Heads up! If you’re using an older 15-inch MacBook Pro—the version with lots of ports that predates the current Thunderbolt 3 models—Apple has started a recall program to replace batteries that could explode and catch on fire. (We’re not kidding.) The affected MacBook Pro models were sold primarily between September 2015 and February 2017. To find out if your 15-inch MacBook Pro is affected, enter its serial number into Apple’s recall page. If it is included in the recall, shut it down and stop using it immediately! Contact Apple for a free battery replacement, and if you need any assistance, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.
When Apple introduced the 12-inch MacBook in April 2015, the machine was the thinnest Mac ever, with a tapered design that starts at a mere 3.5 mm and grows only to 13.1 mm. A change from previous laptop models that made such an incredibly thin design possible was a new keyboard that swapped a scissor-style switch under each key for a new “butterfly mechanism” that’s 40 percent thinner.
In October 2016, Apple started using a second generation of the so-called “butterfly” keyboard in the MacBook Pro line. Then, in July 2018, Apple updated the keyboard to a third-generation design that added a thin silicone membrane under each key to protect from dust and other foreign objects. That third-generation keyboard made its way into the MacBook Air released in October 2018. Then, in May 2019, Apple once again updated the keyboard in the latest models of the MacBook Pro, telling journalists that the fourth-generation design has a “materials change” in the mechanism.
Why has Apple kept tinkering with the butterfly keyboard? Put frankly, because it has had problems. Although there are no independent estimates of what percentage of Macs equipped with butterfly keyboards are afflicted, many users have complained about keys sticking or feeling crunchy, keys failing to fire at all (so no letter is typed when the key is pressed), and keys repeating (so multiple letters are typed per keypress).
In fact, in June 2018, just before the third-generation design appeared in the MacBook Pro, Apple acknowledged that “a small percentage” of first- and second-generation butterfly keyboards were affected and launched a repair program to fix them for free, even if they were out of warranty. (The fact that a class-action suit surrounding the butterfly keyboards was filed against Apple in May 2018 might have been related.)
Alas, the silicone membrane didn’t resolve all the issues, and after the E and R keys on her MacBook Pro failed, influential tech journalist Joanna Stern of the Wall Street Journal wrote a hilarious column entitled “Appl Still Hasn’t Fixd Its MacBook Kyboad Problm,” complete with interactive switches so you could read it with or without the various missing and duplicated letters. Plus, a repair technician tore down a MacBook Pro keyboardto show why he didn’t think dust was an issue. Apple apologized to the Wall Street Journal, saying:
We are aware that a small number of users are having issues with their third-generation butterfly keyboard and for that we are sorry. The vast majority of Mac notebook customers are having a positive experience with the new keyboard.
So when Apple released the fourth-generation butterfly keyboard with the current MacBook Pro models, the company also extended the Keyboard Service Program for MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Proto cover the third-generation keyboards. The repair program lists the exact models that are covered, but it basically comes down to any 12-inch MacBook, MacBook Air models released in late 2018, and MacBook Pro models starting in 2016 and up to 2019.
What’s the practical upshot of all this for you?
If you have a MacBook, MacBook Air, or MacBook Pro with one of these butterfly keyboards, and it’s working properly, that’s great! Do nothing—hopefully it will keep tip, tap, typing away.
If you have one of those Macs and are having problems, contact Apple or an Apple Authorized Service Provider for a repair. Before you hand over any Mac for repair, make sure you have at least one and preferably two backups of your data, since Apple sometimes replaces storage devices while doing seemingly unrelated repairs.
At Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference on June 3rd, the company unveiled the next versions of all its operating systems—macOS 10.15 Catalina, iOS 13 (and a new iPadOS), watchOS 6, and tvOS 13–along with the much-anticipated new Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR.
Nothing that was announced will ship until later this year—probably September—but we wanted to give you a quick overview of what’s coming down the pike.
macOS 10.15 Catalina
With macOS 10.15, which Apple is calling “Catalina,” the company is working to bring macOS and iOS ever closer while preserving what makes the Mac special.
For instance, Catalina replaces the increasingly overloaded iTunes with three new apps that mimic those in iOS: Music, Apple Podcasts, and Apple TV. Reminders, Notes, and Photos also see significant enhancements that are mirrored on the iOS side, and a new Find My app on both platforms combines the capabilities of Find My iPhone and Find My Friends. Apple is even bringing Screen Time from iOS to the Mac to help you track and control your usage—and that of your kids—across all your Apple devices.
Some of these apps exist on the Mac thanks to Project Catalyst, an Apple technology that makes it easy for developers to convert iOS apps to the Mac. Apple used Catalyst internally last year to bring Home, News, Stocks, and Voice Memos to macOS 10.14 Mojave. This year, Apple is letting third-party developers use Catalyst, so once Catalina ships, we’ll see a flowering of new Mac apps coming over from iOS.
Another new technology, Sidecar, lets you use an iPad as a second screen for a Mac, either wired or wirelessly. Sidecar even enables you to use the iPad and Apple Pencil as a graphics tablet with apps that support such an input method. Two other new features will let you use a Sidecar-connected iPad to mark up any PDF or insert a sketch into a Mac document.
Catalina promises many more features, including some that will increase macOS security and others that will make the Mac much easier to use for people with disabilities. For instance, the new Voice Control capability lets you run a Mac (or an iOS device) entirely with your voice—it’s amazing.
If you’re running Mojave now, you’ll be able to run Catalina too since the system requirements remain the same.
With iOS 13, Apple appears to be focusing once again on performance and refinements. The company claimed we’ll see faster Face ID recognition, smaller app downloads and updates, and quicker app launches.
The most apparent new feature will be Dark Mode, which Apple is bringing over from Mojave. It displays light text on a dark background, which can be welcome when using an iOS device in a dark room without bothering others. It also may increase battery life on OLED-based iPhones like the iPhone X, XS, and XS Max. But keep in mind that research shows the human eye and brain prefer dark text on light backgrounds, so you may read more slowly and with less recall in Dark Mode.
Along with the apps mentioned previously that also improve in iOS, Apple said it has rebuilt Maps and its underlying database from the ground up, so you’ll see far more detailed maps, and you can zoom in for a street-level photographic view called Look Around.
Camera and Photos received attention as well, giving you faster access to effects and letting you apply effects to videos as well. You can even crop and rotate videos taken in the wrong orientation—finally!
Other improvements include a new Sign In with Apple option for signing in to apps using your Apple ID, full text formatting in Mail, shared folders in Notes, SMB sharing in Files, iCloud Drive folder sharing, and support for USB thumb drives.
In terms of system requirements, iOS 13 drops support for some older devices, leaving the iPhone 6s, 6s Plus, and SE as the oldest iPhones supported, along with just the newest iPod touch.
Joining Apple’s other operating systems this year is iPadOS, a superset of iOS 13 that provides additional iPad-only features. In some ways, it’s nothing new, since the iPad has always had unique features, but it shows how Apple wants to differentiate the iPad from the iPhone.
In iPadOS, the Home screen holds more icons in a tighter grid, and you can pin the Today View widgets on the side of the screen. Safari will be able to support complex Web apps like Google Docs, Squarespace, and WordPress, and it gains a download manager that lets you download files into the Files app.
Apple enhanced iPad multitasking so you can switch between apps in a Slide Over view, open multiple windows from the same app in Split View, and use App Exposé to navigate among your app combinations. Plus, text editing improves significantly, with direct access to the cursor and easier text selection, as well as new three-finger gestures for cut, copy, paste, and undo. The iPad even gets full-featured font management, and you’ll be able to buy fonts from the App Store.
iPadOS won’t work on many older iPad models, though it is compatible with all iPad Pro models, the fifth- and sixth-generation iPad, the iPad mini 4 and fifth-generation iPad mini, and the iPad Air 2 and third-generation iPad Air.
With watchOS 6, Apple is working hard on health and fitness capabilities for the Apple Watch. The company has added a Noise app that can warn you when sounds approach dangerous levels and a Cycle Tracking app that helps women monitor their periods and predict windows of optimal fertility. And, the Activity app has picked up trending features so you can see how you’re doing across time in a number of health metrics.
Apple has also untethered the Apple Watch from the iPhone to an extent, allowing developers to create standalone watch apps that don’t require a companion iPhone app and opening an App Store for such apps that you can browse and search from your wrist.
Other new watchOS 6 apps include Audiobooks, Calculator, and Voice Memos. Plus, once you upgrade to watchOS 6, you’ll be able to choose from more faces and additional complications.
As with watchOS 5, watchOS 6 will work on all Apple Watch models other than the original unit, but not all features are available on all models.
The big news for tvOS 13 is that it finally gets multi-user support, so everyone in a household will be able to have their own personalized experience. (Speaking of which, the HomePod will also support multiple users with iOS 13.)
Apple has redesigned the tvOS Home screen to show previews, added a slide-in Control Center like in iOS and watchOS, and updated the Music app to show lyrics in sync with the currently playing song. The screensaver also goes under the ocean so your cat can be entertained by all the fish.
Finally, in a move that will significantly enhance the forthcoming Apple Arcade game subscription service, both tvOS and iOS will support the Xbox One S and PlayStation DualShock 4 game controllers.
Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR
Although the Worldwide Developer Conference is mostly about Apple’s operating systems, the company took advantage of the keynote to show off the completely redesigned Mac Proand its companion screen, the Pro Display XDR. The technical specs of both are astonishing—Apple has done what looks like a fabulous job of designing the most modular, flexible, and powerful Mac ever, combined with a display that competes against reference monitors costing tens of thousands of dollars.
The Mac Pro will rely on Intel Xeon W processors with 8 to 28 cores, and you’ll be able to configure it with up to 1.5 TB (that’s terabytes!) of RAM. It has eight PCI Express expansion slots, into which you can install MPX modules that contain up to four AMD Radeon Pro graphics cards for massive number crunching performance. Another slot can hold Apple’s new Afterburner accelerator card for ProRes and ProRes RAW video acceleration, and a half-length slot contains Apple’s I/O card with two USB-3 ports, two Thunderbolt 3 ports, and to 10 Gb Ethernet ports; there are two more Thunderbolt 3 ports on the top of the case. Storage starts at 256 GB of SSD and goes up to 4 TB.
All this fits into a stainless steel frame with an aluminum case that lifts off to provide access to all sides of the Mac Pro. It has a massive 1.4-kilowatt power supply and relies on three fans and a blower to keep the unit cool. It even has handles on the top and optional wheels in case you need to move it around regularly.
Accompanying the Mac Pro will be Apple’s first monitor in years, the Pro Display XDR. It’s a 32-inch 6K screen that supports P3 wide and 10-bit colorthat can display more than 1 billion colors accurately. It’s also incredibly bright and can sustain 1000 nits of full-screen brightness or peak at up to 1600 nits.
If your eyes glazed over reading those specs, this new hardware isn’t for you. Apple is aiming it at high-end professionals, the sort of people who happily spend many thousands of dollars on new hardware to enable faster video editing, data processing, or other performance-intensive tasks. The base-level Mac Pro will start at $6000, and the Pro Display adds another $5000. Even the Pro Stand (which provides tilt and height adjustment, plus rotates to portrait orientation) for the Pro Display costs $1000, so a tricked-out Mac Pro setup could easily exceed $20,000. So no, this is not a Mac for “the rest of us,” but it’s great to see Apple ensuring that the most demanding Mac users can stay on the platform.
We’re seeing an uptick in email phishing attacks purporting to come from Microsoft about Office 365. They’re quite convincing messages that tell users that their credit card payment has failed, that an account needs renewing, or that a password needs to be confirmed. Needless to say, they’re all complete scams, and clicking a link in them takes you to a malicious Web page that will try to steal your password or credit card details. As we noted in “Gone Phishing: Five Signs That Identify Scam Email Messages,” large companies neversend email asking you to click a link in order to log in to your account, update your credit card information, or the like. Hover over links to see where they go before clicking anything, and stay safe out there!