Windows 11 could make checking your phone from your PC even better – so Apple, take note for macOS Sequoia

Windows 11 could put your iPhone or Android device right into the heart of the Start menu, in a manner of speaking – or at least the Phone Link app is apparently headed this way.

That’s according to clues unearthed by MS Power User, which reported on whispers from Windows 11 testers to the effect that Phone Link is set to be made into a Start menu ‘Companion.’

If you’ve missed the Companion panel appearing in Windows preview builds last month, it’s a floating panel that can be docked to the left or right of the Start menu. The Companions it plays host to are a bit like Live Tiles of old, widget-style affairs that display real-time info which is piped through.

In theory, Phone Link will be one of the apps that’ll appear in the Companion panel, as MS Power User took a deep dive into files from Phone Link and found a number of code strings relating to ‘StartMenuCompanion’ settings.

Analysis: Dialing up the work on phone integration

This would appear to be the groundwork for Phone Link to become a Start menu Companion, but of course, this is just work hidden in testing right now – and we can’t take it for granted this will happen. Indeed, the Companion panel itself might be abandoned yet if Microsoft thinks better of it – only time will tell.

Given the rumors, and at least some concrete evidence that Phone Link will get this treatment, it seems more likely to happen than not, on balance. Phone Link would also be a logical and useful app to have in the Companion panel, in order to pipe notifications through from your smartphone, bringing them to your attention when you’re in the Start menu.

Phone Link has been a key part of Windows for some time now, and it’s not surprising Microsoft is pushing ahead with potential features like this – and work on the Cross-Device Experience Host (albeit that has stumbled of late) and other phone-related capabilities besides – given that Apple now has iPhone Mirroring inbound with macOS Sequoia.

Whichever way you dice it, smartphones are becoming more and more deeply integrated into desktop operating systems these days.

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macOS Sequoia could soon spark your pawn addiction with its rebooted Chess game

Mac fans are undoubtedly eagerly awaiting the release of macOS Sequoia, and looking forward to exploring its new features, including Apple Intelligence, iPhone Mirroring, and a whole load of other goodies, but an unsung upgrade has also been spotted – an update to Chess for macOS. 

According to a report from 9to5Mac, the stock Chess game within the developer build of macOS Sequoia has received quite a facelift, with new modern graphics, a fresh background, and more realistic textures for the pieces. 

You can also change the style of the pieces and choose between wood, marble, or metal if you fancy spicing things up further.

You may be wondering why it’s such a big deal to have updated visuals for Chess, but you might be surprised to learn that the game hasn’t been updated since 2012. So, it’s been a long wait, but at least Apple has finally turned its attention to the app, and made improvements for those of us who enjoy a cheeky chess game or two between emails on a slow workday. 

All just a waiting game

While the Chess upgrade and other nuggets have been spotted in the developer beta of macOS 15, it's worth noting that if Apple hasn’t explicitly mentioned a particular feature at WWDC 2024 or in other related announcements, there's no guarantee that it'll show up in Sequoia when it launches later this year. 

That’s not to say we don’t expect to see the nice new chessboard and pieces – we just have to bear in mind that anything that’s spotted up until the public release of macOS Sequoia has to be taken with a pinch of salt, and it could even be the case that even more improvements to chess are rolled out.

It’s definitely an exciting time to be a Mac fan, what with refreshed MacBook Airs still cooling on the shelves, and a whole new AI-powered macOS operating system in the pipeline – and for chess fans, this news might be the icing on the cake. 

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Intel Mac users: macOS Sequoia won’t give you Apple Intelligence, but you’ll still get a host of must-have features

WWDC 2024 earlier this week saw the big reveal of macOS Sequoia, and of course, Apple’s new AI platform – with the further revelation that Apple Intelligence would not be available for Mac owners with Intel CPUs running Sequoia.

While Apple had previously stated that macOS Sequoia will run on the same Mac models as macOS Sonoma, whether they had Intel or Apple CPUs, Apple Intelligence requires an M1 processor (or better) to work – and that fact likely left Intel-powered Mac owners wondering if they’d be left out in the cold with Sequoia regarding other features. Well, the good news is this isn’t the case, and in fact there are only two pieces of functionality that’ll be exclusive to Apple silicon-powered Macs.

Those are Apple Intelligence, as already mentioned, and also live audio transcription in Apple Notes is only supported for devices which have Apple silicon. This feature will enable the recording of audio right in the Notes app, and will also swiftly generate transcriptions of that audio (which are fully searchable).

Other than that, all the other features in macOS Sequoia will come to Intel Macs (and M-series Macs too, of course).

WWDC 2024 macOS Sequoia Features

(Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)

Mirroring magic and more besides

This includes the hotly anticipated iPhone Mirroring feature, allowing you to view and control your iPhone’s screen using your Mac keyboard and trackpad. On top of that, macOS 15 ushers in the ability to receive iPhone notifications on your Mac, new window layout functionality that enables you to drag and ‘snap’ windows into a grid arrangement on your screen (just as in Microsoft’s Windows OS), the Password app replacing Keychain to manage and sync passwords more easily, and an improved Safari browser.

In short, that’s a pretty good haul even if your Intel-powered Mac can’t run Apple’s new AI features. How much that’ll matter to you is doubtless a subjective thing, and it’ll also depend on how well Apple Intelligence is realized when it actually arrives – although the Mac maker is certainly putting a lot of stock in it going by the initial launch, and has some well thought out ideas behind the AI system.

As 9 to 5 Mac, which spotted this info, observes, Apple Macs with Intel CPUs have at least one more year of support with macOS.

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I downloaded the macOS 15 Sequoia beta and fell in love with the Classic Mac dynamic wallpaper

In case you missed it, Apple revealed a new version of macOS dubbed Sequoia at WWDC 2024. The upcoming update for macOS comes loaded with new features like iPhone mirroring, a new and improved Siri, and of course, Apple Intelligence. Alongside all those exciting additions, however, macOS 15 also brings in some more minor tweaks, including new dynamic wallpapers – and one of them is a pleasant blast from the past. 

Now, I’m not old enough to have used a Macintosh from way back in the day, so my appreciation of this new wallpaper may not be the same as some people who had the pleasure of working with the older computers themselves. But, it is really interesting to see Apple introduce a retro dynamic wallpaper with its newest and arguably most advanced version of macOS. 

Mac Rumors further reports that there’s a second introduction on the dynamic wallpaper front called ‘Helios’ – as featured in Apple’s marketing materials already – but I couldn’t see that one, only the classic Mac wallpaper.

The dynamic wallpapers are somewhat iconic now, having been supplied with the last few versions of macOS – Monterey, Ventura, and Sonoma each have their own distinct look that changes throughout the day. If you're eager to take a peek at the new wallpapers yourself, you can install the beta version of macOS Sequoia on your Mac and try them out!

Screenshot of Dynamic Wallpaper

(Image credit: Basic Apple Guy )

I’ve done so myself just to access the retro wallpaper and it’s worth the effort, for me anyway – though keep in mind that beta versions of software can (and likely will) be unstable, and won’t immediately grant you access to all the new features. So, be sure to back up your device if you decide to take the plunge.

The Macintosh wallpapers are animated and shift between different graphics as you’re using your device, and can also be set as your lock screen when you’re on standby. You can also pick the accent color you want to use like blue, red, purple and so on. 

Overall the juxtaposition between having an advanced, AI-powered operating system, and these super-cute retro graphics hits a certain sweet spot with me, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy the experience just as much!

If you don’t want to go through the process and hassle of downloading the macOS Sequoia beta, Apple enthusiast and blogger Basic Apple Guy has uploaded high-resolution screenshots in all the color options for you to check out and download for free. 

I’m very excited for macOS Sequoia to be released in all its glory later this year, but until then, I’ll be enjoying the cute wallpapers! 

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macOS 15 Sequoia announced at Apple’s WWDC 2024 event

Apple has officially announced macOS 15 Sequoia at this year's WWDC 2024 event (you can follow all the announcements as they happen at our WWDC 2024 live blog), giving us an early view of the upcoming operating system for Macs and MacBooks.

Following on from macOS Sonoma, which was revealed at last year's WWDC, macOS 15 comes with a range of new features, many of which make use of Apple's artificial intelligence (AI) tools, which were also announced at WWDC 2024.

What we know so far

These are the new features of macOS 15:

  • Your iPhone screen can now be mirrored in macOS 15
  • iPhone notifications are coming to Macs
  • Improved windows layouts – drag a window to a side of your screen and macOS 15 will give you options for arranging windows
  • You can replace backgrounds when using FaceTime
  • Password app replaces Keychain, making it easier to arrange and sync your passwords – and this is also coming to iPhone, Vision Pro, iPads and even Windows PCs!

This story is breaking. We'll continue to update this article – and check out our WWDC 2024 live blog for all the breaking news

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