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macOS 12 Monterey release date, features and everything you need to know

WWDC 2021 screenshot
(Image credit: Apple)

Apple has unveiled macOS 12 Monterey, its new operating system for Macs and MacBooks at this year's WWDC.

As with all other macOS releases, macOS 12 Monterey will be a free upgrade for owners of Macs and MacBooks later this year. According to Apple CEO Tim Cook, it'll be released 'this fall', so any time between late August and December.

There will also be early beta versions of macOS 12 Monterey that will be released for people to test before it gets officially launched, which will begin rolling out in June. There is a developer preview that's available right now, but this is only for people signed up to the developer program (for a fee) – you can find out how to get in in our how to download and install macOS 12 Monterey Developer Preview guide.

However, most people will want to hold on until the final version of macOS 12 Monterey is released, as most bugs and problems will have been identified and fixed by early testers. Going by previous macOS releases, we think the final version could arrive around September 2021.

We'll keep this article updated with everything we know about macOS 12 Monterey.

WWDC 2021 screenshot

(Image credit: Apple)

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? macOS 12 Monterey, the successor to macOS 11 Big Sur
  • When is it out? It will be available 'this fall' – so towards the end of the year
  • How much will it cost? Nothing. Apple software updates are always free

macOS 12 Monterey system requirements

The list of Macs that will be able to run macOS 12 Monterey has been announced, with Apple promising that "macOS Monterey will support the broadest lineup of Macs in history, including the latest iMac, MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, and Mac mini, as well as Apple’s Intel-based Macs".

Here are the devices that can run macOS 12 Monterey:

  • iMac late 2015 and later
  • iMac Pro 2017 and later
  • MacBook Air early 2015 and later
  • MacBook Pro early 2015 and later
  • Mac Pro late 2013 and later
  • Mac mini late 2014 and later
  • MacBook early 2016 and later

macOS 12 name: Monterey

Apple has announced macOS 12's new name: Monterey, picked due to it being part of Big Sur by the Californian coast.

macOS 12 Monterey release date

The next version of macOS was announced at WWDC, with a developer preview of macOS Monterey released alongside the announcement. This is only available to developers, but there will be a public beta version for you to try out in July.

As usual, this will be a free update for everyone with a compatible system. If you're not sure if your Mac or MacBook is compatible, check out the system requirements above.

When will macOS 12 Monterey be available to download?

The final macOS 12 Monterey update should be available for download through your Mac's System Preferences menu, or you can download it through the Mac App Store application once it's released towards the end of the year, most likely mirroring past releases of macOS.

macOS 12 Monterey

(Image credit: Apple)

macOS 12 features

Apple has revealed what we can expect from macOS 12 when it comes to new features.

According to Apple, "macOS Monterey comes with new ways for users to connect, get more done, and work more fluidly across their Apple devices".

From what we've seen, this is an update that will definitely appeal to people who have multiple Apple devices, such as the iPad and iPhone.

WWDC 2021 screenshot

(Image credit: Apple)

Universal Control

This handy feature means you can use a single mouse and keyboard and switch between Mac and iPad. Use a trackpad on your MacBook and slide over seamlessly to your iPad. 

You can also drag and drop files between iPads, MacBooks, iMacs and more. There's no setup required, you'll be able to just put your devices next to each other, and move your cursor between them. This could prove to be one of the most useful new features in macOS 12 Monterey.

FaceTime

This past year has made the way we work and communicate change in drastic ways, and video calls are now more important than ever. So, it's good to see Apple bringing new features to FaceTime calling in macOS 12 Monterey.

This includes spatial audio support (a big theme of Apple's WWDC 2021 keynote), so depending on where the person is sitting, their audio should feel like it's coming from their position.

There's also Voice Isolation, which uses machine learning to eliminate background noise and make voices clearer and easier to understand.

There's also Wide Spectrum, which does the opposite, and means all ambient sounds (as well as voices) are boosted, which can be useful in some circumstances where you need to hear the environmental sounds where people are.

MacBooks and Macs using Apple's M1 chip will also be able to blur user backgrounds thanks to the Neural Engine, though this is something that has been part of other video calling applications for a while now, and doesn't require specialist hardware.

More useful is the ability invite anyone to connect to a FaceTime call, even people using Windows and Android devices, and they are will still benefit from the end-to-end encryption.

Airplay

You can now use AirPlay on a Mac, and use your Mac or MacBook as a speaker or video output.

WWDC 2021 screenshot

(Image credit: Apple)

Shortcuts

Shortcuts are also coming to Mac. These allow you to automate everyday tasks. You can set your own, or use ready-made ones.

These can be triggered via Siri without using your hands, and you can import Automator workflows with Shortcuts.

Shortcuts will be integrated throughout macOS 12 Monterey, including  the menu bar, Finder and Spotlight.

WWDC 2021 screenshot

(Image credit: Apple)

Safari

Safari, Apple's web browser for macOS, has been redesigned for macOS 12 Monterey. Tabs are now more compact, the toolbar is refined and you can use tab groups.

This saves and groups tabs together for easy access. Useful for people who end up browsing with loads of tabs open at once.

You can name the groups, and they can be accessible across all devices. Make a change on a Mac, and the groups on iPad and iPhone will also change.

You can use a search box to find certain websites, and the Tabs bar changes color depending what website you're on.

Notes

The Notes app has been improved, making it easier to organize and collaborate notes. The Quick Note feature lets you write down notes from any app or website, and you can add links from Safari or Maps.

Multiple people can work on notes, and they can add their own comments. People's edits can be easily found in the new Activity View, and tags can be added so you can easily find them later on.

Focus

The new Focus feature looks like it'll be a powerful 'do not disturb' setting for Macs and MacBooks on macOS 12 Monterey. Depending on your current activity, notifications can be filtered out.

You can set your status so other people know you're not to be interrupted, and if you set up Focus on one device, it will be mirrored on all your other Apple devices.

It doesn't look like we're getting a Big Sur-like huge update, though. Instead, macOS 12 seems to be a release to fix up bugs and refine the operating system further.

Think of this release as more the Snow Leopard of macOS releases. Back in 2009, Apple made efforts to push the fact that it was a refined release, and no new features.

With a move to a completely different chip last year, it makes sense for macOS to be refined again to be even faster on the new Apple Silicon chips.