Thoughts on Catalina: In Defense of Catalyst
I have been seeing a lot of negativity around MacOS Catalyst apps, but personally I’m happy to have the apps on MacOS these days. They are a little messy, but as somebody who used Windows through 8.0, 8.1, to Windows 10, platform transitions can be messy. The Mac is the oldest of Apple’s platforms and already has an old, established ecosystem that does not necessarily connect to newer products like AirPods, HomePods, Apple Arcade, etc., but I think Apple has been doing a good job at building that bridge towards a future that will most likely be an ARM-powered one, running a more consistent user interface between the Mac, iPad, and iPhone. SwiftUI is clearly the future of everything as far of user interface goes with Apple’s software ecosystem, but I feel like with macOS Catalina changes around settings, Apple Music, Podcasts, Apple News, and the Books application that they are coming to a more coherent Apple user interface than they’ve had in the past. As somebody who uses an iPhone, iPad Pro, and MacBook Pro all day, switching back and forth all day as my needs arise I’m find the transition back and forth much less stark. There are places that Catalyst apps definitely need work, mind you, like the Home app is still bizarre and Apple News cannot open up multiple windows is dumb (not a restriction of Catalyst itself as seen in third apps like Twitter & Fiery Feeds).
Look, we should definitely be critical of Apple’s earliest Catalyst apps and need to keep pushing them to improve, but despite the rough edges, I am overjoyed to have the functionality on my laptop. I much rather have them than not. Because of Catalyst, I can do the following now:
- Apple News: I can read articles and get push notifications about the news. I love reading stories on my laptop over my lunch break or when I get into the office early in the morning. It’s one less device I can keep in my book bag when I’m on my break and don’t want to read Apple News on my phone screen or pull out another device to get on WiFi to read the news.
- Apple Music: iTunes was a bloated, slow, and ugly battleship of an application. Because of Catalyst breaking up their application, Apple was able to pair back iTunes into just being for music again. Apple Music is NOT a Catalyst app, but because they were able to bring TV and Podcasts apps to the Mac, we have a MUCH more lightweight and streamlined Apple Music experience on the Mac.
- Apple Podcasts: This is one of my favorite Catalyst features. Podcast syncing on iTunes on the Mac was horribly problem and I gave up on using it. Podcasts would never be downloaded or synced properly. It was a hot mess. The podcast app on Catalina is lightweight and has feature parity with the iPad and iPhone apps.
- TV: Apple’s TV app is probably the biggest mess right out now of the new Catalyst apps if you already have an AppleTV and expect it to work a certain way. It only works with Apple’s own services of AppleTV channels. Hopefully more apps update to support his new type of TV “app” going forward, but I feel like its a solid first step. I kinda hope that next year the TV app gets its own form of Catalyst so we can have services like Hulu, Crunchyroll, Amazon Prime, HBO, etc. on the Mac’s TV app. Maybe Apple will make AppleTV channels work with cable or IPTV providers so we can start to live more in the TV app. In the meantime, its still a better app for watching Apple’s iTunes Store purchases and rental than iTunes ever was.
Overall, I think Catalyst a good thing for the time being as developers start biting into SwiftUI and Apple keeps developing it. I feel like this is the future of all Apple software, but like building bridge to an island, you cannot simply knock out the old bridge in the meantime. I think Catalyst is that bridge we are using in the meantime to bring over the best service to the Mac that would otherwise be missing. I live in a small college town with lots of construction and while we complain about it during the summers, we are happy about all the things it brings to the university in the end. I feel like we’ll look back at Catalyst a few years from now as an annoying, but next step for the next form that the Mac takes for the next 10 years.