Tuesday, August 9, 2022 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Which iOS 15 and macOS 12 Monterey Features Do You Actually Use?

Adam Engst:

The most notable finding is that most of them don’t use most of the features listed. Only four features—Live Text, Shortcuts, Hide My Email, and Memories in Photos—received more votes saying they were Occasionally or Frequently used than Never used. (A fifth feature, App Privacy Report, was close, with only 57 more people on the Never side.) It seems probable that those responding to the survey were more likely than the average Apple user to use these features, suggesting that a broader survey would have shown even lower usage levels.

[…]

One could conclude that Apple is putting too much focus on adding features and too little on fixing bugs, improving performance, and polishing existing features.

[…]

Another conclusion is that both Apple and the tech media need to do a better job of introducing new features to users. A common refrain among the comments was that many people—including many regular TidBITS Talk participants, who are probably even more involved than average TidBITS readers—didn’t even know about many of the features.

I use Live Text frequently and Shortcuts and translation occasionally. Often, translation doesn’t support support the language that I need so I end up going to Google Translate.

Previously:

Update (2022-08-11): Nick Heer:

I mentioned “discovering” features. One reason for this, I think, is because Apple often mentions features without explaining or demonstrating them. Maybe I am just busier now or my brain is getting mushier with age, but I find I often have to look through Apple’s marketing pages to try to make sense of anything that has been announced. Minor software versions also quietly carry unannounced new features, too. When Visual Lookup was released in Canada with a software update earlier this year, it was not mentioned in the release notes.

Neither the marketing pages nor the release notes have links to the help pages that explain what the features do and how to use them.

11 Comments

Many new macOS version features are useless. Apple should not remove useful features from previous Mac operating system versions. For instance:

1. Command F in Finder that remembers previous settings once closed and opened again. Much as Sherlock in Mac OS 9 Classic did. The current Spotlight implementation is useless with all its limitations and spurious results.

2. Full colored labels in Finder. Dot colors are tiny and hard to spot.

3. Full colored left pane in Finder (sidebar).

4. Arrows on top and bottom vertical scroll bar windows in Finder.

5. Allow to include folders with subfolders also on the left side of Dock. Useful to include sorted applications in folders and subfolders.

6. Allow to use non-encrypted disks.

7. Always report what application causes whatever error message shown. For instance, when an external disk cannot be ejected because it is in use.

8. Bootable Time machine disks with macOS inside.

9. Allow creating bootable macOS disk clones with applications like Carbon Copy Cloner and SuperDuper!

10. Allow full read and write APFS from Windows with applications like MacDrive.

11. Release Boot Camp for Apple Silicon Macs.

12. Truly useful Disk Utility First Aid that does not fail to repair APFS. Or let others like Alsoft (Disk Warrior) do it, as with HFS+.

And so on…

Christina Warren

I would use the translate feature more, but like you, it doesn’t work often enough and I have to use Google Translate. The same is true for Live Text vs Google Lens.

I try to default to Live Text, but it either doesn’t work or is inferior just often enough that I wind up using Google.

This is the overriding problem with all of Apple’s AI/ML services (and many of their services in general) IMHO. Sometimes it can work flawlessly and then the built-in/native nature is great. But there are enough edge cases or frustrations that I wind up defaulting to third-party services that might not be as tightly integrated, but wind up working more reliably/consistently.

Harald Striepe

Bugs, bugs, bugs (like UDFS file system kernel crashes,) and APFS disk repair that works.

Ghost Quartz

I use many of these features, especially Focus, Shortcuts, Tab Groups, Universal Control, Translation and Live Text. I like iCloud Private Relay in concept, but still encounter issues with some sites. SharePlay is the only feature that feels really questionable to me given its prominence. I agree with Harald (and seemingly everyone else) that I want them to focus on bugs, reliability, and maintainability.

I use translate a lot and my experience has been positive. For Japanese → English translation I find Apple’s translate and Google Translate to be comparable on average; neither is consistently better. Both trail DeepL in overall translation quality, especially in maintaining context across sentences, picking apart complex sentence structures, understanding implied and ambiguous sentence subjects, and handling colloquial writing.

While DeepL is overall superior, no one service is absolutely flawless, and all three still emit incorrect translations. For instance, DeepL tends to be the most consistent at rendering well-formed output text but will occasionally omit entire sentences present in the input due to their punctuation or formatting (although I think it’s recently improved in this regard).

I personally use all three, but if I had to pick one it’d be DeepL. It’s great that Apple is on par with Google (at least for Japanese), but it’d be even better if they could get up to DeepL’s level. Thankfully, DeepL provides an action on the share sheet for text selections; there’s no reason for Google Translate to still lack this feature.

Reliability wise, I’ve seen text-translation requests fail maybe 5 times over the past six months, having used it hundreds of times, and in every case repeating the request worked immediately. I use full-page translation less; sometimes the option simply doesn’t show up.

As for Live Text, I haven’t had any problems with it, although I use it a lot less. I appreciate that it does the matching locally. It’s unclear to me how much Google Lens shares with the cloud, which makes me reluctant to use it. (I keep Siri Suggestions in Spotlight and Lookup disabled.)

Frequently: Safari Tab Groups (but oddly, only on my iPhone — rarely on my Mac) and iCloud Private Relay (which sadly doesn't play too great with other networking stuff, which is tricky for me as a dev).

Occasionally: Focus (please bring back pre-15's option to have DnD only active while locked), Live Text (always a delight!), Hide My Email, App Privacy Report, Universal Control (I don't really have the kinds of devices where using this frequently makes sense), Tags in Notes (I… should, but don't), QuickNote, AirPlay to Mac, Shortcuts, System-wide translation.

I think that's pretty good. I don't expect the 15th major release of iOS and the 18th(?) of Mac OS X to have groundbreaking changes. They iterate. It's fine. I don't think it says much about quality either way. I don't think a release with fewer interesting features automatically makes it higher-quality, nor vice versa.

However:

"Another conclusion is that both Apple and the tech media need to do a better job of introducing new features to users."

I think Apple needs to seriously reflect on whether their keynotes are still hitting the mark. They seem a little high on their own supply. Yes, Apple Park flybys are neat. We get it; you have a nice expensive campus. But they don't tell any story about why I should upgrade. In fact, there's _so much_ going on in those videos that I just find myself overwhelmed and miss the forest for the trees.

For example, did you know macOS Ventura comes with a feature that takes an iPhone's ultra-wide camera to take live video of the desk in front of view, by taking the very edge of the sensor input and correcting for perspective distortion? It's true! But Apple did such a terrible job introducing Desk View that you may have missed it. They neither explained how it works nor why you would enjoy this. They could've had a teacher present notes for the class. Easy-peasy. They didn't.

I felt the same about Live Text last year. If _I_, a tech enthusiast, barely even understand the story they're trying to sell, how well a tech journalist, who wants to be unbiased, be able to notice that this is a key feature? How will an end user who never watches this kind of video find out?

Joz and whomever need to watch Steve's introduction of Exposé, or whatever else Mac OS X feature, or an iTunes demo, and think about: why did Steve spend so much time highlighting this? What worked about it; what didn't? How can we fit some of those lessons into today's presentations? Do we _need_ to show a glitzy promo video for every third feature? For _whom_?

"Another conclusion is that both Apple and the tech media need to do a better job of introducing new features to users."

If you, as a software designer, rely on the tech media to explain your new features to your own users, and if they don't do that, your users will fail to discover and/or use it correctly, then you have failed to design it properly.

I don't use any features that are new to macOS 12. At all. I have my workflow and I want to stick with it. I don't even particularly like control center, even though I need to use it to do simple things like changing the system volume with my mouse.

> One could conclude that Apple is putting too much focus on adding features and too little on fixing bugs, improving performance, and polishing existing features.

Apple-related understatement of the year!

What they add is not helpful. What they remove is. And then there's everything they break or make worse. The new Settings app in Ventura is a great example of how they're doing everything wrong.

Every year Apple's software gets worse, not better. I'm still running macOS 10.14 on my main work system. It's the last good version of macOS. I don't want to update because then everything about my experience using a computer will get noticeably worse and more frustrating.

>If you, as a software designer, rely on the tech media to explain your new features to your own users, and if they don't do that, your users will fail to discover and/or use it correctly, then you have failed to design it properly.

That's a nice maxim but doesn't really scale. It works for small apps, not for something as featureful as iOS 15.

The MS Office team has basically spent the past quarter century scratching its head over how to make new features more discoverable. It's hard. Adding a sixth toolbar button when previously there were five is one thing. What if you already have twenty, thirty, forty?

>I don't even particularly like control center, even though I need to use it to do simple things like changing the system volume with my mouse.

I don't really follow. You can use the menu extra just as before.

@Sören Practically speaking, I have to use Control Center now because with the notch I no longer have room for the separate items.

Pretty much use my Mac Mini the same now on Monterey as I did with Snow Leopard. I don't use Messages because my iPhone is always nearby. I use Mail app sparingly, and other then things I like about Safari I really do more work on my PC now. I tried a M1 Mac but wasn't that impressed, some early adopter pains caused me to return it. MacOS today seems bloated and sluggish compared to what I remember with Snow Leopard. Every release since Mojave has impressed me less and less in stability.

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