Apple releases macOS Big Sur 11.3 update with revisions to Apple Music, games controllers

Posted:
in macOS edited April 26
Following multiple developer and public beta tests, Apple has now updated macOS Big Sur to version 11.3. The update includes new features in Apple Music, games controllers, Apple News+, and Podcasts.

Apple's macOS Big Sur on a MacBook Pro
Apple's macOS Big Sur on a MacBook Pro


As of now, or at least as of when it finishes rolling out worldwide, the current version of macOS Big Sur is 11.3. That's the version installed on any Mac you buy, and it's the version that your existing Mac will update to -- assuming it can.

Users can wait for the automatic update to take place overnight, or they can force it manually. A manual update can be started by opening System Preferences and accessing the Software Update interface.

Compared to the original release of macOS Big Sur 11, there are no major differences in this new edition. Nor, it seems, quite as many download problems.

However, there are very many minor ones that add convenience, new functionality, and much-requested improvements across the whole operating system -- and Apple's stock apps.

AirTag and Find My network support

macOS includes support for Apple's just-launched AirTag, the tracking chip that can be used to locate lost keys or other items via the Find My app.

There's also support for the Find My network, which allows the Find My app to show the locations of third-party trackers and devices that support Apple's platform, in a similar manner to a misplaced iPhone or other hardware.

Reminders, News, Podcasts, and Music

Apple's to-do app, Reminders, gets a couple of extra features that it yet again shows it's better than one of the more basic task managers it competes with. From macOS Big Sur 11.3, you can sort your tasks to surface the ones you need to work on.

It also lets you manually drag tasks to change the order of a list. There are much more powerful to-do apps, but for a fast way to decide which tasks you're going to do right now, Reminders is very good.

Podcasts
Podcasts


Similarly, Apple News for Mac gets tweaks that are small but useful. The News+ tab has been redesigned to make it quicker to find particular publications, and there's also an improved way of finding, or removing, previously downloaded issues.

Apple Podcasts has changed how it works with downloads, too. Where previously there was a preference setting for automatically downloading podcasts, it's been replaced by the similar Download episodes when saving. Rather than downloading every episode, you can elect to download the recording just by saving it.

Individual podcast episodes now have a save button, too. If you like an episode, you can now choose "follow" the podcast, which is Apple's new term for "subscribe."

Top charts and popular categories are included in Search to aid with discovery of new shows. There's also been a subtle rearrangement of the Listen Now part of Podcasts. Again, it's to surface the most-wanted elements.

The same thing is visible in Apple Music for Mac, where its Listen Now will include promoting live events. There's also an Autoplay option, which means Apple Music will just keep on going -- even after it's completed a whole playlist.

Autoplay in Apple Music will now keep music playing by automatically playing a similar song, once you reach the end of a song or a playlist. City charts will also showcase what's popular in over 100 cities around the world.

Safari

Apple's browser now allows users to customize the Start Page section order to their desire.

An additional WebExtensions API enables developers to offer extensions that replace the new tab page. Meanwhile the Web Speech API allows developers to add speech recognition into their webpages, which could be used for dictation, voice navigation, or real-time captioning.

Lastly, WebM and Vorbis video and audio format support are included.

Hardware support

Apple Music users have long been able to stream their music to stereo-paired HomePods, while other Mac audio output could only go to one. Now from macOS 11.3, a stereo pair can be set as the Mac's output.

This was one feature that proved erratic during the beta testing, however,

Also on the hardware side, Big Sur 11.3 now gains the ability to use certain gaming controllers. The Playstation 5, Xbox Series X, and Xbox Series S controllers are now supported on the Mac.

Macs that are powered by the M1 chip also gain hiberation support.

Using iOS apps on the Mac

The Mac's support for iPhone and iPad apps -- on Apple Silicon M1 machines -- has also seen some improvement. It's still not the case that iOS developers are hurrying to release Mac-tuned versions, but for those who do, Apple has added some small usability touches.

Apps on the iPad will take better use of the larger screen, for instance, and across that device and the iPhone, there's a new setting. It lets you use keyboard commands instead of touch.

Using iOS apps on the Mac is still not widespread, but Big Sur has made changes to something that is. The Safari web browser has gained new features -- both for users and developers.

For developers, there is a new Web Speech API that lets them leverage speech recognition. They also get greater options for Safari extensions that they can create.

Users will obviously benefit from those when developers release them, but this latest Safari does also offer at least one immediately obvious improvement. The Start Page has been made more customizeable.

Stereo HomePods

Other changes

Siri benefits from a few more voice options, giving users more variety in how they can set the digital assistant to speak.

Like with iOS 14.5, new emoji have been included, including faces, hearts, and the woman with a beard emoji. There is also support for separate skin tones for each individual for all variations of the couple kissing emoji and couple with heart emoji.

No big changes, but important ones

Unless you're a developer who's been struggling with extensions, there isn't a lot in macOS Big Sur 11.3 that could be described as huge. Yet at the same time, there also isn't a Mac user who won't see some benefits from upgrading.

Where there could be a huge change, though, is in Rosetta 2. This only affects Apple Silicon Macs, but it is how those are able to run older Intel-based apps.

During the beta period, Apple suggested that the function may be removed -- if not entirely, then at least in certain countries and territories. That last point is making it hard to determine whether there has yet been any removal of it.

We'll soon find whether it's been removed anywhere, but we'll also see how stable the audio output to stereo-paired HomePods. Even after all the beta testing, the real test comes when a major release like a macOS update comes out and is used by millions more people around the world.

Apple's release notes for macOS 11.3 read as follows:

AirTag and Find My

  • Support for AirTag to keep track of and find your important items like your keys, wallet, backpack and more, privately and securely in the Find My app
  • The Find My network with hundreds of millions of devices can help you find your AirTag, even when it isn't nearby
  • Lost Mode notifies you when your AirTag is found, and you can enter a phone number where you can be contacted

iPhone and iPad apps on Macs with M1

  • Option to change an iPhone and iPad app's window size
  • Support for displaying the highest resolution version of an iPhone or iPad app in full screen
  • Keyboard support for iPhone and iPad games designed to use device tilt
  • Keyboard, mouse and trackpad support for iPhone and iPad games that support game controllers

Emoji

  • Support for separate skin tones for each individual in all variations of the couple kissing emoji and couple with heart emoji
  • New face emojis, heart emojis, woman with a beard emoji

Siri

  • Siri now includes more diverse voice options

Apple Music

  • Autoplay keeps music playing by automatically playing a similar song, once you've reached the end of a song or playlist
  • City charts showcase what's popular in over 100 cities from all over the world

Podcasts

  • Podcasts Show Pages are redesigned to make it easier to start listening
  • Option to save and download episodes, automatically adding them to your Library for quick access
  • Download behavior and notification settings can be customized on a show-by-show basis
  • Top Charts and popular categories in Search help you discover new shows

News

  • Redesigned News+ feed enables Apple News+ subscribers to quickly find, download, and manage magazine and newspaper issues
  • All-new Search experience that helps you find relevant topics, channels, and stories

Safari

  • Start Page section order can now be customized
  • Additional WebExtensions API lets developers offer extensions that replace the new tab page
  • Web Speech API lets developers incorporate speech recognition into their web pages for real-time captioning, dictation, and voice navigation
  • WebM and Vorbis video and audio format support

Reminders

  • Ability to sort Today Smart list
  • Support for syncing the order of reminders in lists across your devices
  • Option to print your reminder lists

Gaming

  • Xbox Series X|S Wireless Controller or Sony PS5 DualSense™ Wireless Controller support

Mac computers with the M1 chip

  • Hibernation support

About This Mac

  • About this Mac displays Apple warranty status and AppleCare+ coverage in the Service tab when signed in with Apple ID
  • Support for purchasing and enrolling in AppleCare+ for eligible Mac computers from About This Mac
This release also fixes the following issues:
  • Reminders created via Siri may be unintentionally set for early morning hours
Stay on top of all Apple news right from your HomePod. Say, "Hey, Siri, play AppleInsider," and you'll get latest AppleInsider Podcast. Or ask your HomePod mini for "AppleInsider Daily" instead and you'll hear a fast update direct from our news team. And, if you're interested in Apple-centric home automation, say "Hey, Siri, play HomeKit Insider," and you'll be listening to our newest specialized podcast in moments.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 16
    Does anyone know if they have fixed the bug that stopped external monitors from working yet. I have been putting off installing this version of OS X until that was resolved as I use an external monitor for work.
  • Reply 2 of 16
    I've been using a Dell 40" 4K Panel for a while now on my M1 MacBook Air  -  Not sure why you are struggling ?  I haven't had a single issue with it..
    williamlondonStrangeDays
  • Reply 3 of 16
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 5,616member
    Does anyone know if they have fixed the bug that stopped external monitors from working yet. I have been putting off installing this version of OS X until that was resolved as I use an external monitor for work.
    You're light on details.  Is this an M1 machine issue?  We've been running M1-based MacBooks with external monitors here at the office for a bit with zero problems. 

    Now, we know that current M1 MacBooks only support one external monetary and the M1 MacBooks we're getting here only are for one external monitor.

    So exactly what bug are you referring to?
  • Reply 4 of 16
    neilmneilm Posts: 885member
    Does anyone know if they have fixed the bug that stopped external monitors from working yet. I have been putting off installing this version of OS X until that was resolved as I use an external monitor for work.
    All current M1 Macs (i.e. excluding the new M1 24" iMac, which we don't know about yet) support a total of two displays. For the M1 MBA and MBP that means the built-in display plus one other; for the M1 Mac mini it means two external displays.

    At present this appears to be a deliberate decision on Apple's part. There's no evidence that it is a bug, or that anything will change with the current hardware. (And yes, I'm aware that people have come up with workarounds involving external hardware adapters and special display drivers.)

    We have an M1 MBA driving a Samsung 4K monitor, and an M1 MBP driving a 5K LG monitor. Both work fine.
    edited April 26 StrangeDays
  • Reply 5 of 16
    rob53rob53 Posts: 2,520member
    Just updated and YouTube videos refuse to load and run. I get the loading bar but nothing comes up.

    on M1 MBA

    update: don't know what was going on but YouTube finally is working again. Long startup process?
    edited April 26
  • Reply 6 of 16
    sflocal said:
    Does anyone know if they have fixed the bug that stopped external monitors from working yet. I have been putting off installing this version of OS X until that was resolved as I use an external monitor for work.
    You're light on details.  Is this an M1 machine issue?  We've been running M1-based MacBooks with external monitors here at the office for a bit with zero problems. 

    Now, we know that current M1 MacBooks only support one external monetary and the M1 MacBooks we're getting here only are for one external monitor.

    So exactly what bug are you referring to?
    It was something I read here a while ago, that there was an intermittent bug that stopped external monitors from connecting on the Intel machines. So I have just been waiting to see if it was fixed with each new release as an external monitor is part of how I use my MBP.
  • Reply 7 of 16
    The first update for the M1 that didn't fail. Progress! My machine feels more responsive now. I had a 32GB INTEL 13" MBP before and I usually ran 10GB+ swap but on the M1 the average has fallen to 7GB. I still have a lot of INTEL apps but as they are replaced with ARM apps the memory usage is declining. I think by the time the last Apps are rolled over, I may be down to 0 swap, give or take a few GBs. Ditching that hot and noise INTEL Mac was the best thing ever.
  • Reply 8 of 16
    nicholfdnicholfd Posts: 582member
    sflocal said:
    Does anyone know if they have fixed the bug that stopped external monitors from working yet. I have been putting off installing this version of OS X until that was resolved as I use an external monitor for work.
    You're light on details.  Is this an M1 machine issue?  We've been running M1-based MacBooks with external monitors here at the office for a bit with zero problems. 

    Now, we know that current M1 MacBooks only support one external monetary and the M1 MacBooks we're getting here only are for one external monitor.

    So exactly what bug are you referring to?
    It was something I read here a while ago, that there was an intermittent bug that stopped external monitors from connecting on the Intel machines. So I have just been waiting to see if it was fixed with each new release as an external monitor is part of how I use my MBP.
    I use an Intel Mac mini & MacBook Pro 16" daily with an external monitor, since they were purchased.  Neither have ever had an issue with external displays, and they have been running Big Sur since the release date, typically updated to the latests release, near the date the updates are released.
    edited April 27
  • Reply 9 of 16
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 3,299member
    I know we aren’t allowed to comment about typos and the obvious lack of proofreading, but for crying out loud AI. This article is a mess.
  • Reply 10 of 16
    omasouomasou Posts: 152member
    Does anyone know if they have fixed the bug that stopped external monitors from working yet. I have been putting off installing this version of OS X until that was resolved as I use an external monitor for work.
    I've been running a MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019) w/dual LG Ultrafine 5K monitors w.o issues.
    edited April 27
  • Reply 11 of 16
    omasouomasou Posts: 152member
    I purchased 2 HomePod minis to replace my B&W Flex only to find out MacOS didn't support stereo pairs, which seem reasonable since the B&Ws did, Doh!

    Now they work! Yeah!
  • Reply 12 of 16
    22july201322july2013 Posts: 2,348member
    This new 11.3 update is doing something I've never seen before. Today whenever I'm receiving a telephone call on my iPhone, a pop-up also appears simultaneously on my Mac (and my iPad) saying I have an incoming FaceTime call. If I answer the call, (which I tested out by calling myself from another line) on either my Mac or iPad, I get an audio-only FaceTime call (there's no video, no FaceTime app, just a "voice popup".) The CALLER ID information shows up in the FaceTime caller's name field, so I didn't answer it when I got my first telephone call today, since the caller's name looked like a telemarketer to me.

    I don't see any mention of this new behaviour in the Big Sur 11.3 update notes. I'm not sure if it's a new feature or if something coincidental in the 11.3 update just triggered the behaviour for me.

    I had to test this out for an hour before I fully understood it. Let me explain it. Normally FaceTime calls are delivered from Apple's servers, but this is different. These FaceTime calls are coming directly from the iPhone, wirelessly. Even if you answer the FaceTime call on your Mac or iPad, the call is still being made through both parties' telcos and then wirelessly from your iPhone to your other device. For this to work, your iPhone has to remain within reach of your Mac or iPad.

    Here are the upsides and the downsides:

    UPSIDES:

    It is convenient to be able to stay in my chair and answer a telephone call on my Mac (or iPad) rather than getting up to find my iPhone. So I like this feature. Any device with an open speaker has a little audio feedback, but for most calls it doesn't bother me too much. If you are getting an important call, use your cellphone to avoid the feedback.

    It is convenient that the iPhone wirelessly transmits the "caller ID" information to the FaceTime app, so I can see who is trying to call me. There is a 15 character limit to a caller ID from a telco, and all 15 characters are transmitted by the iPhone to your other device.

    The iPhone transmits the signal to your Mac (and probably also the iPad) using both Wifi and Bluetooth. I tried disabling both of those, one at a time, on my iMac, and my test calls still came through to my Mac regardless of which signal was disabled.

    DOWNSIDES:

    I had no idea this new feature was coming. It was very confusing when it first happened to me today. My first incoming call today was from a telemarketer, and I thought I was receiving a telemarketer FaceTime call on my iPad, when in fact it was just a telemarketer telephone call to my iPhone. I expect to be getting some "support calls" from my friends and family this week as they see strange behaviours they can't understand. 

    If I get an incoming FaceTime call on my Mac or iPad, the pop-up actually says "from your iPhone" under the caller's name. So that's helpful, but I didn't notice that until I did a lot of research to figure out what was going on. I had previously believed that all FaceTime calls come from Apple's online servers. Now that I know, this is an upside, but until I figured this out, it was a downside. Some users will not notice the words "from your iPhone" and they will assume the call us from Apple's FaceTime servers using their home internet connection, and they won't realize that they are still using their iPhone with its cellular charges. In my opinion the warning words on the FaceTime pop-up should say "cell phone charges may apply" rather than "from your iPhone."
  • Reply 13 of 16
    JinTechJinTech Posts: 756member
    My M1 MacBook Air finally feels as snappy as the reviews made it sound when initially launched. I'll be honest, I was not initially impressed with the overall speed compared to my 2015 MacBook Pro.
  • Reply 14 of 16
    AppleishAppleish Posts: 336member
    I was like, 'Ok, I'll do that tonight." Then I saw that after three years (and its discontinuation), you can now stream HomePods in stereo.

    Installed over lunch. Works.
  • Reply 15 of 16
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 5,411member
    TLDR 
    Uh, this isn’t a new feature or related to Big Sur in any way. Wi-Fi calling and Calls on Other Devices have been settings in iOS for years. FaceTime audio or video calls go to any device you’re signed into those and have for years. 
  • Reply 16 of 16
    samacsamac Posts: 1member
    Since updating my 2016 MBP to 11.3 it fails to sync my iPhone 12 Pro running 14.5.  The sync hangs on “Reading Photos library” and can’t quit. I can’t reset the setting to delete all photos, stop syncing photos, stop auto-sync on connecting with a usb-c cable… 

    Can I 
    a) Make the Mac forget it knows my phone?
    b) Make the phone forget it knows my Mac?

    I don’t use iCloud photos or photo sharing, the big reason for sync is to share my music library onto my phone.  Thanks!
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