iOS: Apple has finally released its much-anticipated public version of iOS 11.4, which ushers in a few big improvements to the mobile operating system, including messages that (finally) synchronise across devices via iCloud, stereo pairing for its big HomePod speakers, AirPlay 2, and a bunch of new calendar features for Siri.
iOS 11 was released last week, and with it your iPhone and iPad (as long as its one of these models) got a ton of new features. There are so many, that navigating through them all can end up being a pretty daunting, and let's face it, confusing, task. Not sure how to learn it all? We've got your back. A bunch of us at Lifehacker have been putting the operating system through its paces, and have written a ton of great guides to some of the most interesting new stuff.
If you have automatic updates set up, then you might already have iOS 11.4. You can find out by tapping the Settings button on your iPhone or iPad and selecting "General", followed by "Software Update". If there's an update available for your device, you'll see it on the next page, as well as a button to "Download and install" it.
If you have a HomePod speaker, you can check for an update by opening up the Home app - easy as that. And you'll want to make sure your multiple HomePods have the latest update before you try using some of the audio-themed features in iOS 11.4. Here's a snippet of what you'll find in Apple's update:
Messages in iCloud
Announced during WWDC last year, Message in iCloud syncs your iMessages across devices. When you get a new device, your iMessages will automatically load up just as they were on your old one. More importantly, when you delete a message on your iPhone, it should show up deleted on your other devices as well. Since messages are saved to the cloud, they also won't fill up your phone's tiny hard drive any more.
The problem? They will definitely fill up your meagre free iCloud storage, giving you just one more reason to pay more Apple tax.
With AirPlay 2, you'll now have multi-room and stereo pairing for the HomePod and Apple TV - just like many of the other popular (and large) smart speakers you can buy. You can only use AirPlay 2 with the Apple TV and HomePod right now, but more AirPlay 2-compatible hardware is on the way, including some options from Sonos, Band & Olufsen, and Bose.
Now you'll be able to blast the same tunes on your television and all the other connected (AirPlay 2) speakers in your home, giving you a much more immersive audio experience. And if you're fancy enough to own two HomePods, you'll actually be able to use them both at the same time - and they will use fancy Apple algorithms to split the output and give you a truer sense of stereo sound.
In other words, you won't just be blasting an identical song at the same volume from two speakers instead of one.
Siri Calendar Queries
HomePod owners will now be able to ask Siri when they have something on their schedules - assuming your paired iPhone is up-to-date with your scheduling. You can also ask Siri to add a new meeting or another event to your calendar via your HomePod. However, in order for this feature to work, your phone will need to be on the same Wi-Fi network as your HomePod.
That shouldn't be a problem in most instances, but it's worth checking if your digital assistant is having trouble managing your schedule.