When I reviewed macOS Catalina, I gave it a pretty positive outlook. Not only do I like the new power-user features in Reminders, but I'm also forgetful enough to love that Find My now lives on the Mac (saving me from opening iCloud.com again). Yet, as much as I appreciate this update, I'm holding off on making the update on my personal MacBook Pro.
It feels weird to be holding off, because I'm the kind to update on Day 1, to see what else is in a new operating system. It's not like this version isn't lacking interesting marquee features, either, such as Sidecar mode for using your iPad as a second screen and support for Catalyst apps. So, why wait?
The big issue: 32-bit apps are dead
The biggest thing to know about Catalina is that there are two kinds of apps: 32-bit (older and slower) and 64-bit (modern and faster), and the former won't work after you upgrade to Catalina. We've known about this change for a while — Apple first announced that time was running low for 32-bit apps in April 2018 — but it took another year for us to find out when the apps would die.
During that time, I (like many others) kicked the can down the road, saying, "That's a tomorrow problem." And then Catalina arrived, and it became a today problem.
Then, a week passed without me updating, as personal obligations and travel kept me out of the house. Yes, previous macOS updates (especially minor point updates) are so slight that you can just click update and walk away, but the death of 32-bit apps meant that this project required a bit of advance work.
So, on Tuesday night (Oct. 15), I followed the steps in my own how to find your 32-bit Mac apps article to see how bad the damage was. It turns out my years of older apps had stacked up a lot of pain, with a list of apps that spilled from the top of my 15-inch MacBook Pro's screen past the bottom — in a tiny font.
Looking at that list led to an afternoon of searching for new versions of apps, as I knew some wouldn't have automatic updates. XLD, for example, an app that turns high-res FLAC audio (including live-concert recordings) to MP3s that I can upload to the iCloud Music Library, requires you dig around online — surprise, the first search result isn't the best! — to find a 64-bit version, as that app doesn't give you any prompt for a 64-bit version.
Others in the list include the Audacity audio-editing application and the Google Play Music Manager. Even the Steam gaming platform app doesn't update itself to 64-bit.
So, think about doing that, about 30 times in a row. That's how much work is ahead of me before I update to Catalina. To sound like a parent for a moment, I'm not upset with this change, just a bit disappointed with myself for not getting the ball rolling earlier.
Anyone with a passing familiarity with Apple knows the company loves to kill things before the public is ready. Remember the floppy disk and CD drives? The 30-pin iPod and iPhone connector? How about the headphone jack? Eventually, many of us will be in the 64-bit macOS future, and apps will run faster, with more access to all the memory you paid for when you bought your MacBook.
Why I can wait
My wait to update isn't just because of the effort it will take, but because of how Catalina's features aren't exactly for me. The Reminders app may be supercharged, and that's great for some, but I'm already living with much more capable to-do apps, including Things and Todoist.
And while I'm happy to see iTunes' spirit live on in Music, Podcasts and TV, I don't need that split yet. I'm not going to miss iTunes or anything — though I know some who will, and it boggles my mind — but it's inconsequential to me.
Apple Arcade's games are great on my iPhone — where I barely have enough time to make progress in Card of Darkness, a neat highlight of the subscription service that mixes the game Threes and D&D-style adventure — so I don't need to bring them to my MacBook Pro just yet.
As for Sidecar's second-screen Mac capabilities? My standing-desk setup at home isn't optimized for that. And as for Catalyst-based iPad apps? I haven't seen any must-download apps for me, though that will change if developer Marco Arment brings the Overcast podcatcher to the Mac.
While I see the overall, big-picture value for macOS Catalina for many — especially Apple, as the update does a better job of integrating the platform with iOS, iPadOS and tvOS — getting it on my Mac is just not a pressing concern for me yet. I'm probably going to get to it, and I'm guessing that others will also be waiting.
Hopefully, people will find out about the death of 32-bit apps either while reading about Catalina or during the installation, when they see the window that lists incompatible apps.
The last time Apple had such a system-changing update, it turned Mac OS into OS X in 2001, 18 years into that platform (the same amount of time Apple spent supporting 32-bit apps). I hope it's at least another 18 years until we learn of the death of 64-bit apps.
Credit: Laptop Mag