Apple starts work on macOS 16 – and it sounds like a bigger deal than a MacBook Pro redesign

While we’re eagerly awaiting the public release of new operating systems like iOS 18 and macOS 15 (Sequoia) later this year, it seems like Apple has already begun work on macOS 16 (and iOS 19, for that matter). This fresh rumor, coupled with whispers of a MacBook Pro refresh for later in 2024, has us buzzing about the future of Apple’s best tech.

Reputable leaker and industry commentator Mark Gurman noted in his most recent ‘Power On’ newsletter (for Bloomberg) that Apple has started development of all its major operating systems for 2025, meaning macOS 16, iOS 19, watchOS 12, and visionOS 3.

Mind you, we’d expect that Apple would be kicking off work on next year’s big software refreshes at this point, though it’s still exciting to hear that the development of macOS 16 is underway. It’s too early even to speculate about what next year’s version of macOS could look like, and Gurman doesn’t drop any hints as to possible features, but if Sequoia has shown us anything, we’re certain we are in for another big, AI-driven refresh.

Indeed, by the time we get to 2025, we wonder whether Apple might be planning to incorporate AI in a much bigger way with macOS 16, maybe bringing in features that will change the way we use our Mac devices entirely! Given the pace of development in the world of artificial intelligence, this can’t be ruled out.

New MacBooks on the horizon?

Software aside, as for the future of Mac hardware, we’re already hearing rumors about the M4 refresh due to happen with Apple’s Mac lineup, with some reports speculating that the MacBook Pro could be the first Mac in line for the new chip (which is only in the iPad Pro right now).

According to Gurman’s earlier reports, we may only see the MacBook Pro 14-inch base model get an M4 refresh this year (with the vanilla M4), with the other models (with M4 Pro and Max) only debuting early in the following year. Furthermore, we’re not likely to get any major hardware changes to Apple’s MacBook ranges for the next couple of years, and it sounds like the big move with the MacBook Pro – when it gets OLED, which is likely to be a good time for a full redesign – may not happen until 2026.

So, Apple might feel the need to make up for only ushering in more minor improvements on the hardware front, by taking a big leap on the software front – meaning a much-improved macOS 16 (with lots of fresh AI powers as mentioned, most likely). Take all this as the speculation it very much is, mind you.                

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Don’t worry, Google Gemini’s new bank-scam detection for phone calls isn’t as creepy as it sounds

Google IO brought forth a huge array of new ideas and features from Google, including some useful life hacks for the lazy, and AI was present almost everywhere you looked. One of the more intriguing new features can detect scam calls as they happen, and warn you not to hand over your bank details – and it’s not as creepy as it might at first sound.

The feature works like this: if you get a call from a scammer pretending to be a representative of your bank, Google Gemini uses its AI smarts to work out that the impersonator is not who they claim to be. The AI then sends you an instant alert warning you not to hand over any bank details or move any money, and suggests that you hang up.

Involving AI in the process raises a few pertinent questions, such as whether your bank details ever get sent to Google’s servers for processing as they're detected. That’s something you never want to happen, because you don’t know who can access your bank information or what they might do with it.

Fortunately, Google has confirmed (via MSPoweruser) that the whole process takes place on your device. That means there’s no way for Google (or anyone else) to lift your banking information off a server and use it for their own ends. Instead, it stays safely sequestered away from prying eyes.

A data privacy minefield

A silhouette of a woman holding a smartphone with the Google Gemini logo in the background

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Google’s approach cuts to the core of many concerns about the growing role AI is playing in our lives. Because most AI services need huge server banks to process and understand all the data that comes their way, that means you can end up sending a lot of sensitive data to an opaque destination, with no way of really knowing what happens to it.

This has had real-world consequences. In March 2024, AI service Cutout.Pro was hacked and lost the personal data of 20 million users, and it’s far from the only example. Many firms are worried that employees may inadvertently upload private company data when using AI tools, which then gets fed into the AI as training data – potentially allowing it to fall into the hands of users outside the business. In fact, exactly that has already happened to Samsung and numerous other companies.

This all goes to show the importance of keeping private data away from AI servers as much as possible – and, given the potential for AI to become a data privacy minefield, Google’s decision to keep your bank details on-device is a good one.

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Microsoft’s Copilot AI can now read your files directly, but it’s not the privacy nightmare it sounds like

Microsoft has begun rolling out a new feature for its Copilot AI assistant in Windows that will allow the bot to directly read files on your PC, then provide a summary, locate specific data, or search the internet for additional information. 

Copilot has already been aggressively integrated into Microsoft 365 and Windows 11 as a whole, and this latest feature sounds – at least on paper – like a serious privacy issue. After all, who would want an AI peeking at all their files and uploading that information directly to Microsoft?

Well, fortunately, Copilot isn’t just going to be snooping around at random. As spotted by @Leopeva64 on X (formerly Twitter), you have to manually drag and drop the file into the Copilot chat box (or select the ‘Add a file’ option). Once the file is in place, you can proceed to make a request of the AI; the suggestion provided by Leopeva64 is simply ‘summarize’, which Copilot proceeds to do.

Another step towards Copilot being genuinely useful

I’ll admit it, I’m a Copilot critic. Perhaps it’s just because I’m a jaded career journalist with a lifetime of tech know-how and a neurodivergent tilt towards unhealthy perfectionism, but I’ve never seen the value of an AI assistant built into my operating system of choice; however, this is the sort of Copilot feature I actually might use.

The option to summarize alone seems quite useful: more than once, I’ve been handed a chunky PDF with embargoed details about a new tech product, and it would be rather nice not to have to sift through pages and pages of dense legalese and tech jargon just to find the scraps of information that are actually relevant to TechRadar’s readership. Summarizing documents is already something that ChatGPT and Adobe Acrobat AI can do, so it makes sense for Copilot – an AI tool that's specifically positioned as an on-system helper – to be able to do it.

While I personally prefer to be the master of my own Googling, I can see the web-search capabilities being very helpful to a lot of users, too. If you’ve got a file containing partial information, asking Copilot to ‘fill in the blanks’ could save you a lot of time. Copilot appears capable of reading a variety of different file types, from simple text documents to PDFs and spreadsheets. Given the flexible nature of modern AI chatbots, there are potentially many different things you could ask Copilot to do with your files – though apparently, it isn’t able to scan files for viruses (at least, not yet).

If you’re keen to get your hands on this feature yourself, you hopefully won’t have to wait long. While it doesn’t seem to be widely available just yet, Leopeva64 notes that it appears Copilot’s latest new skill “is being rolled out gradually”, so it’ll likely start showing up for more Windows 11 users as time goes on.

The Edge version of Copilot will apparently be getting this feature too, as Leopeva points out that it’s currently available in the Canary prototype build of the browser – if you want to check that out, you just have to sign up for the Edge Insider Program.

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Microsoft’s next-gen Windows sounds pretty mind-blowing with ‘groundbreaking’ new AI features

Microsoft is cooking up a next-gen Windows – and it may not be called Windows 12 – with some huge new AI tricks, according to a new report.

This comes from Zac Bowden at Windows Central, one of the more prolific Windows leakers out there – and a good source for rumors in our experience – who has plenty to say about what Microsoft is planning to do with AI in the next version of Windows for 2024 (which is codenamed Hudson Valley).

Some heavy-duty work is planned to integrate AI throughout the Windows interface more deeply, bringing in a whole load of features, some of which are described as “groundbreaking”. According to Bowden’s sources, the cornerstone of this work will be an AI-powered Windows Shell.

This will benefit from an ‘advanced Copilot’ AI that’s constantly working away in the background, looking at your searches and what you’re doing, trying to understand the context and help appropriately.

Some examples are given, such as being able to use more natural language in a search in Windows, like “find me that file Karen sent to me on WhatsApp earlier this week.”

There will also be a timeline feature that allows you to scroll back through all your recent app and website usage which Copilot records, and you can search within that for any term.

We’re also told to expect an AI-supercharged version of Live Captions, capable of translating to multiple different languages in real-time, not just for video (or audio) playback, but also on a live video chat.

The slight catch is that some AI features will require NPU hardware – a Neural Processing Unit which is a partner chip for the CPU/GPU, one that specializes in accelerating AI tasks – and those will be more heavyweight capabilities. One example given is AI-powered upscaling of the image quality of videos or indeed games.

Robot hands emerging from laptop signifying AI

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Bowden also contends that we could even get fancy wallpapers driven by AI, and indeed we’ve heard leaks previously about backgrounds that will use a parallax effect – one that interacts with the cursor, or gyroscope in Windows devices that have one, and looks like it’s popping out of your screen.

Away from AI – which will be the major focus of next-gen Windows, though we’d already guessed that – Microsoft is also planning changes to the interface. That includes a ‘Creator’ panel for the Start menu and File Explorer, which will be a hub for launching anything related to content creation in Windows. Bowden describes it as a kind of ‘launchpad for Microsoft 365’ bristling with shortcuts to your latest Word documents, PowerPoints, and so forth.

Furthermore, there’s even talk of shifting around bits of the core layout of the desktop, like putting the system tray (bottom-right) at the top of the screen – but more radical moves like this are likely for the future, not next year.

Finally, another major enhancement for next-gen Windows will come to energy saver (recently spotted in testing), with Microsoft seemingly looking at beefing up battery life by up to 50% in certain scenarios – which would be huge for laptop owners. And apparently, a new ‘green power’ option will be capable of detecting when the electricity it’s being fed from the socket is derived from renewable sources, and it’ll initiate charging if that’s the case. Pretty nifty.

When might we get all – or at least some – of these goodies? Bowden reckons that Microsoft is aiming to complete work on next-gen Windows in August 2024, and it’ll be rolled out around September or October, the typical time the big annual update is expected to arrive.

As we said at the outset, Bowden is also somewhat doubtful about whether this next version of Microsoft’s desktop OS will be Windows 12 – and we’ve already been discussing that in-depth elsewhere this morning (plus there’s some juicy new info on changes Microsoft is apparently planning for the release cadence of Windows).

A PC gamer looking happy

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Analysis: Game-changing possibilities

This is just talk – chatter from the rumor mill – so we must apply the usual skepticism, and consider that some of it might be fanciful, wishful thinking. But it does sound like AI really will make a big difference to the next incarnation of Windows.

Having a search function that allows for more natural use of language – “find those images I put on Google Drive from that Microsoft press kit last month” – would be hugely powerful. Not having to remember the exact name of a file you’re hunting out will be a huge boon in itself. (And hopefully, we can avoid Copilot inquiring: “Oh, and by the way, why aren’t you using OneDrive?”).

There are several game-changing possibilities mentioned here, like real-time captions delivered for video chatting with multiple language options. And in a very literal sense, NPU-powered upscaling for games could be very useful where Nvidia’s or AMD’s upscaling tech isn’t present, or supported – and it’ll be great for videos and watching Netflix, or your preferred streaming service, on your PC too.

What isn’t mentioned here, and would seem to be an obvious avenue of potential improvement, is Voice Access. Powering up speech recognition tech with AI seems like a way to make next-gen Windows truly innovative – Voice Access has already come a long way (since incorporating Dragon’s excellent tech), but surely there’s scope for AI to make it all the more powerful. And for spoken conversations with Copilot to become the norm, with no typing needed, and no misinterpretation.

In recent times, accessibility has been an area Microsoft has been laudably keen to make improvements with, and surely that theme will continue with AI helping to push the boundaries therein.

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YouTube’s Snapchat sharing feature sounds cool – but is it just a gimmick?

YouTube's latest social feature is letting users share videos to Snapchat as stickers. If you liked a video that a friend or family member might be interested in, you can immediately share it via Snapchat in the form of a sticker slapped onto the snap.

The social feature, available on both iOS and Android smartphones, pulls up the Snapchat app when you select it from the 'Share' menu on a YouTube video. A handy box containing the video's thumbnail and title will appear on your snap. And after you've taken a photo, you can adjust the thumbnail's size, angle and location on the snap. Then, when you've sent your snap to a friend, they can open the YouTube video by simply tapping the link embedded in the thumbnail.

The new sharing process eschews the need to directly copy a link from YouTube for pasting into Snapchat. Instead, one tap of that Share button is all you need to transfer the video to your snap, with all info and the link contained in one convenient snippet.

Analysis: Improvement or gimmick?

Snapchat YouTube sharing

(Image credit: Snapchat)

Within the confines of Snapchat, this new YouTube video-sharing feature sounds great. It requires fewer taps and link management and means Snapchat doesn't have to rely on your clipboard for copied content. Being able to customize the embedded video's placement, size, and angle is nice, too. But are Snapchat users really going to be impressed by this feature, and more importantly, will people use it?

The real issue here lies in whether or not Snapchat is the most convenient social platform with which to share YouTube videos. While this overhaul to sharing YouTube videos via Snapchat is an improvement, it's really just a nifty addition to what is still a cumbersome process.

You still have to create a snap to host the YouTube snippet. That in itself could be a decently lengthy process, depending on your own preferences and attention to detail when it comes to taking snaps. In this case, it would be much quicker and easier to simply share a YouTube link through more conventional social platforms, like Whatsapp, Discord, or even Twitter and Facebook depending on the group of contacts you wish to reach.

It's still a win for avid Snapchat users, of course, especially those who use it as their primary social platform. We can even see there being some particularly creative uses of this YouTube video sharing feature. One example that comes to mind would be an online merchant taking a snap of their product and inserting a YouTube snippet that the user can open and learn more about the product.

Therein lies what we feel is the biggest issue with this update. It's harmless, and definitely doesn't detract from the Snapchat experience. However, it's also very situational, will work better for some more than others, and isn't something we see a swathe of Snapchat users flocking to in order to share their favorite YouTube videos with friends. There are quicker ways of doing that, even if those methods aren't quite as fun or creative.

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