other people are attempting to contact you, they will be told that you are focusing and not available. In that case, it's like a more powerful "do not disturb" setting for Macs. Plus, if you set up Focus on one Apple device, it will be synced across all your other Apple devices.

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Notes

In Notes, there are new features like Quick Note, which lets you jot down notes on any app or website systemwide - and you can add links from Safari or Maps. Collaborative notes have more features now, too, thanks to the addition of mentions and an Activity View. Multiple people can work on notes, and their edits are all easily found in the new Activity View. Plus, tags can be added so you can easily find them later.

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Safari

Apple has redesigned Safari's tabs experience, enabling you to see more of a webpage. The new tab bar also takes on the colour of the page, and then it can combine tabs, the toolbar, and the search field into one compact view. Also, with the Tab Groups feature, you can easily save and manage tabs and sync them across Apple devices. This is especially handy for people who browse with tonnes of tabs open.

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Shortcuts

Shortcuts are finally coming to Mac so you can automate everyday tasks. These are triggered with Siri and will be integrated throughout macOS 12 Monterey, including in the menu bar, Finder, and Spotlight. Apple will introduce pre-built shortcuts for Mac users, too.

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Universal Control

Finally, Universal Control connects a Mac to an ‌iPad‌, so you can work with a single mouse and keyboard or trackpad. You can then drag your macOS mouse over to an ‌iPad‌, and can even drag and drop content back and forth between the different devices. There's no setup required.

Want to know more?

Check out Apple's press release for Monterey here, plus it has a webpage for the upcoming Mac software update here.

Writing by Maggie Tillman and Dan Grabham.