Apple’s new M1 chip has already left Intel in the dust, and now it looks like Apple is taking its first big bold move into an exclusive world of Apple Silicon this year with macOS Monterey with the first features that will be exclusive to Macs containing Apple’s own M-series chips.
Even though Apple has promised to support Intel-based Macs for years to come, that doesn’t guarantee that every feature that it brings to new macOS versions will be supported on these older Macs. In fact, this is no different from previous macOS releases in the era of Intel-only Macs, when older systems simply couldn’t handle more advanced features like Sidecar, Apple Watch unlocking, and Apple Pay due to various hardware limitations.
After all, the M1 chip is already light years ahead of Intel in raw performance, so there are definitely many new things it’s going to be capable of bringing to the table — and there’s no reason Apple or M1 Mac users should be held back just because Intel can’t play.
So, while Apple isn’t doing this out of spite for Intel, it’s also not about to hold back on showing us all the cool new experiences that its M1 chip can now power — all of which are things that iPhone and iPad users pretty much take for granted.
To be fair, many of these features also require an A12 Bionic chip on the iPhone and iPad, but that means they’ll still work fine on almost every iOS/iPadOS device released since late 2018. This means the iPhone XS, iPhone XR, 2018 iPad Pro, third-generation iPad Air, and even the iPad mini 5 and last year’s 8th-generation iPad can all play along. Continue reading to browse six macOS features you won't get without an M1 Mac.
Portrait Mode on FaceTime
Apple announced Portrait mode on FaceTime as part of its iOS 15 reveal this week, but it’s naturally coming to the Mac as well — as long as we’re talking about an M1 Mac.
While it’s not quite the virtual backgrounds of Zoom (yet), this will allow you to bokeh out the background of your image when you’re on a FaceTime call, but clearly, it’s something that Intel chips used in Macs just aren’t up for — whether that’s a question of raw performance or simply Apple leveraging the M1’s advanced image signal processing capabilities.
Live Text in Photos
Another incredible iOS 15 feature that’s coming to M1 Macs in macOS 12 is Live Text in Photos, which will allow you to search for and extract text from any image on your computer, whether that’s a ten-year-old image in your Photo library or just something you’re browsing past on Safari.
While this kind of optical character recognition isn’t at all new, the fact that Apple is doing it all directly on the device most certainly is.
Other services have relied on powerful cloud server farms to do the heavy lifting, so it’s a feat that obviously requires a fair amount of bit crunching to pull off — and a testament to the astonishing power of Apple Silicon.
Last year Apple brought Spatial Audio to the AirPods Pro and AirPods Max with iOS 14, and this year that’s going to expand into the Apple TV with tvOS 15 and the Mac with macOS 12 — but only for those with an M1 Mac.
While Spatial Audio will be available in FaceTime through the built-in speakers on Intel Macs from 2018 and later, the more advanced Spatial Audio on Apple’s high-end AirPods — which will also include dynamic head tracking and deliver a theatre-like sound experience — is only going to be available on models with the M1 chip.
Advanced Apple Maps
While this one may come as more of a surprise, it appears that the incredibly detailed Apple Maps improvements will also require Apple Silicon for the full experience.
This includes the new globe view and the detailed urban landscapes that allow you to explore cities in more detail than ever before, with elevation, roads, commercial districts, marinas, trees, buildings, and landmarks all showing up in much more detail.
It’s unclear what Intel Mac users will see instead, but we’re guessing it will likely just be similar to the Maps experience that’s currently offered in Big Sur — and there won’t be a big spinning interactive globe view available either.
AR Object Capture
Another feature that clearly requires some serious heavy lifting is a new Augmented Reality Object Capture that’s part of the RealityKit 2 developer framework. This is designed to let developers and users turn a series of two-dimensional images into a photo-realistic 3D object, ready to be rendered in AR in only a few minutes.
While this won’t affect the core macOS Monterey user experience, it’s something that could become more relevant as third-party developers start coding apps to use the new frameworks — and it definitely means that more developers should start investing in M1 Macs.
Starting with iOS 15 and macOS 12, all of your Siri requests are going to be processed directly on the device, without any need to phone home to Apple’s cloud servers to understand what you’re trying to say. This will be a considerable boon for privacy, but it’s only going to be available on an M1 Mac.
In addition to the privacy benefits, this also means that M1 Mac users won’t have any time limit for how long their Siri requests can be. On Intel Macs, you’ll still only be able to talk for around 60 seconds before Siri needs to cut you off to send your words off for processing in the cloud.