Apple's macOS operating system for Macs and MacBooks regularly gets tweaks and security patches, but once a year the company announces something much more significant: a (free) full update with major new features and design changes.

But after the "really worthwhile update" of macOS 10.13 High Sierra in 2017, what should we expect from macOS 10.14 in the summer of 2018? Sources point to a new dark mode, faster unlocking features and a raft of security and performance improvements. Intriguingly, an upcoming 'merger' of macOS and iOS apps is expected as part of a project codenamed Marzipan, although the latest report suggests this radical step may now be shelved until 2019.

Read on for the latest leaks, news and rumours about the release date, new features and system requirements we expect from macOS 10.14 in 2018.

What will Apple call the next version of macOS?

Logic and past behaviour would suggest that Apple will call the next version of the Mac operating system macOS 10.14. However, there are a couple more options. It may feasibly decide, for example, that it's time to move on from macOS Ten (or Mac OS X for the die-hards), and finally graduate to macOS 11.

Of course, if the company was to do that, macOS 11 would be released at the same time as iOS 12 and tvOS 12, which isn't very neat and might make the Mac offering sound less advanced. (If Apple was going to do this, the right time was 2017, when it released iOS 11 and tvOS 11!)

With that in mind, another possibility is that the next version of macOS could mark the first steps towards merging iOS and macOS, with a more unified naming convention for the two OSs. It sounds like we might have a wait a little longer for this though, as we'll explain below.

Of course it's not all about numbers. Apple has for many years chosen a name to represent the Mac operating system. Earlier generations of Mac OS X took names of big cats: Leopard, Jaguar, Lion. In recent years the names of choice were based on popular sites in California. We have a separate article that lists some potential California locations that the next macOS update might be named for.

Given that High Sierra came after Sierra, in a similar vein to Snow Leopard following Leopard, and Mountain Lion following Lion, with both of those updates being sold as more of an enhancement to the previous version than an overhaul, will Apple call the next version Higher Sierra? We don't know?

macOS 10.14 release date

We expect to see Apple's first demo of the new Mac operating system at WWDC in June 2018. A beta version of the software will be available to developers soon after the WWDC keynote presentation, with a public beta version likely landing later in the summer. Find out how to get the macOS beta here.

Then it is likely that the final version of the new software will be available for everyone to download in September or October 2018.

You'll be able to read our live blog as the WWDC news breaks here.

As for the new features coming in macOS 10.14, we'll look at what we expect to see, and what we hope to see below.

Apple's already said that its main focus in the next version of the Mac operating system will be "security and performance improvements", but that doesn't mean there won't be any exciting new features. Here's what we expect, and what we don't expect (at least not yet):

The macOS/iOS 'merger'

A January 2018 report on Axios (by Ina Fried previously of Re/code and All Things Digital) claimed that you will be able to run iPad apps on macOS 10.14 when it launches in the autumn, as part of a secret Apple project. However, newer report casts doubts on whether the project will be complete in time for the 2018 updates.

The first mention of this project came in December 2017 when Bloomberg wrote that Apple plans to combine iPhone, iPad and Mac apps as part of a secret project known as 'Marzipan'. (This appears to have been a very early codename which is no longer used. But the current name has not been released publicly.)

According to Bloomberg's sources, "Developers will be able to design a single application that works with a touchscreen or mouse and trackpad depending on whether it's running on the iPhone and iPad operating system or on Mac."

By unifying the app development it was hoped that third-party Mac apps would be updated more frequently. Currently most development funding goes to iOS apps.

But a report at the end of April 2018 by John Gruber of Daring Fireball pours cold water on the prospects of Marzipan coming to fruition in 2018. Basing his comments on "first- and second-hand sources", Gruber says he is "nearly certain this project is not debuting at WWDC 2018 in June, and [doubts] that 2018 was on the table in December. It's a 2019 thing, for MacOS 10.15 and iOS 13."

It's not just Gruber who has dashed hopes of a macOS/iOS merger. Apple CEO Tim Cook has also repeated his views that merging the two platforms would be a mistake.

The Marzipan concept does seem to contradict some of Apple's comments in the past about running the same operating system on devices that have a different purpose. Tim Cook once described a merged OS as being like a toaster-refrigerator, leading to the understanding that Apple would never go down that path.

Indeed, since the Marzipan rumour first emerged, Apple CEO Tim Cook quashed the suggestion that Apple is planning to unify macOS with iOS, restating his belief that mobile devices and computers should remain separate with their own operating systems.

Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, Cook said: "We don't believe in sort of watering down one for the other. Both [The Mac and iPad] are incredible. One of the reasons that both of them are incredible is because we pushed them to do what they do well. And if you begin to merge the two ... you begin to make trade-offs and compromises.

"So maybe the company would be more efficient at the end of the day. But that's not what it's about. You know it's about giving people things that they can then use to help them change the world or express their passion or express their creativity. So this merger thing that some folks are fixated on, I don't think that's what users want."

However, with Google working on an OS called Fuchsia OS, into which Android and Chrome OS will be merged, would Apple risk being left behind if it turns out this is what people want?

Rather than a full-blown merger, we expect to see more of the best of iOS coming to macOS, and more of the best of macOS coming to iOS.

For example, there are some neat features on the iPad, such as the way Split View works, that would be welcome on the Mac.

We could also see features like Control Centre giving access to System Preferences, Sleep, Shut Down, and more. An iOS style App Switcher could also macOS. We'd really like to see a redesigned Apple menu too.

Multitouch can't be implemented in terms of the screen as Apple doesn't offer touch-sensitive screens (and is unlikely to in the near future). However, Apple does offer the multi-touch trackpad on its MacBooks, and this could enable many more multi-touch style features.

UXPlanet has some great examples of how this merger of the operating systems could work. He concedes that the new combined OS would simply need to support both x86 and ARM.

We'd also like to see the News app and the TV app on the Mac.

Faster waking and unlocking

Another area that Apple is seeking to improve in macOS 10.14 is waking and unlocking.

According to the Axios report mentioned above, Apple wants to make improvements in performance when waking and unlocking the system.

Security improvements

Apple has come under fire for issues with bugs and vulnerabilities in MacOS High Sierra (and iOS 11). As a result the company is placing special emphasis on addressing security and performance issues in the next version of macOS.

64-bit apps

High Sierra was the last macOS release to support 32-bit apps. Apple announced back in the summer of 2017 that applications in 10.14 would be 64-bit only.

In fact "New apps submitted to the Mac App Store must support 64-bit starting January 2018, and Mac app updates and existing apps must support 64-bit starting June 2018," states Apple on its developer website.

This will force app developers to switch to 64-bit - which is good news if it means developers can deliver better software and making use of more than 4GB of RAM.

In preparation for this move, Apple has started showing a warning in High Sierra 10.13 which indicates that an App is not optimized for your Mac if it is 32-bit, read more about what the warning means here.

Re-designed iTunes and Apple Music

The app that needs the most work in our opinion is iTunes and we think that Apple is saving this for the next version of the macOS and iOS. In fact we think that Apple has a lot up its sleeve in regards to iTunes, which we think it in for more than just a redesign but a complete rebrand.

iTunes is often described as bloated, the issue being that it tries to do too many things. We think the real problem is the fact that much of our iTunes library was imported over a decade ago and we don't have the time to manage it in the way we did then, and as a result it just looks untidy. Apple Music helps us discover new music, but sometimes we'd just like to rediscover some of the tracks we used to listen to.

We expect some intelligent algorithms will come out of Apple's acquisition of Shazam that will help iTunes (and Apple Music) become better at playing tunes we actually want to hear.

Another reason we think a big overhaul it in the works is the fact that it looks like Apple intends to start offering a Netflix-like, TV and movie subscription service. More here.

On the iPhone, iPad and Apple TV we think this will be delivered via the TV app, so we'd expect to see something like that on the Mac too.

Dark mode

New code in WebKit suggests that macOS 10.14 will get a system-wide dark mode. This particular code will adapt rendering of a website in reaction fo Dark Mode settings.

A Dark Mode is nothing new in macOS, as it's been available since El Capitan, notes 9to5Mac, but this will bring the Dark Mode to all apps, system-wide.

Currently Dark Mode adjusts the colour of the menu bar and dock, but little else. The Dock's translucent background becomes darker, the menu bar's drop-down menus are darker (although still translucent).

However, not all third-party apps offer support for the dark menu bar, and even some Apple apps, such as Safari, feature a bright translucent sidebar. Read more about Dark Mode on the Mac here.

Currently developers have to opt into Dark Mode and their apps won't have the same translucent effect on their menus. The code suggests that Dark Mode will be applied system-wide when requested by the user.

Time Machine

We’d like to see some changes to the way Time Machine works in macOS 10.14. Users have been calling for a way for Time Machine backups to be stored in the cloud. After all, our iPhones are backed up to iCloud so why can’t our Macs be?

You may already have your Mac set up to store the contents of your Desktop and Documents folders in iCloud, the Time Machine backup could be the next step in moving our data to a location where we can download it all from should our Macs be stolen or stop working.

We will mention APFS in more detail below, but in terms of Time Machine, APFS could bring some changes. Currently, Time Machine uses the older HFS+ file system.

This is because Time Machine currently relies on directories, and creates hard links to them. APFS doesn’t support hard links to directories, it creates symbolic links (or aliases) instead.

So Time Machine has to use HFS+ to work right now, but in the next version of macOS, Apple could update Time Machine to use APFS snapshots for file linking, rather than hard links.

APFS on Fusion Drives

High Sierra bought with it a new file system - APFS. APFS made duplicating a file and find the size of a folder instantaneous, offered built-in encryption, and saved space. However, it still doesn’t work with Fusion Drives.

Hopefully, Fusion Drives will get APFS in the next version of macOS. In May 2018 Apple’s Craig Federighi  responded to a Mac user who asked whether APFS was ever going to make it to the Fusion Drive, saying “We intend to address this question very soon,” via MacRumors.

“Very soon” could indicate that the company will be talking about APFT as WWDC in June.

MacOS 10.14 System requirements

The fact that the next very of macOS won't support 32-bit apps also hints that there may be a few more Macs that aren't supported either.

Another clue as to which Macs might not be supported is Metal. Macs that don't have Metal support could get dropped after High Sierra.

This could leave only the following Macs:

  • iMac models from 2012 or later
  • MacBook models from 2015 or later
  • MacBook Pro models from 2012 or later
  • MacBook Air models from 2012 or later
  • Mac mini models from 2012 or later
  • Mac Pro models from late 2013

This seems unlikely this soon though. So we think it's more likely that we might see the following Macs supported.

  • Early 2011 or newer MacBook Pro with Thunderbolt
  • Early 2011 or newer iMac with Thunderbolt
  • Late 2017 iMac Pro with Thunderbolt
  • Mid 2011 or newer Mac mini with Thunderbolt
  • Early 2015 or newer MacBook with USB-C
  • Mid 2011 or newer MacBook Air with Thunderbolt
  • Late 2013 Mac Pro with Thunderbolt

You'll notice what that last option means - no more cheese grater Mac Pro support. Apple had better hurry up and launch it's Mac Pro successor.

Concept images from UXplanet.