Apple's macOS Catalina is the surprising game changer of the year

(Image credit: iMore)

Apple's macOS Catalina first found a home on my MacBook Pro in June soon after Apple's latest operating system for Mac was revealed. In haste, I elected to go all-in on the update and installed the first beta version on my computer's primary container. Since then, I've put it through the paces of everyday life and celebrated when the first official version of macOS Catalina was finally released earlier this month.

Four months after replacing the mostly ho-hum macOS Mojave with macOS Catalina on my laptop, I remain incredibly happy with the update for many of the same reasons Rene Ritchie explained in iMore's official review. My positive impression mostly relies on the introduction of three new features, including Sidecar, Mac Catalyst, and Approve With Apple Watch.

When macOS Catalina is long gone, it will forever be remembered for Sidecar, an official way to extend the Mac desktop to an iPad. Though third-party solutions have long been available that do the same, Sidecar makes the process so much easier for the casual user. And let me just rave about the nearly non-existent latency, even when the two devices are attached wirelessly.

As Eric Shashoua, CEO and Founder of Kiwi for Gmail and G-Suite notes about Sidecar:

What Apple's accomplished is frankly an amazing piece of engineering. Even on a wired connection, even on iPads as old as the original iPad Pro from 4 years ago, is flawless. Even with full control over hardware and software on the devices, this is extremely difficult to do.

And thanks to Sidecar, Apple is finally making it possible to use Apple Pencil on Mac. Touch Bar, only ever physically available on MacBook Pros, is also now open on any Mac that supports Sidecar. That one-two punch can benefit you on both iPad and Mac.

project catalyst

(Image credit: Apple)

I've also been impressed with the efficient rollout of Mac Catalyst, a new software tool that allows iPad app developers to create Mac apps with ease, then let end users drag and drop content across both systems. Assuming a boatload of developers jump on board now that macOS Catalina is out, Mac Catalyst is likely to usher in a new era of Mac software across numerous categories, including gaming, banking, education, project management, and more.

Already, early macOS Catalina users are getting to know Twitter in a familiar way on Mac, and also the annoyingly, yet funny Carrot Weather. Watch for other iPadOS apps to make to jump to macOS in the coming weeks and months.

approve with Apple Watch

(Image credit: iMore)

Finally, I offer kudos to Apple for thinking outside the box in launching Approve With Apple Watch. Being able to authenticate installations and unlocking notes and passwords on Mac from your wrist doesn't sound like a big deal. Try it for a while, and you'll realize it's a game-changer no one saw coming. Though this is technically a new Mac feature, it confirms that Apple continues to see Apple Watch has much more than a fitness wearable device.

Shashoua explains:

People with an Apple Watch who've upgraded to Catalina will be pleasantly surprised to suddenly find their Apple Watch tapping them where they would've put in a password before, and now they just need to double-press the side button to unlock that functionality.

Beyond this, I hope Mac users who have already installed macOS Catalina have come to realize Apple didn't kill off iTunes but rather reimagined it (for the better) as three separate, but snappier apps called Music, Podcasts, and TV. And isn't the odd-sounding, yet accurately named Find My app much better than the two apps it replaced?

Finally, I don't usually advocate more apps for Mac. However, in the case of Apple Arcade, that's precisely what's needed. Burying Cupertino's latest money maker in the Mac App Store is the strangest of moves made on Apple's part. However, it's one that will almost certainly get corrected in a future version of macOS. Tweaks are one of the reasons for yearly macOS updates, no?

You can download and install the free macOS Catalina update from the Mac App Store on your supported Mac.


What's your favorite macOS Catalina feature? Let us know below.

Bryan M Wolfe
Staff Writer

Bryan M. Wolfe has written about technology for over a decade on various websites, including TechRadar, AppAdvice, and many more. Before this, he worked in the technology field across different industries, including healthcare and education. He’s currently iMore’s lead on all things Mac and macOS, although he also loves covering iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Bryan enjoys watching his favorite sports teams, traveling, and driving around his teenage daughter to her latest stage show, audition, or school event in his spare time. He also keeps busy walking his black and white cocker spaniel, Izzy, and trying new coffees and liquid grapes.