Apple Updates Roundup: iOS 14.5, Big Sur 11.3, Watch OS 7.3, and more

During Apple’s “Spring Loaded” event, it was announced that the next round of updates would come out the following week. Those updates are here, there are a lot of them, and we’re going to cover them.

iOS: Privacy, Mask Unlock, AirTag, and so much more

There were a lot of things expected in this update, but a lot of new stuff has been added as well.

Let’s start with the expected stuff. This update now adds a new permission. If Apps want to track your browsing and app activity across other apps, they’ll now be prompted to ask for you permission. This won’t prevent tracking within the app itself, just that app won’t be able to see as well what you’re doing in other apps that aren’t they’re own. An example is that Facebook can still see whatever you do in the Facebook app and within other apps they own (e.g. Instagram, WhatsApp, etc.), but they now won’t be able to see as much should you go to the Twitter app on your phone (unless you let them)

The improved Mask Unlock feature is available as well. If you’re out an about using an iPhone with FaceID, it can be annoying to either have to briefly uncover your face to unlock the phone or type in your code. But now if you have one of these phones AND you’re wearing you’re Apple Watch, you can choose to have your iPhone ping your Apple Watch and unlock it that way, similar to the way you can set this up on your Mac. If you don’t have an Apple Watch though this won’t help you much.

We now have the updated Podcasts app and AirTag support that Apple announced at the Spring Loaded Event.

Now there are a few new things that may surprise and excite some people. For one, if you are lucky enough to have a PlayStation 5 controller or Xbox Series X or Series S controller, they are now fully compatible with the Made for iDevice program and, by extension, your iPhone or iPad. Perhaps I’ll make that into a new video?

Apple Maps is now becoming more like Waze. You can now use Siri to report accidents, speed traps, and other road hazards through Siri. This works both in CarPlay and in regular Maps mode. I got to try it out while moving this week, and it worked well. There is also a new button in the Maps app while you’re using it.

And as usual there are several new emojis, including many different options interracial couple options for those emojis such as the couple together, the couple kissing, and the couple with kids.

And secretly you can set your default music streaming service with Siri. So if you ask Siri “Play Foo Fighters” it will ask you what music app of the ones installed on your device do you want it to default to from now on. You can always change this, and still specify if you want to use a separate app (example: “Play Foo Fighters on Pandora” or “Play Foo Fighters on Apple Music”.

There are a whole bunch of new things that we don’t have time to talk about them all, but the full patch notes can be found below:

Unlock iPhone with Apple Watch

  • Ability to unlock your iPhone X and later with Apple Watch Series 3 and later when you attempt to use Face ID while wearing a face mask

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
  • Precision Finding uses visual, audible, and haptic feedback to guide you directly to your nearby AirTag using Ultra Wideband provided by the U1 chip on iPhone 11 and iPhone 12 models
  • AirTag can be located by playing a sound via the built-in speaker
  • 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

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
  • Incoming calls can be announced with Siri, including who is calling, when you’re wearing your AirPods or compatible Beats headphones, and you can answer hands-free
  • Group FaceTime calls are supported by asking Siri to FaceTime a list of contacts or a group name from Messages
  • Emergency contacts can be called by asking Siri

Privacy

  • App Tracking Transparency lets you control which apps are allowed to track your activity across other companies’ apps and websites for ads or sharing with data brokers

Apple Music

  • Share your favorite lyrics using Messages, Facebook, and Instagram Stories, and subscribers can play the snippet in Messages without leaving the conversation
  • 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

5G improvements

  • Dual SIM support enables 5G connectivity on the line that’s using cellular data on iPhone 12 models
  • Smart Data Mode improvements further optimize your experience on 5G networks for better battery life and data usage on iPhone 12 models
  • 5G international roaming enabled on supported carriers on iPhone 12 models

News

  • Redesigned News+ tab 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

Maps

  • Accidents, hazards, or speed checks along your route can be reported by telling Siri on your iPhone or on CarPlay
  • Estimated time of arrival (ETA) can be shared when cycling or walking, in addition to driving, by asking Siri or tapping on the route card at the bottom of the screen, then tapping Share ETA

Reminders

  • Ability to sort reminders by Title, Priority, Due Date, or Creation date
  • Option to print your reminder lists

Translate

  • Translation playback speed can be adjusted by long pressing the play button

Gaming

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

Fitness+

  • Ability to stream audio and video content from Apple Fitness+ workouts to AirPlay 2-enabled TVs and devices

CarPlay

  • ETA in Apple Maps can be easily shared while driving with new Siri or keyboard controls in CarPlay

This release also fixes the following issues:

  • Messages at the bottom of the thread may be hidden by the keyboard under certain circumstances
  • Deleted messages may still appear in Spotlight search
  • Messages may persistently fail to send texts in some threads
  • Mail would not load new emails for some users until restarting the device
  • Call blocking and identification section may not appear in Phone settings
  • iCloud Tabs may not appear in Safari
  • iCloud Keychain could be prevented from turning off
  • Reminders created via Siri may be unintentionally set for early morning hours
  • Battery health reporting system will recalibrate maximum battery capacity and peak performance capability on iPhone 11 models to address inaccurate estimates of battery health reporting for some users (https://support.apple.com/HT212247)
  • Optimization to reduce the appearance of a dim glow that may appear at reduced brightness levels with black backgrounds on iPhone 12 models
  • AirPods audio routing to incorrect device for Automatic Switching
  • AirPods Automatic Switching notifications might be missing or duplicated

Mac: Second Verse, same as the first (and some M1 changes)

A number of changes in Big Sur 11.3 are the same as in iOS, such as AirTag Support, new emojis, Siri voices, support for the PS5 and Xbox Series controllers, etc. But there are some Mac specific things, particularly if you’re using an M1 Mac.

For one, any M1 Macs now have some new options when using iOS apps on the Mac, such as being able to resize the window and keyboard & mouse/trackpad support for games that support device tilt and game controllers. Hibernation support also comes to M1 Macs, making them more similar to their Intel counterparts.

On a more general note, if you’re signed into your Apple account on Big Sur 11.3, and you go to
“About This Mac”, you’ll now be able to see your remaining AppleCare warranty as well as being able to enroll eligible Macs from said section.

The last major note specific to Macs is that Safari now has some new options. Apple will now let you reorder the sections in Safari’s start page. Or if you don’t like it, Apple is now opening up so that you can allow Extensions to change your start page to something else, so apps like New Tab + could theoretically be used in Safari. Apple also is support Vorbis, WebM, and the new framework for voice recognition on websites.

Full patches notes can be found below:

macOS Big Sur 11.3 — Restart Required

macOS Big Sur 11.3 adds support for AirTag, includes iPhone and iPad app improvements for Macs with M1, introduces separate skin tone variations for emoji with couples, and adds more diverse voice options for Siri.

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
  • iCloud Keychain might not turn off
  • AirPods audio routing to incorrect device for Automatic Switching
  • AirPods Automatic Switching notifications might be missing or duplicated
  • External 4K monitors may not display in full resolution when connected over USB-C
  • Login window may not display properly after restarting Mac mini (M1, 2020)
  • The Dwell feature may not work in the Accessibility Keyboard

Some features may not be available for all regions or on all Apple devices, and require an Apple ID.
For more detailed information about this update, please visit: https://support.apple.com/kb/HT211896
For detailed information about the security content of this update, please visit: https://support.apple.com/kb/HT201222

Apple Watch: 

Apple Watch users will need to update to 14.5 before they can install watchOS 7.4. Afterwards though, they can get access to the new mask unlock feature, whereby if your Face ID capable iPhone detects you’re wearing a mask and your unlocked Apple Watch on your wrist, then it will unlock your phone. There are some protections to this, such as you will get a notice on the watch when this happens and can re-lock your phone from the Watch in case this was in error. Some more subtle protections include if the systems detect that your Watch is moving quickly away from the phone when the system is triggered, it will relock the phone. It’s also important to note while it will unlock the phone, this does not let you open any apps protected by Face ID, such as financial apps.

If you don’t care about that, there are some other features. Australian and Vietnamese users now have access to ECG and irregular heart rhythm notifications. Users now have the option to clasify sepcific Bluetooth devices as headphones to help forward audio notifications.

Speaking of forwarding stuff, Apple Fitness+ users also have more options to cast workout content to AirPlay 2 capable TV’s and devices.

Full Patch notes are below:

watchOS 7.4 includes new features, improvements, and bug fixes, including:

  • Ability to unlock your iPhone X and later with Apple Watch when you attempt to use Face ID while wearing a face mask
  • Option to classify Bluetooth device type in Settings for correct identification of headphones for audio notifications
  • Ability to stream audio and video content from Apple Fitness+ workouts to AirPlay 2-enabled TVs and devices
  • Support for the ECG app on Apple Watch Series 4 or later in Australia and Vietnam
  • Support for irregular heart rhythm notifications in Australia and Vietnam

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

Apple TV: More than just bug fixes

For the first time in a while, Apple TV got an update that was more than just bug fixes and security updates. The big new feature was the one announced at the Spring Loaded event, which is the new “Color Correction” feature. When started, you will hold your FaceID enabled phone up to the box highlighted on the Apple TV screen. The area will then flash colors at various tones, which the Face ID cameras will read and relay back what tone it actually sees. After it’s done, the Apple TV will adjust its color output to the TV to compensate for the TV screen’s settings, and give you a more accurate picture. Note this doesn’t actually change a TV’s settings, such as brightness or contrast, which is not capable at this time, but the screen will look a bit better now. This feature is capable on both 4K and HD Apple TV units.

Siri is getting a number of updates in this patch too. This also brings in support for the new Siri Remote on all supported Apple TV’s. Austrian German, Ireland English, and New Zealand English are now supported by Apple TV’s instance of Siri. And you can type into Siri via the onscreen keyboard, your phone’s keyboard, or a Bluetooth Keyboard with Siri.

Like the iPhone and iPad, Apple TV now has the option to automatically free up space by removing apps you haven’t used in a while. It does retain data on the device and the icon, just the app itself is gone, and will be reinstalled if you click on the app in question. The feature is turned on by default, so you’ll have to go into Settings to enable it.

And like the other counterparts, the PS5 and Xbox Series controllers are now supported with Apple TV.

What’s new in tvOS 14.5

  • Color balance: Use your iPhone to measure your television’s color balance, and Apple TV will adjust to produce more accurate colors onscreen. Go to Settings > Video and Audio > Calibration. This feature requires iPhone with Face ID and iOS 14.5 or later.
  • Siri:* Siri now understands German in Austria and English in Ireland and New Zealand.
  • Type to Siri: Use the onscreen keyboard, iPhone, iPad, or a Bluetooth keyboard with Siri. Search for movies, launch apps, and more. To turn on, go to Settings > Accessibility.
  • Home screen: Free up space on your Apple TV by automatically removing apps that you’re not using. Your data is saved, apps stay visible, and apps will download again when used. To turn on, go to Settings > Apps.
  • Game controllers: Support for the latest PlayStation DualSense and Xbox Wireless controllers. 

*Siri availability and functionality vary by country or region.

Other Systems:

If you’re using a HomePod, there is a batch of security updates to 14.5, though nothing much new in the feature realm.

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. Catalina and Mojave users received similar security patches to Big Sur, as well as to Safari 14.1.

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