Survey: Which iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS 12 Monterey Features Do You Actually Use?
Adam and I were recently talking about all the features that Apple introduced last year in iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS 12 Monterey, and we wondered: how many people are actually using these new features now that they’ve been around for almost a year? We were inspired by John Gruber’s Twitter poll showing that most respondents never use the Safari Tab Groups Apple added last year.
🗳 Poll for Safari users: How often do you use tab groups?
— John Gruber (@gruber) July 25, 2022
We have compiled a list of 20 top features Apple introduced in last year’s operating system upgrades, and now we want your input: do you use these features at all? And if so, do you use them frequently or only occasionally? Please fill out our survey before 8 August 2022, when we’ll evaluate and report back on the results.
20 Top OS Features
Here are brief descriptions of the 20 new features we identified from last year’s update cycle. They’re in no particular order but do match the survey question sequence, in case you need a description to jog your memory.
- Focus lets you create custom Do Not Disturb modes for different scenarios like work and reading. (When voting, consider only the new custom options, not the longstanding Do Not Disturb, Do Not Disturb While Driving, and Sleep modes that Apple integrated into Focus.)
- SharePlay enables you to consume audiovisual media with others over FaceTime.
- Safari Tab Groups bring together groups of tabs for different purposes, such as one for a house hunt and another for researching a new TV.
- Voice search in Safari on the iPhone and iPad lets you speak a search term or URL to navigate the Web without typing.
- Live Text deciphers text in photographs and other images so you can select and copy it like any other text.
- Visual Lookup identifies objects in photos like art, flowers, landmarks, pets, and plants.
- Hide My Email is an iCloud+ feature that lets you create disposable email addresses to reduce spam.
- App Privacy Report offers an overview of how apps and websites are using your data.
- iCloud Private Relay is another iCloud+ feature that routes your Safari browsing through two encrypted proxies to protect your privacy.
- Shared with You displays links sent to you through Messages in the Apple apps Music, News, Photos, Podcasts, Safari, and TV.
- FaceTime links enable you to create a link to a FaceTime call so anyone with the link can join. The feature also allows you to embed a call link into a calendar invite.
- Universal Control enables you to use one keyboard and pointing device to control multiple Macs and iPads.
- Tags in Notes provide another level of organization to notes.
- QuickNote on the iPad and Mac provides a fast way to bring up a Notes window for quick notes and sketches.
- AirPlay to Mac lets you AirPlay audio or video from your iPhone or iPad to a Mac’s screen.
- Shortcuts has been around for a while on iOS and iPadOS, enabling you to create automations and miniature programs, but it first appeared on the Mac in Monterey. (For this one, vote for Shortcuts in general, not just on the Mac.)
- Legacy Contacts allow you to designate people who should have access to the data in your Apple account after your death. (Vote “Frequently” if you’ve set a Legacy Contact and are someone else’s Legacy Contact, “Occasionally” if only one of the two is true, and “Never” if you haven’t used it at all.
- Memories in Photos aren’t new, but Apple overhauled them in iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and Monterey, adding new types, looks, transitions, and an interactive interface. (Again, in this case, vote for Memories in general, not just the enhancements.)
- System-wide translation debuted in Monterey, enabling you to Control-click a word to translate it from another language.
- Full-screen menu bar: This addition to Monterey gives you the option to display the menu bar at all times when an app is in full-screen mode, rather than showing it only when you move the pointer to the top of the screen.
Thanks for responding to our survey—the answers should help us all separate reality from the hype.
I use surprisingly few of them although I plan to make use of a few more at some point. Some of them sound quite useful (e.g. Live Text, Visual Lookup); I’ve just been slow to start using them. It must be said that my computer use is much less varied now that I’m retired, so I don’t use some things I would have in the past.
As this poll was inspired by Safari Tabs, I will address why I don’t use them. I tried them almost immediately, and used them for an hour or so before figuring out that whoever designed them must have an entirely different vision of their use than I do. I want to be able to set up a tab group the remains unchanged unless I save changes to it. That would be extremely useful to me. But when it changes every time I open a new site in the same window or close a tab in that window, I can’t imagine how I could use it. I even checked today to make sure, and it still acts that way - too bad!
I use only two of the twenty features (Live Text, Visual Lookup). I like VL because its is useful in identifying wildflowers. The other features? No use for them at all.
I use a whole bunch.
But am frequently reminded of features I stop using or that I have moved on to the latest shiny thing.
I use a whopping four, and two of those just kind of by default. The one I use the most is Visual Lookup, and I use Live Text once in a while (although in most cases by the time I finish fiddling with things to get the text I want, I could have just typed it in).
I chose Occasionally for Safari Tab Groups only because I sometimes use a private tab, and you get to that through Tab Groups. Using a private tab was easier in previous versions of iOS though. I chose Occasionally for Memories only because Photos will notify me once in a while that it’s found a memory, and I haven’t been sufficiently put out by it to figure out how to turn that off. The rest I have no need for (even after reading the descriptions in the article), or aren’t running a recent enough macOS to use.
I certainly look forward to the results!
Yeah, we realized that a couple of features, like iCloud Private Relay and Legacy Contacts, are sort of binary. But at least with iCloud Private Relay, you could answer Occasionally if you sometimes turn it off (or on), and with Legacy Contacts, we’re guiding the answer to Frequently if you have set a Legacy Contact and are one for someone else, Occasionally if only one of those is true, and Never if, well, you haven’t gotten around to it.
But I’m fascinated by the results so far, and I’m really looking forward to seeing which features are most and least used. SharePlay is winning handily on the least used, and I’m sad that Voice Search in Safari isn’t doing better. Somewhat surprisingly to me, Shortcuts is in the lead for most used, followed closely by Live Text.
We’ll see if these early numbers hold—we have about 100 responses so far. My experience is that early results usually predict eventual outcomes.
I only started using Tab Groups a month ago. Very good feature. I don’t know if I’d use “Shared Tab Groups” which should be in Ventura.
I didn’t know full screen menu bar was a thing.
I have made fairly extensive use of some features:
Same here, and ‘I plan to make use of this’ would have been an interesting addition to the options in the poll.
The improved Focus feature is probably the one I use most. I think it is great I can have Do Not Disturb turn on automatically when I exercise, have a minute of mindfulness, listen to music or am flying my drone and such. Live Text, sometimes in combination with Translation, is probably the next feature I use a lot. Other features I don’t use or only occasionally. I am looking in to Legacy Contacts as I am almost certain to start using that in the near future.
Of all those features, the one I’ve found most useful has been Live Text. I use the SomaFM app on both my iPhone and iPad, but there isn’t an easy way to export the details of any songs you’ve bookmarked. So I’m taking screenshots on the relevant page, then using Live Text to extract the song titles, artist names, etc. so I can search online.
I’m reminded by this poll why I personally often find these releases to be full of fluff and usually would prefer Apple would revert to fewer major updates (perhaps one ever 2-3 years) and instead focus on just fixing bugs and polishing what we have. Also, that way, stuff would launch when it’s actually ready (read: working and well tested) rather than when their update cycle dictates. Or then get bumped. Or go out in “beta”. Or remain in this Schroedinger state somewhere between announced and vaporware.
I use one a lot, system-wide translation (I read a lot of foreign language material but these days my grasp of those languages is often a lot poorer than when I learned them).
There’s two I use occasionally, app privacy reports and Live Text (again usually related to translating, stuff like signs in Japan I can capture with the iPhone camera and then get translated [this allowed me to replace a Google app I had used for that]).
All the rest, never. I admit most in fact I forgot were even a thing. Some I don’t even know what that do.
It took me a while to try Safari tab groups but, now that I have, I’m a fan. I have groups for work, different learning topics, different development topics, woodworking, music, and the all-important Wordle group (the game, Wordlebot, and a list of the 2309 valid words). It’s a lot better than one huge jumble of tabs. When I want to watch the next instructional video in a series I can easily do it from any device.
I wasn’t even aware of most of these features. However I’m going to look at Legacy Contacts. I do use Focus and have a custom Do Not Disturb mode set up for when I’m at church, and at certain regular events. Photo memories I occasionally look at, but find it tends to show me the same ol’ same ol’ photos over and over–not very helpful. I tried the Tab Groups but found them a bit buggy and useless.
PS: I did go do the actual survey.
Holy cow! I’m probably way more involved with the phone and tablet features, because my morning routine and my mobile day involve them so heavily. My Macs are for production for the most part, and I confess that I have had them on Monterey for a grand total of 3 weeks.
I did try Tab Groups last winter when my reading was interrupted one morning and I had a mess of tabs open that I didn’t want to abandon. Then I proceeded to abandon them until last week, when I figured out how to open the Tab Group and saw that it was now stale. It took another 5 minutes to figure out how to delete the group (the tabs inside it could be closed, but why didn’t the group itself automatically go away when the last tab was closed?). I agree with another commenter that the designers must have a different vision for these than anything I share with them.
Some of the others sound intriguing, but it takes a while to run across them, and the Tips notification app is still busy introducing me to features that showed up two versions ago.
I think this relentless cycle of annual major version roll-outs is maybe good for Apple, but is out of touch with how users absorb and adopt new features. I’m with @Simon on this one—slow your roll, Apple, and focus on depth and rock-solid stability for a while.
I’d heard of them, but don’t use any at the moment. I should look into Live Text and Visual Lookup, though.
Another issue I’ve noticed is the lag between announcement and actual implementation. I’m pretty with it on keeping up with Apple news (though I tend to be conservative about actually updating devices because I’ve got real work to do and don’t want unstable systems), so I hear about new features early in the summer at WWDC. But often those intriguing ones aren’t even implemented in the fall OS release as Apple delays them for stability. Thus I was surprised there were several features in the poll that I had forgotten about or didn’t realize were already out!
I can’t imagine how the average Apple user, who doesn’t read tech news, keeps up with any of this. Many of my non-technical relatives have iPhones that are several years old (one recently was proud to have gotten a free upgrade to iPhone 12, a device that will be 2 years old in the fall) and don’t seem to know about even basic OS features, let alone cutting edge stuff like Live Text or Translation.
I just realized that I’m now totally confused as to Tab Groups. But I’m sure the rest of you can set me straight on this.
I have never used a Tab Group. But I have for years made heavy use of Safari’s “Add Bookmark for These N Tabs” feature to save collections of tabs I frequently use together as a “bookmark”. One click opens up the whole shebang. And I can edit individual tabs in that collection just as if they were bookmarks in Edit Bookmarks. Really sweet. And of course they sync to my iPhone through iCloud just a any other bookmark. I really this functionality and I’ve become very used to having it, so I’m thinking maybe that’s why a lot of people seem to like Tab Groups.
But then of course I’m left wondering, what in the world is the difference between this super modern fancy “Tab Groups” and the worn old Save Tabs as Bookmark?
And in related news, for many years I have used the feature in the favorites bar (on MacOS Safari) to “Open In New Tabs”. I click a single favorite at the top of the window, and my recurring reading is opened with fresh information on each tab. Works well with news-oriented sites, and also if I’m doing a project where I need a set of references more than once.
I had not used the “Add Bookmark for These N Tabs” feature and you just now made me aware of it. But I notice that the nomenclature used for the reveal arrow next to the control for the left sidebar talks about Tab Groups:
To me it sounds exactly like what you’ve been doing all this time, with a new name.
In fact, a couple of my tab bookmarks I also have in my favorites bar (they show with a little gray square to the right of their name) so one click opens the whole tab collection. I guess that’s what you are describing, @Matt_McCaffrey.
I see the reverse also works. If you have a regular tab folder up there, a right click reveals Open in New Tabs, which appears to do the same thing.
And that now has finally taught me something that must have been there all along. Below the Open in New Tabs menu entry, there’s also one labeled Automatically Replace Tabs. I initially just assumed that was a command, but it appears it’s actually an option. If that option is selected, a bookmark folder (in favorites bar it has a little downward arrow to the right of the name) becomes a tab bookmark (gray square). If you unselect that option, the gray square is replaced by the downward arrow and your tab bookmark becomes a bookmark folder. Nice. That appears to make sense.
But it still leaves me wondering: what’s the difference between all this stuff that seems to have been around since forever and the new “Tab Groups”?
I’m a big fan of tab groups. During the course of a day, I open and close a lot of tabs as I click on links in emails and tweets for future reading. I also switch devices multiple times during the day. I use my desktop in my home office part of the day, my iPad when I’m out to lunch, or in waiting rooms, and my laptop when I’m, in my dining room or in places that have good Wifi.
So, when I am ready to switch locations, I move my current tabs into a tab group and then open that tab group on the next device I use. I initially was somewhat frustrated in doing this, as it seemed that a new tab group did not immediately sync to other devices. However, I realized that the problem was not that the tab group hadn’t been may available to the new device; rather, Safari on the new device does not constantly check for new tab groups. I could fix that by fully quitting Safari on the new device and reopening it. I like the fact that the table group does change dynamically, so that, as I move from device to device, the group on the new device reflects the current state of the device I just left. When the group is empty, I delete it.
Before tab groups, I used the ‘Add Bookmarks for These ‘n’ tabs’ feature to accomplish this. However, tab groups work better for me for two reasons:
It’s dynamic. When I open a new link or close an old one, it’s reflected in the tab group, but not in the Bookmark group.
Bookmark syncing often went wrong or was slow. As I recall, the simple fix that I use for tab groups did not reliably work for bookmarks. Maybe that has changed; but since I’m happy with tab groups, I haven’t checked.
Then they just use the Apple features that they know of. There’s also a Tips app on iOS. There’s a Apple Support twitter account. https://twitter.com/applesupport. Some people may not even how to right click a mouse, or press and hold, but those features are there for those who know. I not up to date with all the features of Firefox releases, and it’s not a big deal.
IMO Focus is a really good feature, along with custom home screens. I don’t see how withholding this feature until e.g. Focus Filters is ready, would be better. If Focus was withheld until iOS 16, and then released all at once with Focus Filters, then someone would find something to complain about: too much change at once, buggy, API not ready etc. Apple builds on features regularly, and it seems fine for now.
My use case for Tab Groups: I’m researching electric vehicles at the moment. So this is a new area for me, and there’s no shortage of stuff to cover. When I am in the mood for EV stuff, I open a Safari window to the EV tab group, and read, open ∞ more tabs etc. But I have other things to do in my browser; when I’m doing those other things, I stay out of the EV safari window. If I come across an EV-related link, I can “open link in tab group:EV”, so I can forget about it, until I’m back in a EV-browsing mode: sometimes on iPad/iPhone. I only have 2 tab groups: EV, and recipes. I usually make notes in a separate app, e.g. Drafts.app, so don’t make Safari bookmarks of most pages. And sometimes the EV tab group is empty, which is OK. As it is, there are some bugs in Tab Groups, but I’m glad Apple is still building on it.
I’m afraid I use none of them, though I shall explore the full-screen menu bar. I find myself unexcited by new bells and whistles, which seem to simply complicate things and move the Mac experience even further away from its roots.
As for Tab Groups, I have always had folders of bookmarks that I can open all at once, but Safari is unusable for me. The loss of support for proper extensions and the ineffective apps for ad-blocking is a big thing for me. Fortunately Firefox and Vivaldi have kept this ability.
I think this is an excellent point worth discussing that IMHO usually gets far too little air time.
What is the cost of all these added features? How much clutter and inefficiency do they thrust upon users, especially those who have no interest in using them? How many bugs are introduced? How much does it affect other previously perhaps perfectly functioning aspects of the OS or its apps?
There will always be some people who find a certain new feature awesome. And I’m sure that’s perfectly genuine, not debating that. But the nature of the internet and forums such as even this one is that very few people who really like something can still make things appear as if the new feature were heavily used and beloved by a much larger faction, perhaps even the majority. But in reality it could still easily be the case that a new feature gets adopted by perhaps 5% of the users, while of the other 95% perhaps half is negatively affected by clutter or bugs etc. I rarely encounter that being discussed.
At times it almost appears as if a new feature that works and gets used by at least somebody is always worth it, especially when it can be marketed as new and fancy and flashy and yada. And then I’m reminded that that is probably how Office over the years became the nasty behemoth that it got to be.
Personally, I’d like to see more emphasis on less is more. And indeed that has to be a very thin line to walk—I know from my own experience that even though I usually favor simple, I at times absolutely expect customizability.
At least, allow us to choose not to install them when an OS is upgraded, or make them removable to save both space and CPU time. Back in the days of OS 7 - 9 I would prune down the system folder of unwanted extensions and control panels until it was sleek and fast, and fit nicely on a hard disk that was 40MB-640MB. Open Transport? - OUT! OpenDoc? - OUT! Languages I don’t speak? - OUT! And so on.
That one feature is, for me, what would make Tab Groups useful. I did in fact kinda sorta notice it when I tried to delete a tab group that I had created experimentally. (I found myself closing individual tabs in the group but the group itself still existed, and it took me a long time to discover that it was in the Sidebar—a place I instinctively avoid whenever possible because it looks exactly like old Windows Explorer. )
But when you put it this way, and thinking about those who said they use them to sequester particular interests…I’m reframing Tab Groups a bit: it’s like having another instance of Safari running in MacOS that is customized for a particular use.
That’s better than separate windows, because when you close them, they’re gone.
That’s better than opening a group of bookmarks in new tabs, because that’s static.
It looks like a separate browser that behaves like one; or perhaps a Space (another feature I keep meaning to become acquainted with!).
That seems more useful to me, but it’s going to take some more interpretation and thought if Apple wants it to catch on.
I actually want my tab collection to be static. If I rarely need to go and change the set of pages I want to open at one click I can do that in bookmark edit mode. Otherwise, I don’t want the collection to change just because I happen to close a tab or something. Sounds then like I’d actually be best served by sticking with a bookmark groups rather than the new Tab Groups.
I like the analogy of Tab Groups essentially giving you a second instance of Safari.
There was some new Safari feature a couple of iOS major releases ago that changed the interface. I did what I had been doing, and the effect was different, and I needed to fumble around and figure out how to undo what I had inadvertently done and then how to do what I used to be able to do. (I wish I could remember more detail.) Experiences like this make me reluctant to transition to a new release.
Along the same lines, there was a new release of Numbers a while back that would not work with the existing version of Numbers on another device. (I believe the new version was part of an iOS install, but I’m not sure. If so, then the version made incompatible was on macOS.) Since I depend on interoperability, I wish Apple to note such pitfalls in the release highlights. It appears that Apple expects that everyone will install the newest version as soon as it is available and buy new hardware if it’s required (or even desired due to slowed performance).
And, of course, Apple assumes everyone has super-high speed internet to install poly-GB downloads. And it’s available all the time.
On the topic of this thread, I don’t use any of the features. Some sound interesting but not so much that I want to take the time to learn more, and most don’t sound interesting—to me, of course.
I was thinking of that as I read down the list of comments. I try to keep up with Mac stuff, but I don’t use either a smartphone or a table and I am still on Big Sur, so I’m using none of the new features. The recent spate of changes in Word have made it a horror story for professional writers; vital features have been moved around (you can’t spellcheck in writing mode, but you can’t change font or color in Review mode, and change tracking can put three columns of stuff across the screen in tiny type).
I’m with you on that. I make my living writing about science and technology, and having companies fiddling with my tools is a nuisance because relearning processes wastes too much of my time. On the other hand, I want to be able to make some changes; like making type more readable to help my aging eyes. I’ve seen a few new computer things that impressed me, like appls that identify plants and birds, and have been fiddling with re-recording old audio with audacity. But nothing I saw on the poll made me interested enough to investigate what it was.
I agree. I think the question was what makes Tab Groups different from a bookmark group, so having something you can count on when you click it would serve you better.
Surprisingly enough, I use quite a few of these:
I used some of these features because I happened to run across them in the everyday use of my devices, but many I didn’t use because I just didn’t know they existed. These days, I don’t really follow the Apple world like I used.
I would love to respond to the survey, but it seems to require a Google account, which is not the account I use with TidBITS. I use Focus, Safari Tab Groups, Hide My Email, iCloud Private Relay, Universal Control, Shortcuts, and Memories. Some of the features in the list I haven’t tried at all, but might use them if motivated to do so.
Surprised I use barely any of these.
Maybe I’m not surprised. After the notifications/focus screwup I actively avoid looking for features.
As an aside on the notifications: first I suddenly started getting interrupted all of the time (weirdly on phone calls when the phone would mute the person talking to show a notification I didn’t want to receive, podcasts too) to trying to tweak it now I miss phone calls and message notifications. It’s all quite effed now and it would be nice to know how to clean slate the notifications settings. And don’t start me on the elderly in-laws, they don’t have a clue what’s going on.
Oh, and TextSniper on the Mac is so much more useful than live text, which just gets in the way.
Your down under curmudgeon.
The survey doesn’t require any account—it merely says that if you sign into Google, you can save your progress. Given how little time it will take, there’s no reason to sign in.
To your point on less being more … I’m not sure how best to apply that principle. The loss of affordances pointing to controls I might need/want to use continues to annoy me. Apple seems to understand its devices differently. ;-) I’ll never understand why we lack an on-screen indication that the phone has been “silenced.” The most basic function seems to be on/off and an indication of state. Not so for the iPhone. Is this a rant or the sign of something more … These things have been around for a while and people seem to have adapted.
Personally, I’ve been drifting away from Apple. The new features aren’t especially appealing/useful for me. The OS starts to seem stale and not well tended to: do I look in services or the share sheet for what I need? And how is it that a bookmark command falls in iOS the share sheet and someplace else on my desktop? Likewise, I’m of the camp that Apple would leave commands in the same place from upgrade to upgrade. Why should I hunt for something I need NOW?
Meh … maybe just a longish rant. But the old joy has definitely gone missing.
Oh, I agree. Apple seems to still allow app makers to default their apps to full-on banners that will appear immediately. Here’s a screen shot of the settings from a trivial app that feeds a digital photoframe:
I don’t want that app, or 50 others on my iPhone, jumping up in my face every time something happens.
Unfortunately, my understanding is you have two choices: be diligent about setting notifications when the app launches for the first time (The app “Ourphoto” wants to send notifications…), or walk through your entire list of apps under the Notifications settings and change their settings (or turn them off entirely) one by one by one.
Picking up on a theme in this thread, I think Apple envisions these things:
I may be wrong about being able to bulk-edit notification settings, but haven’t found such a thing.
And I won’t start you on the elderly in-laws.
One thing missing in this survey is the option to say “I didn’t previously know about this new feature; so I haven’t tried it and don’t know if I would find it useful.” So what you get in response in those cases is just “Never.” You can’t conclude that Apple wasted their time adding that feature. You can’t even conclude that Apple hasn’t advertised that feature well. For all you know, that user may simply be very lazy about investigating new features, or they simply haven’t had time to try them out. I would bet that a lot of users fall into those categories, except for the tiny number of software reviewers who are paid to explore all the new features.
And what should someone say in response to “iCloud Private Relay”? First off, it’s still in Beta; so someone could easily think “That’s a great feature that I will use as soon as it’s out of beta.” So saying “I have Never (yet) used it” is not very telling. You need to first ask, “Do you try Beta software?”
And what about features like “FaceTime links”? How can you evaluate the difference between “Frequently” and “Occasionally”? One person could say “Frequently” meaning that they have need of it every day, while another person might say “Occasionally” meaning that they use it once a month. But their use is driven by their needs, not by how valuable they find the feature. They might both be equally disappointed if Apple were to drop that feature.
I know a person who uses Mail every day but uses Quicken to print out a financial statement once a month. It would be ridiculous to conclude that Mail is more important to him than Quicken.
I would argue that “Never” is a perfectly valid answer there. If users aren’t aware of these features after nearly a year, then the features either a) aren’t being marketed well b) aren’t discoverable enough or c) just not that interesting.
In fact, I deliberately stopped myself from inserting any how-to into the article so as to not skew the results. (I also haven’t commented on which ones I actually use for the same reason, but I’ll show my cards after the results come in if people are interested.)
I think you should say, “If Josh isn’t aware of these features after nearly a year…” Apple could spend a billion dollars advertising these features and most (if not all) my siblings would never hear a word about them. Apple could put pop-ups in various commonly used apps (e.g., Mail) to point people to new features. I can easily imagine the uproar from users denouncing ads from Apple on the Mac, iPad, etc. Most people would be annoyed, tap the close button, and that would be that.
What percentage of Mac users watch the keynotes and take note of the new features soon to arrive, thinking about which ones they might like? Is 0.0001% too high? Probably. What percentage of Mac users read TidBITS? It’s miniscule, for sure.
How is Apple supposed to get through to people like my sister who just reads Mail, sends some Messages, and manages some banking in Safari? It really doesn’t matter how great the new features are, nor how useful to her they might be, if I don’t go out of my way to tell her about them, she won’t know. And even when I do go out of my way, the odds of her actually trying something new is low. And that’s not Apple’s fault and there is little they could ever do about it. And my sister isn’t unusual.
If you surveyed every Mac user in the U.S. and then stripped from the Mac every feature that scored low in your survey, there wouldn’t be much left. TidBITS readers are not a random sample and whether that’s good or bad, I’m not sure.
If Apple creates a feature that I like and no other TidBITS reader likes, that’s just fine with me. According to statista.com, something like 2-3% of the U.S. population uses Twitter. Does that mean it’s a failure? What if only 2-3% of Mac users use a particular feature? Is it a failure?
Or they have only recently upgraded. (FWIW, I’m still running Big Sur. I’ll probably upgrade to Monterey some time before Ventura is released. )
Or…I’ve been on the platform barely a month. Many of us are reticent now to apply a major upgrade as soon as it releases, thanks in part to friendly advice from TidBITs. If I wait until I think it’s safe, and I never hear unqualified “everyone jump in now” advice, it will be the following summer before I disrupt my machines.
My current rule of thumb is to wait until the WWDC that announces the next version.
I’ve been much less conservative about my xOS devices, so I tend to run into the new features more quickly.
Agree completely! Often by the time we “normals” upgrade to a new device or version, all the articles about how to use and integrate the “great new features” were written a year ago and arguably lost to history. Those with rich benefactors, or who can’t help immediately buying “the newest greatest thing” no matter what, have then moved on to issues that the rest of us won’t encounter until we’re well again into the future, and the cycle continues.
Although there were only about 3 features which I use occasionally I am just about to set up legacy contacts (so will be occasionally by your instructions) & now that I know about System Wide Translation I’m sure I’ll use it occasionally, so that’ll be about 5.
One thing I do when a new operating system arrives is purchase the ‘Take Control of [operating system]’ ebook. These are well-organized and easy to read and thoroughly discuss features introduced or modified by the new system. Right now, the catalog goes back to Mojave.
When a new operating system is released, publications covering the Mac (MacWorld, The Verge, Ars Technica, etc.) usually release summary reviews that cover the new release in depth. The Ars Technica one, while not the encyclopedia it used to be, is still quite comprehensive. If you think you will eventually want to reference this information, bookmark these articles or put them on your reading list.
Oh, we know about all these features–that’s what we do. And quite a few of them have been discussed in TidBITS.
The information is out there but as others have said, there are a lot of reasons why people may not have internalized either the existence of any given feature or what it could do for them. What that means is another question.
When I read about new features I’m interested in, but I know I won’t be updating or buying new hardware quite yet, I usually drop that article in a bookmark folder for future reference. When I finally get around to updating or when I eventually buy new hardware, I know to look up that folder and check out stuff I marked interesting enough to try out.
Simple fix. Costs nothing. And I don’t need to rely on my memory—it’s not getting any better with age.
Now you can create a tab group instead!
Thinking about it some more, I’d appreciate it if Apple would concentrate on making what we have more reliable and resilient. Just make it work so EtreCheckPro doesn’t keep telling me about OS processes that are crashing repeatedly. Give us a mail client that doesn’t corrupt mailboxes and loses mail. Or a functional web browser that allows us to customize it with extensions, and maybe works with most web pages instead of not showing half the elements on the page. It’s all very well saying Safari respects HTML5 standards properly when many websites don’t. I used to tell patients we must deal with the world as we find it, not as we would like it to be. A web browser must do the same if it is to be useful!
I’m aware that since Apple has now sold everyone every device they are going to purchase, they must concentrate on selling services. My next suggestion is antithetical to that kind of marketing situation: how about making your OS so efficient, streamlined and functional that we can spend less time staring at it instead of even more? That is a selling point too, you know, Apple!
I’m with Peter here - I mean, quite a few look useful, but I am not sure I have the time to understand and really get used to them, so they lie there unused. Like Peter, I’m retired, but there are still time pressures. I also find that if a new feature is hard to get started with, or hard to remember how to use, I will drop it even if I’ve tried it a little.
I use Focus every day (though have never figured out how to say that I want NO time-sensitive notifications to pop up while I’m asleep), and I have used Live Text and benefitted a lot from it, but a lot remains untried, like say System-Wide Translation, which I could certainly use, and Visual Lookup, which sounds amazing. I’m sure my nearest and dearest would like me to learn Legacy Contacts before it’s too late, and maybe I will.
On a negative note, I found Hide My Email really annoying: it hides my principal email for no apparent reason, so I have to begin typing it rather than picking it from a field. If I chose it as an option then I don’t know how I did it.
All in all, the survey makes me think of looking harder at the things I don’t use, and I will try to do that over the next few weeks and months.
Okay, tell me where ordinary, everyday people will likely encounter information about the features listed in the survey. Let’s pick one of them: “FaceTime links”. Where are ordinary people like my siblings going to hear about that? They use iPads, iPhones and some of them use Macs, but they aren’t computer geeks. Like 99.9999% of the population, they don’t read TidBITS—nor any other computer-oriented publications. They don’t watch Apple keynote presentations.
I agree the information is out there. It’s in places where very few people are going to look, unless they happen to be computer geeks. Apple’s keynotes introducing new hardware and software usually get a reasonable amount of press, but it’s not in the local newspapers in cities/towns all over the country and certainly not on the nightly local TV news. Just how do you suppose people like my siblings are supposed to hear about new features.
The problem is not that people have heard about all the features and “may not have internalized either the existence of any given feature or what it could do for them.” The fact is that for the vast majority of users they have never heard about most of those survey features at all and likely never will, because they have other things on their minds than wondering what Apple has been doing.
Let me be clear: what I’m questioning about the survey is what valid inferences could possibly be drawn from it? We know it’s a survey of a highly unrepresentative population, which is why I’ve been stressing the difference between people like me and people like my siblings. It’s obviously very simplistic to compare features based on the frequency of use. Frequency of use doesn’t necessarily relate to importance or value. (Consider the piece of software that let’s me renew my support for TidBITS. I only use it once a year. Does that mean it’s not valuable?)
Well of course one of the first things that pops up on an iPhone or iPad after a major update is the Tips app. I believe all of these features (except the one you picked, FaceTime links) are shown in “whats new in iOS 15”. I suppose many people just ignore it (just last week I watched as my mother-in law, who rarely uses her iPhone but uses her iPad a lot, opened Photos and saw the “what’s new in photos” splash, said “gah” and closed it, spent a lot of time trying to find a photo; I gently suggested she watch those from now on), but too bad more people don’t at least look.
I believe that there’s also a similar notification after every MacOS major update.
Exactly what I would expect.
I agree with you about the unrepresentativeness of the population, but that doesn’t mean valid and useful conclusions can’t be drawn. Eg, if the TidBITS population has not heard of/used a certain feature, I’d draw the conclusion that it is even more likely that the general population hasn’t. It’s a form of the “best case” analysis in social science.
(In a larger sense, I also trust the TidBITS folks to treat this thoughtfully and with care and so I’m not getting locked into worries over representativeness).
I’m with Duane. I think the survey would have been much improved by a “didn’t know about it” option. Personally, I didn’t complete the survey because I looked over the list, realized I hadn’t even heard of the majority of these features, and felt that my responses of “never” on those items would have been meaningless.
That is an interesting point. I think I would agree with you in a certain respect: if people like Adam and Josh haven’t heard of a certain feature, then something is definitely wrong, because they are the types of people who seek out new features. On the other hand, there could certainly be TidBITS readers who have a more casual relationship with Apple’s announcements and presentations. I have no idea what portion of this group is more like Adam and what portion is interested, but less so, in Apple news.
Conrad calls attention to another problem with surveys like this: participants are self-selected. So it would be problematic to conclude that the results are representative of the TidBITS readers.
Nobody is like Adam, but just the act of reading TidBITS differentiates readers from ~95% of Apple users and that’s useful from which to draw conclusions.
Again, even if they’re useful only as themselves rather than being a representative sample, you can draw valid conclusions – as you yourself pointed out above, if Adam doesn’t know about something, then something is wrong.
We know all the features because it’s our job, but when Adam and I devised this list we realized we only use a handful, and there were many features we’d forgotten about. SharePlay is a great example of a feature I used extensively for testing but have never used in a real-life situation. I bet teenagers love it, though. Maybe our survey will inspire other surveys to reach different markets.
Well…as one data point, I saw an issue of MacWEEK in 1986 while I was working a freelance typesetting gig in Boston, and made up some qualifying stats to get a free sub sent to my home each week until they went out of print. Ric Ford’s MacInTouch column ran there every week, and between that and the ton of press releases that ran as news stories I was aware of many, many developments in the Macintosh market segment. Add trips to MacWorld Boston, sometimes from distant parts of New England, and the debut of this strangely formatted email newsletter called (I think) “TidBITs”, and I was probably more like Adam in some ways than a group just somewhat interested in Apple news.
But also, not. Because Adam and the TidBITs staff all have “living with it” interests in Apple technology, but their publishing business is more about the core technology. I’ve been crazy-involved with leveraging the tech more than analyzing it. I find it of passing interest to hear about Apple’s business results, but I don’t strictly need to know them the way this publication’s staff does.
When I see a list of 20 new features from 2021, I might recall the names, but unless the feature was something I had been missing, or unless it’s something I can leverage, I pretty much tuck away its label but throw out its description to make room for stuff I can use.
All of that is to say, I don’t know where I would land in a taxonomy of relative interest in Apple news.
It’s a fascinating question, @duanewilliams, and perhaps the value for Apple is found in each user grabbing onto one or two of those 20 features, but different ones.
Live Text is a game changer. I use it regularly on the Mac and the iPhone.
I don’t think I use a single one of the others.
I wish there was a category for “No I haven’t used it, but I really want to!” Several of these struck me as greatly useful, but I just haven’t taken the time out to actually try them. Or because I am using an intel Mac, the feature doesn’t work for me, but I look forward to using them at some time after I get on Apple Silicon.
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