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It’s official: macOS 11 Big Sur has just been unveiled, and it’s well on its way to the public. Recently announced at online-only WWDC 2020, the next macOS will bring some pretty major – not to mention, exciting – improvements to the operating system that powers the best Macs.
Where its predecessor, macOS Catalina, only had minor improvements over macOS Mojave, macOS 11 Big Sur is expected to roll out the biggest changes to Apple's operating system in years. Chief among them is the migration to Apple-designed silicon. This has been rumored for years, but this, along with macOS Catalyst, will finally bring support for every iOS and iPad app to the Mac operating system. Apple also promises that it will lead to greater efficiency and power – though that remains to be seen.
Alongside some stability improvements, we’re also getting a massive redesign in the look of native macOS apps with macOS 11 Big Sur. Apple finally giving apps like Messages, Mail, Photos, Calendar and even Finder a fresh, much more compact and streamlined design. Of course, we’re also getting cool new features that are more in line with those on the upcoming iOS 14 and iPadOS 14, with macOS Big Sur bringing widgets. This should make your whole Apple experience a much more harmonious and unified experience.
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While there’s no actual release date yet, we should see the macOS 11 Big Sur available to the public in either September or October 2020 if Apple follows its typical release schedule. For now, it’s only available in developer's beta, which isn’t free.
Still, as this is the biggest macOS release in years, there’s a lot to talk about, which we’ll delve into here. Be sure to keep this page bookmarked, and we'll keep it updated with the latest information and features.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? macOS 11 Big Sur, successor to macOS 10.15 Catalina
- When is it out? Likely September or October 2020
- How much will it cost? Nothing. Apple software updates are always free
macOS 11 Big Sur release date
While macOS Big Sur was revealed at WWDC 2020, we don't know exactly when the general public will be able to download and install it.
Typically Apple releases its software at the same time each year, so it's reasonable to expect the macOS Big Sur release date to fall somewhere in September or October 2020. Either way, we won't actually know the exact date the software will be publicly available until the iPhone 12 event later this year.
Still, if you're eager to get your hands on the software, the beta version is available today if you're a part of the Apple Developer program, which will cost you $99 (about £79, AU$140). We must urge caution to most folks here, though. Early versions of software are prone to bugs, and aren't quite as secure as public releases. If you're OK with the risks, though, the option is open to you.
macOS 11 Big Sur system requirements
If you want to download and install macOS 11 when it becomes publicly available later this year, you're going to want to make sure your Mac is actually able to run it. And, unfortunately macOS system requirements have gone up.
We went ahead and listed the macOS Big Sur-compatible Mac systems down below.
- 12-inch MacBook (2015 and later)
- MacBook Air (2013 and later)
- MacBook Pro (Late 2013 and later)
- Mac mini (2014 and later)
- iMac (2014 and later)
- iMac Pro (all models)
- Mac Pro (2013 and later)
macOS 11 Big Sur name
This time around, Apple chose Big Sur to symbolize this release of macOS. Much like the unincorporated coastal area in Northern California, this new macOS is supposed to deliver "unmatched levels of power and beauty."
macOS 11 Big Sur features
Safari is the unsung hero of macOS, and some new improvements have made it even faster – now 50% faster than Chrome, according to Apple – along with even more privacy improvements and better battery consumption. But, that's not all. This is supposedly the biggest update the browser has received since it was first introduced.
This new version of Safari will bring a host of new features to the table including Intelligent Tracking that can give you a Privacy Report on each website you visit, Save Passwords to track your passwords and make sure they haven't been compromised, Extensions support for WebExtensions API and a new Extensions category in the App Store, and native translation capabilities.
One cool thing here is that the Home Page will now be extremely customizable so you can change the background image and add/edit sections.
Messages on macOS has been behind iOS for a while (and kind of still is), but now you can use Pinned Messages, Memoji and the Groups Enhancements that will come with the iOS 14, which is a nice touch. Basically, Messages for Mac will also bring many of the features that its iOS 14 and iPad OS 14 versions will have. It'll also feature a more powerful search, a redesigned photo picker and new messages special effects.
On top of some pretty cool Spatial Audio support for the AirPods Pro, a pretty major improvement for AirPods support on macOS is here. Rather than fiddling with your Bluetooth settings when you want to use your AirPods with your Mac, they will automatically switch to your Mac when you start using it. AirPods will now seamlessly and intuitively switch between devices without you doing anything.
Sidebar in Mail and Photos
The Apple Mail and Photo apps have been out of date for a while now, but Apple has brought new designs to a lot of the biggest Mac Apps, with the most notable ones being the new sidebars in Mail and Photos. The Photos app will have the same look, feel and features as its iOS 14 version.
Control Center on Mac
One of the best things about iOS is the super convenient Control Center that lets you change settings at a glance. macOS Big Sur brings that to the Mac, and it's easily accessible in the Menu Bar, so that you can easily change settings without digging through the preferences app.
Widgets in the notifications app
Just like iOS 14, macOS 11 Big Sur is getting widgets in the notifications menu, which will make it easier to get important information at a glance, with easy to read interfaces. These widgets can be customized according to your needs and preference.
One of the biggest headline features of macOS Mojave was that it brought some big-name iOS apps to the Mac. However, through Mac Catalyst, new APIs and tools will help app developers bring more iOS apps over to the Mac operating system. Through these tools, you'll get features like resizable windows and keyboard tools, which will make them feel like Mac Apps, rather than iPhone apps.
Mac on ARM
After so many rumors, it's finally happened. Apple has finally announced that Macs will be transitioning to Apple-designed silicon, similar to what we've seen with every other device in its lineup.
However, this isn't quite the death knell for Intel that some might think it is. Tim Cook said during the WWDC keynote that there are several Intel-based devices still in the works at Apple, and that the Cupertino behemoth is "very excited" about them.
Still, this is probably the biggest change to come to Macs in years, as it will allow all iPhone and iPad apps to work natively on Macs for the first time. Plus, thanks to Mac Catalyst, and Rosetta 2, which will translate the source code of all Mac Apps, every Mac App will be able to run on the new ARM-based Macs that launch later this year.
Apple didn't announce any specific Mac devices that will be using this hardware, but hinted that they're coming – plus we got to see an unnamed iMac running the new software. Still, Developers can apply for Apple's Universal App Quick Start Program, to get access to a Mac mini running the Apple A12Z Bionic SoC. However, this program will cost developers $500 (about £400 / AU$720).
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