Face with Spiral Eyes – a new Apple emoji.
This week saw the release of iOS 14.4.1, a surprise update that focused on just one thing: fixing a serious bug. Read full details here. Unless there’s another bug that needs to be urgently squished, then iOS 14.5 is next up. And it’s an update worth waiting for. Here are the seven best things we know are coming.
1 Unlock your iPhone with your Apple Watch
This is easily the neatest update Apple has released mid-way through an iOS cycle, I’d say. You know how unlocking your iPhone when you’re wearing a face mask takes a lot longer? Even though Apple made the system offer you the passcode option much quicker than before. Tapping in those six digits feels somehow old-fashioned, right?
With iOS 14.5, if you’re wearing your Apple Watch, unlocking with a face mask on becomes blindingly fast again. Provided your Watch is passcode-enabled and you’ve selected Unlock with Apple Watch in Settings, the iPhone and Watch will work together. This means that when you glance at the phone screen the iPhone checks with the Watch that it’s okay to unlock.
It only unlocks the iPhone, it doesn’t verify Apple Pay purchases, for instance, so you can’t accidentally do more than you intend to. Anyway, if you have your Apple Watch on, you would maybe use that for Apple Pay.
Heart and couple – a new Apple emoji.
2 Emoji rush
Actually, I think all the new emoji are almost as cool as the unlock feature. Normally, we get a year’s worth of new emoji around the same time as the new iOS launches in one big deluge (though it has been known to land at the very end of an iOS cycle, too).
This time we’re getting a new set of emoji now, too. You can read full details of them here, but key ones include three new Smiley faces, including one that looks decidedly risqué, if you ask me. There are several hearts: one that’s on fire and one that’s bandaged, either meaning it’s broken or mending, perhaps. There are couples of every skin hue and gender or gender-neutral mix, and even a rock climber who’s now wearing a safety helmet. Oh, and the headphones emoji now looks entirely like Apple AirPods Max. That at least tells us the design of these headphones isn’t about to change, I guess.
3 App Transparency
This is also a very big thing. It means that when you you launch an app that collects your activity data or tracks you, you can turn off that option. This is controversial, but I’m looking forward to knowing what apps are doing and reacting accordingly. Read more about this in Kate O’Flaherty’s post, here.
4 Choose your music service
This is also quite a big deal. You can’t set a default music service in iOS, as you can with your web browser, for instance. However, when you say “Hey, Siri,” and ask your iPhone to play a favorite track, it will ask you which service you want it to use. If you pick Spotify, it will learn that preference. Apple has made clear that this is not the same as setting Spotify as default, rather that Siri is learning how you like to listen to stuff. So, you might like Spotify for music, Apple Podcasts for podcasts, Books for audiobooks and so on.
5 Podcasts redesigned
The Podcasts app gets a fresh lick of paint, so it looks a bit more like Apple Music. Controls are slightly changed so you no longer start playing by tapping a Podcast name. There’s a dedicated Play button for that and tapping the entry takes you to the details page. This is especially useful if you’re tapping on an entry with a long title where it can be hard to tell episodes apart.
6 Console controllers compatibility
If you have a PS5 or Xbox Series X, you can now use the controllers for these consoles with your iPad or iPhone. If you’re sick of tapping on unyielding glass to progress further in your favorite game, this is a godsend.
7 There’s lots more
For instance, you’ll be able to swipe to add songs to the queue in Apple Music. There’s AirPlay 2 support for Apple Fitness+ so you can use smart TVs without an Apple TV box. No onscreen metrics from your Apple Watch but better than nothing. Type to Siri is redesigned to be more intuitive. Siri can also call emergency services for you, which is handy if you can’t physically reach your iPhone, for instance.
So, when can you get it? Well, Apple has only said some time in the Spring. Technically, depending on what you think that means, it could be as soon as later this month.
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I’ve been writing about technology for two decades and am routinely struck by how the sector swings from startling innovation to persistent repetitiveness. My areas of