WWDC was an interesting one this year, wasn’t it?

The emergence of the M2 and the new MacBook Air was, as far as I’m concerned, a fascinating talking point, but paled in comparison to the OS and software updates.

This might sound odd because beyond the next generation of CarPlay, there were no colossal leaps forward this year – just positive steps towards a far more cohesive future for the Mac, iPad and iPhone.

More importantly, WWDC has really got me thinking about the way I use my Apple devices and how I could use them in the future.

I want to elevate the iPad to productivity status. I want to get back to using some of Apple’s apps, rather than ditching them for third-party alternatives (as much as I love supporting independent developers). I’d like to fall in love with iOS again, even if the iPhone 13 mini has got me halfway there already.

Next month, the public beta programs for macOS Ventura, iPadOS 16, and iOS 16 will go live, and I’ll be jumping straight onboard.

This is my plan.

macOS Ventura: back to Mail

Assigned beta test device: M1 MacBook Air (possibility: M2 MacBook Air)

When I penned my WWDC preview blog, I completely forgot to mention macOS. It was an error that was both stupid but also indicative of my relationship with Apple’s oldest and most cherished operating system.

It’s great. Really great. Whenever I switch to Windows, I’m reminded of how smooth, fluid, and virtually indestructible macOS is. It’s hard to think what else Apple can do with it from this point forwards beyond consistent iteration.

That’s what we’re getting with macOS Ventura. There are no massive headline features or marketing-friendly redesigns. It’s just macOS Monterey with a new multitasking option, some fancy continuity stuff, and a bunch of overdue app updates.

I’m not overly fussed about Stage Manager. I’m looking forward to trying it out, but I’m a relatively tidy multitasker, and rarely lose myself in a sea of apps and windows. No, the reason I’m excited to try out macOS Ventura relates to an app I’d practically forgotten about: Mail.

I’ve been a long-term user of Spark, which is a superb third-party email client. The ease of setup (crucial for someone who regularly switches Macs), faultless multi-account capabilities, and ideal feature set have made it the perfect Mail alternative.

Apple is clearly aware of its email deficiencies because the Mail team has been hard at work adding a bunch of features I’ve come to rely on in Spark. The ability to undo sends, schedule sends, and dive more precisely into your mail archive result in a far more tempting proposition.

Could macOS Ventura be the catalyst for me switching back to Apple Mail for good?

iPadOS 16: hello, productivity

Assigned beta test device: M1 iPad Air + Magic Keyboard

Like many, I really wanted to see some serious leaps forward with iPadOS 16 this year. Whether or not Apple delivered in that regard is entirely up for debate, but I do think they’re onto something.

There are three things in iPadOS 16 which might just distract me enough to stop my incessant whinging about the lack of Final Cut Pro on the iPad.

The first is Stage Manager. Unlike the macOS feature of the same name, it feels like a far greater step forward for the iPad’s ability to be a true productivity device. I reserve judgement until I get my hands on it, but Stage Manager looks like the iPad multitasking I’ve been waiting for.

Proper external display support will also arrive in iPadOS 16. Combined with Stage Manager and the subsequent ability to run up to eight overlapping apps across two screens, this M1-only feature is potentially game-changing. The idea of connecting my iPad Air to the Studio Display and using it to get some proper work done is very exciting indeed.

Lastly, there was what Craig Federighi referred to as ‘desktop-class apps’. This is, essentially, a bunch of macOS system features that have been woven deeply into iPadOS 16. Customisable toolbars are joined by significant updates to the Files app, proper undo/redo support system-wide, and “a redesigned find-and-replace experience”. This isn’t what I had in mind for desktop-class iPad apps, but it does sound rather Mac-like and, once again, ideal for a dinosaur like yours truly.

Oh, and there’s a new weather app, isn’t there?

iOS 16: just for fun

Assigned beta test device: iPhone 13 mini

I’ll be installing the iOS public beta on my daily carry – the brilliant iPhone 13 mini.

Compared to macOS Ventura and iPadOS 16, iOS 16 doesn’t look quite as capable of transforming my relationship with the device. I’m not a Messages user, most of the Wallet stuff is US-only at this stage, and I always switch off when they start rambling on about Maps and gaming.

But the star of the show was, arguably, the new Lock Screen. I absolutely love the look of it, and can’t wait to put one of the 18,123 photos I’ve taken of my newborn son to use. The iPhone is easily the most personal device Apple makes, and the new Lock Screen represents a long-awaited leap forward in customisability.

I’m looking forward to trying out dictation, too. This is a feature I barely use, simply because it feels a little cumbersome on iOS 15. In iOS 16, it looks far more fluid, and the ability for punctuation to be added automatically settles my mind somewhat when it comes to accuracy.

Lastly, the ability to use my iPhone as a webcam and try out that mind-bending top-down ‘second camera’ feature during calls is very exciting indeed. It might also result in you hearing less of me whinging about the Studio Display webcam.

For me, iOS 16 is a fun upgrade, nothing more. But that’s all I want from the iPhone at the moment.

Final thought

I’ve not been this excited about an Apple public beta test program since iOS 7.

Back then, the huge redesign – as controversial as it may have been – reignited my love for the iPhone. This time around, it’s the small, iterative updates, and positive steps forward for each platform that are giving me a reason to be cheerful.

If you’re jumping into the beta test program next month, let me know what you’re looking forward to the most in the comments section below.