Apple has now released macOS 13 Ventura and iPadOS 16 (in the form of iPadOS 16.1) alongside updates to iOS 16, watchOS 9, tvOS 16, and HomePod Software 16. Let’s discuss what’s new and when you should consider updating, starting with iOS 16.1, since it introduces several features new to the Apple ecosystem. We’ll also discuss Matter, which arrives in these updates, and why it may not matter for home automation just yet.
iOS 16.1 is a significant update that provides several promised new features, most notably iCloud Shared Photo Library, which lets you create a second iCloud photo library that you share with up to five other people. Given the potential for hair-pulling gremlins with a feature that hasn’t been available for full testing during the beta period, we suggest waiting to enable iCloud Shared Photo Library until more people have had a chance to play with it. iCloud Shared Photo Library also appears in iPadOS 16.1 and macOS 13 Ventura.
Another feature that may grow more interesting over time is Live Activities, a new type of dynamic notification that can appear on the Lock Screen or the iPhone 14 Pro’s Dynamic Island. Live Activities can display things like live sports scores, approaching storms, and the progress of deliveries.
In other feature improvements:
- The Apple Fitness+ service no longer requires an Apple Watch.
- You can now share keys in Wallet.
- Apple Card Savings is now available in Wallet (see “Apple Takes Another Step into the World of Banking,” 13 October 2022).
- There is a new Clean Energy Charging setting in Settings > Battery > Battery Health & Charging. The idea is that iOS will optimize charging your iPhone when lower-carbon electricity is available.
- The Apple Books app now hides the Reading Menu and other onscreen controls as you read. Tap the screen to reveal them. (See “How Apple’s Books App Has Changed in iOS 16,” 3 October 2022.)
iOS 16.1 also includes fixes for bugs that caused:
- Deleted conversations to appear in the conversations list in Messages
- Reachability making Dynamic Island content unavailable
- CarPlay not connecting when using a VPN app
iOS 16.1 and iPadOS 16.1 include 19 security fixes, one of which has been exploited in the wild.
You can install iOS 16.1 in Settings > General > Software Update. It’s worth waiting a few days to make sure it doesn’t include any unexpected bugs, but since iOS 16 has been largely problem-free for us, we see no general reason to delay upgrading beyond that.
macOS 13 Ventura
macOS 13 Ventura is an evolutionary continuation of macOS 12 Monterey, with new features that bring it into parity with iOS 16. Here are the most notable features unique to Ventura:
- Stage Manager, which, unlike its iPad counterpart, is available on all Macs compatible with Ventura
- Continuity Camera, which lets you use your iPhone running iOS 16 as a webcam
- The Weather app has finally made its appearance on the Mac
- System Settings replaces System Preferences
The redesign of System Settings is the most controversial change in Ventura. Although System Preferences was problematic in many ways, the new System Settings is also a mess.
You can install Ventura in System Preferences > Software Update on Macs from 2017 and later (see “The Real System Requirements for Apple’s 2022 Operating Systems,” 9 June 2022). However, we recommend upgrading only for people who can afford the necessary downtime to make a full backup (or two), install Ventura, clean up from the installation, and deal with any incompatibilities. It’s best installed on a secondary Mac for now; caution would suggest waiting for 13.0.1 or 13.0.2 before considering it for production Macs.
iPadOS 16.1 brings the iPad in line with the new features and enhancements of iOS 16. The most noteworthy change is the addition of Stage Manager, although reports from beta testers indicate that Stage Manager continues to suffer from numerous rough edges. When Apple first announced Stage Manager, it was limited to M1 iPads, but after pushback from the community, Apple has since extended the support slightly to include:
- iPad Pro 12.9-inch (3rd generation and later)
- iPad Pro 11-inch (1st generation and later)
- iPad Air (5th generation)
A new feature every iPad user can enjoy is the new Weather app. Finally! Users of the 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models and the current iPad Air also gain a new display scaling setting that lets you increase the pixel density to fit more on the screen. Video professionals may also appreciate the new Reference Mode for the 12.9-inch iPad with Liquid Retina XDR display, which lets you connect the iPad to a Mac via Sidecar and use it as a reference monitor (see “Catalina’s Sidecar Turns an iPad into a Second Mac Monitor,” 21 October 2019).
You can install iPadOS 16.1 in Settings > General > Software Update. Despite this being the first release of iPadOS 16, we think most people can upgrade soon because most of iPadOS 16.1’s core code is shared with iOS 16, which has proven generally stable. If you rely on your iPad for a mission-critical workflow, delay the upgrade until you have confirmed that all your key apps are compatible.
Along with support for Matter, watchOS 9.1 can download music even when the Apple Watch is off its charger over Wi-Fi or cellular. Plus, the Apple Watch Series 8, second-generation Apple Watch SE, and Apple Watch Ultra gain the option to extend battery life during Outdoor Walking, Running, and Hiking workouts by reducing the frequency of heart rate and GPS readings.
In addition, watchOS 9.1 fixes bugs that caused:
- Incorrect voice feedback of Outdoor Run average pace
- Discrepancies with the iPhone in rain chance estimates
- The hourly weather complication mislabeling the time as AM at night
- The time not advancing during Strength Training workouts
- VoiceOver failing to announce the app name before reading notifications
watchOS 9.1 includes 10 security fixes.
You can install the watchOS 9.1 update in the Watch app on your iPhone in My Watch > General > Software Update. Your Apple Watch must be connected to a charger and charged to at least 50%. We see no reason not to install watchOS 9.1 as soon as you get around to it.
HomePod Software 16.1
The HomePod Software 16.1 update adds support for the Matter home automation standard, along with unspecified bug fixes and stability improvements. HomePod Software 16 should install automatically, or you can force the issue by opening the Home app in iOS 15 or iPadOS 15, tapping the Home icon in the upper-left corner, scrolling down and tapping Home Settings, and then Software Update. In iOS 16, touch and hold the HomePod’s accessory tile and choose Accessory Details. Scroll down and tap the gear, and then tap Update.
tvOS 16.1 may actually be a more significant update than tvOS 16 since it brings a redesigned Siri interface. Instead of taking over the entire screen, it now appears as a pop-up in the lower-right corner. Here’s a tweet with a video showing how it works:
The new Siri on tvOS 16.1 pic.twitter.com/IgglyKaetv
— domenico panacea (aka cino) (@domenicopanacea) October 19, 2022
You can now also use “Hey Siri” to invoke Siri when you have AirPods connected to an Apple TV.
Other updates match new features in the other operating systems: access to iCloud Shared Photo Library in the Photos app, no Apple Watch required to use Apple Fitness+, and support of the Matter home automation standard.
tvOS 16.1 includes nine security fixes.
You can install tvOS 16.1 by going to Settings > System > Software Update or just let it install on its own.
Matter Has Materialized, Sort Of
We’ve previously mentioned the Matter home automation standard, which seeks to bridge the gap between home automation ecosystems offered by Amazon, Apple, Google, and others (see “Home Automation Standard Gets an Official Name,” 17 May 2021). However, Apple apparently had to rewrite the Home app from scratch for this year’s operating system updates to support Matter. Perhaps as a result, some HomeKit users have complained of unreachable devices, automations not working, accessories doing random things, and general flakiness. Hopefully, iOS 16.1 and the other updates address those quirks.
With iOS 16.1 and today’s releases, Matter is now officially active, which suggests that you might see some new home automation devices in the Home app. However, it seems that older home automation products may not work with it. You can view a list of supported products on Matter’s site. Also, Matter relies on the Thread protocol, so you’ll need devices and a Home hub that support Thread. Right now, that includes the second-generation Apple TV 4K models, the just-released 128 GB third-generation Apple TV 4K, and the HomePod mini, but not the original HomePod.
Long story short: Matter is just getting started, it’s not even quite half-baked yet, and for most users, it’s a detail that’s not worth worrying about just yet.