Apple Updates Roundup: iOS 14.4, Watch OS 7.3, Apple TV 14.4, and more

Apple released a batch of updates to iOS, iPad OS, Watch OS, and Apple TV. At this time there are no Mac updates, but since Apple released a Release Candidate Update to Big Sur, then we might be seeing one soon. If so, I’ll update this article. Mac OS 11.2 and the security updates for have dropped as of February 1. In honesty, it feels a lot more like a 14.3.1 than 14.4, but probably there’s enough here for the new moniker. Regardless, here’s what we’ve got.

Mac: Changes to the Firewall and a lot of bug fixes

For Big Sur, let’s talk about a change that wasn’t in the Patch notes. Since Big Sur’s release, a change was in place where Apple’s own apps and services could bypass a user’s VPN or Firewall service as well as other security tools. Normally when using a VPN, all network traffic on your machine is routed through that VPN, typically for security or privacy purposes. However, Apple seems to have included many of its own apps in the ContentFilterExclusionList, meaning that they weren’t subject to a user’s VPN or third-party firewall tools, nor were they as easily inspectable by other security tools. While it’s likely these were put in place to make sure that Apple’s services and the base system were less likely to be compromised, it rubs users the wrong way that somehow Apple is above their own rules whatever their intentions. With 11.2, this List no longer contains Apple apps, and all will be subject to the user’s own networking tools.

The rest of 11.2 is primarily bug fixes, such as issues with external display on the new M1 Mac Mini, edits to the Apple ProRaw editing in Photos, and several other things not being enabled or disabled properly.

Full patches notes can be found below:

  • External displays may show a black screen when connected to a Mac mini (M1, 2020) using an HDMI to DVI converter
  • Edits to Apple ProRAW photos in the Photos app may not save
  • iCloud Drive could turn off after disabling the iCloud Drive Desktop & Documents Folders option
  • System Preferences may not unlock when entering your administrator password
  • Globe key may not display the Emoji & Symbols pane when pressed

For information on the security content of Apple software updates, please visit this website: https://support.apple.com/kb/HT201222

iOS: A few improvements and a bunch of fixes

iPhone 12 backs

2 new things revolve around the camera this time around. For one, the Camera app has improved abilities to read smaller QR codes. And for the new iPhone 12’s, Apple will give you a warning if you get the camera fixed, and it can’t verify if the camera is an authentic Apple one of not. This could be a double edged sword for independent repairs, much like the battery warning in a previous update. On the one hand, this could be a warning in the event that you do get it fixed and have problems caused by someone who didn’t use the proper components. Or if you have security concerns that some bad actor will open up your Apple device and install something in the camera that will keep it active and spying on you or send any videos or photos back to said bad actors, this could be a warning as well. On the other hand, this can also be seen as Apple trying to push users to only getting repairs at Apple stores, or Apple Authorized dealers, to push out cheaper independent repair shops and keep an iron grip on (and the money of) their users. The truth is probably a little of both. Apple does probably have legitimate concerns about security, and doesn’t want to users getting bad parts cheaply, then the iPhone stops working, and the user blames Apple. And if this helps Apple’s bottom line and control as well, they probably see it as a win-win.

On a lighter note, the QR scanning function built into the native camera app got an improvement with better scanning for smaller QR codes.

There are a bunch of security fixes and bug fixes as well, including times when the keyboard input might lag and the iPhone 12 Pro might have unusual artifacts in pictures taken.

Full Patch notes can be found below:

iOS 14.4 includes the following improvements for your iPhone:

  • Smaller QR codes can be recognized by Camera
  • Option to classify Bluetooth device type in Settings for correct identification of headphones for audio notifications
  • Notifications for when the camera on your iPhone is unable to be verified as a new, genuine Apple camera in iPhone 12, iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max

This release also fixes the following issues:

  • Image artifacts could appear in HDR photos taken with iPhone 12 Pro
  • Fitness widget may not display updated Activity data
  • Typing may be delayed and word suggestions may not appear in the keyboard
  • The keyboard may not come up in the correct language in Messages
  • Audio stories from the News app in CarPlay may not resume after being paused for spoken directions or Siri
  • Enabling Switch Control in Accessibility may prevent phone calls from being answered from the Lock Screen

For information on the security content of Apple software updates, please visit this website: https://support.apple.com/kb/HT201222

Apple Watch:  Black History, Audio exercise, and heart features in more countries

Apple Watch with Unity Watch face.  Source: 9to5Mac
Source: 9to5Mac

This update brings the ECG and irregular heart rhythm notifications to more countries, this time the ones being Japan, the Phillipines, and Thailand, as well as Mayotte, officially a department of France near the Comoros.

If you are using Apple Fitness+, you’ll now have a new audio experience when doing walking exercises. Special guests and teachers will share their stories while you walk all in audio format. The idea seems to be that these stories can help inspire you while you walk, which could help you push past any mental blocks and continue walking and performing your exercises.

Speaking of inspiring, the Apple Watch now has a new Watch face, called the Unity watch face. It’s meant to be in celebration of black history month and changes through out the day and as you move to create a uniquely designed face.

Full Patch notes are below:

watchOS 7.3 includes new features, improvements, and bug fixes, including:

  • Unity watch face—in celebration of Black history and inspired by the colors of the Pan-African Flag, this watch face changes throughout the day as you move creating a face that’s unique to you
  • Time to Walk for Apple Fitness+ subscribers—an audio experience in the Workout app where guests share inspiring stories as you walk
  • ECG app on Apple Watch Series 4 or later in Japan, Mayotte, Philippines, and Thailand
  • Irregular heart rhythm notifications in Japan, Mayotte, Philippines, Taiwan, and Thailand
  • Fix for an issue where Control Center and Notification Center may be unresponsive when Zoom is enabled

For information on the security content of Apple software updates, please visit this website: https://support.apple.com/HT201222

HomePod: Mostly for the Mini

HomePod Mini

Good news! There’s an update for the HomePod that adds more features! The bad news for anyone using the big HomePod, all the features are for the new HomePod Mini. This includes better handoff support with clearer effects (visually, audibly, and hapticly) when passing music and other audio to it from your iPhone. When your iPhone is near the Mini, you’ll also get music recommendations and media controls appearing on the lock screen when the HomePod is playing something independently of your phone.

Software version 14.4 includes bug fixes and the following new features with an Ultra Wideband (U1) equipped iPhone.

  • Hand off music with visual, audible, and haptic effects from iPhone to HomePod mini.
  • Get personalized listening suggestions on iPhone when it is next to HomePod mini.
  • Media controls automatically appear without having to unlock iPhone when it is close to HomePod mini

Apple TV: Bug Fixes

As usual, Apple is pretty mum on what’s new in the Apple TV updates. This just seems to be another batch of bug fixes and security updates, most of which are probably shared with the other Apple Systems.

Other Systems:

2 notable things are absent this time around. As previously mentioned, there are no Mac updates at the time of this posting, for Big Sur or the other supported systems. There was a release candidate for 11.2 that was released the day before, so perhaps there are some bugs that still need to be worked out that weren’t ready in time.

It’s also worth noting that there are no updates for iOS 13 or 12 in this batch of updates. Perhaps at the moment those are stable enough or don’t have the security flaws that the newer OS’s have due to the newer features. We’ll have to wait and see for now.

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