All the Best New iPhone and Mac Features Worth Knowing About

All the Best New iPhone and Mac Features Worth Knowing About
Photo: nikkimeel, Shutterstock

Apple released its newest updates for iPhone, iPad, and Mac today. These Pi-Day updates — on iOS 15.4, iPadOS 15.4, and macOS 12.3 — come with a bunch of awesome new features, and you’ll want to update as soon as possible to try them all out. While you wait for the updates to download, however, check out what’s new.

As Apple blurs the lines between these three devices, many of the features in all three updates are identical. As such, we’ve covered all systems as one in this post. Any time there’s an iPad or Mac-exclusive feature, we’ll make sure to note that.

Universal Control (iPadOS 15.4 and macOS 12.3)

Without a doubt, one of the biggest features of this update cycle is Universal Control. It’s finally here, giving users the ability to work between their Macs and iPads simultaneously with ease.

It works like this: You place an iPad running iPadOS 15.4 next to a Mac running macOS 12.3. So long as both devices are connected to wifi, and are both logged into the same Apple account, you can drag a cursor from one display to another, allowing you to control two devices with one mouse and keyboard.

It sounds too good to be true, but it really works, without the need for cables, connections, or any setup at all. To be clear, this is an iPad/Mac feature, not an iPhone feature, which isn’t a major surprise. Still, it would be cool to be able to switch to an iPhone with a physical keyboard. Maybe Apple will add that functionality one day.

Unlock your Face ID iPhone while wearing a mask (iOS 15.4)

Let’s turn our focus now to big iPhone updates, and this one’s huge. With iOS 15.4, you can now unlock your Face ID iPhone while wearing a mask, eliminating a frustrating feature of pandemic life.

Now, Apple has attempted to address this problem in the past, allowing us with Apple Watches to use those wearables to unlock our iPhones while wearing a mask. However, that feature excluded the many iPhones users that don’t have an Apple Watch, so this update is a welcome addition.

That said, it’s only available for iPhone 12 and newer, which is a real shame. There’s certainly some increased processing power to make such a feature happen, but I have a hard time believing the iPhone 11 couldn’t handle it.

Use Apple Pay and autofill while wearing a mask (iOS 15.4)

Similarly, you can now use both Apple Pay and autofill in apps and Safari while wearing a mask, as long as you have an iPhone 12 or newer. It might be limited to a small pool of iPhones, but for those iPhones, it’s a huge improvement in convenience.

Plenty of new emoji

I’ll admit it; I’m a sucker for new emoji. Apple’s latest updates give us 37 new icons to choose from, including Melting Face (sure to get plenty of use in 2022), Face with Peeking Eye, Face with Diagonal Mouth, as well as gender consistency updates, multi-racial handshakes, and more.

For a deep-dive on all the new emoji and changes to existing emoji, check out Emojipedia’s blog post here.

SharePlay integration with support apps (iOS 15.4)

This latest update introduces SharePlay integration with supported apps. This change allows you to start a SharePlay session from the app itself, rather than from the FaceTime call. That way, you don’t need to start a call, wrangle your friends together, then launch a SharePlay activity; you can initiate SharePlay right from the get-go.

Spatial Audio updates come to M1 Macs (macOS 12.3)

If you have a Mac with an Apple silicon chip (M1, M1 Pro, M1 Max, and soon-to-be M1 Ultra), you’ll be able to take advantage of dynamic head tracking in Music. With this feature, supported tracks will “follow” your head as you move, as if the sound was coming from your Mac. If you move your head to the side, it’ll seem like the source of the audio will change, unlike the traditionally stationary sound you might be used to.

In addition, you’ll find Spatial Audio controls (Off, Fixed, and Head Tracked) in Control Centre for supported AirPods.

MacBook battery readings are now more accurate (macOS 12.3)

Your MacBook’s battery capacity is the measurement of how much charge it can hold relative to when it was new. Knowing this information is useful: Once the battery has reached a certain age (usually 1,000 cycles or when it holds less than 80% the charge it used to), you should think about replacing it.

Apparently, Apple’s previous battery capacity readings weren’t as accurate as they could be. That changes with macOS 12.3. I didn’t know this was a problem before, but it’ll be interesting to see if my MacBook Pro’s battery capacity looks any different after updating.

There’s a new Siri voice

While Siri’s original voice might be iconic, the digital assistant has acquired many new ones over the years. This latest option is less explicitly male or female than previous choices, increasing the representation of Siri voices available to users.

Siri now works even better offline (iOS 15.4 and iPadOS 15.4)

Speaking of Siri, you’ll now be able to ask for date and time information while offline. In the past, this data was only accessible when Siri was connected to the internet. Now, so long as you have an iPhone XS or newer, or an iPad Pro with A12Z Bionic or later, you can ask for the date or time no matter where you are.

EU Digital COVID Certificate support (iOS 15.4)

The Health app now has EU Digital COVID Certificate support. With it, you can download vaccination and recovery records, as well as lab results. However, there’s still no support for IDs in Apple Wallet, a feature Apple promised with the initial release of iOS 15.

Enter notes for saved passwords

If you use Apple’s iCloud password manager, you might find this feature to be useful. With the latest update, you can now add notes for your saved passwords: Any miscellaneous information that might come in handy when referencing that password, you can enter here.

Add text to Notes and Reminders from the camera (iOS 15.4 and iPadOS 15.4)

Live Text is one of iOS 15’s most useful features. Apple’s latest updates build on that, allowing you to enter text in Notes and Reminders from the keyboard’s camera option. In a note or a reminder, tap the camera, then point at the text you’d like to move to your document. If you’re someone who’s used to typing out information from real-world items into notes and reminders, this feature should save you a lot of time.

Smaller features

In addition to the big features and changes you’ll notice right away, Apple tends to pack smaller tweaks into each update, as well. Here are some notable ones:

  • Safari webpage translation adds support for Italian and Chinese (Traditional).
  • Podcasts app adds episode filters for seasons, played, unplayed, saved, or downloaded episodes.
  • iCloud custom email domains can be managed from Settings.
  • News offers enhanced discovery of audio content in the Today feed and Audio tab.
  • Shortcuts now supports adding, removing, or querying tags with Reminders.
  • Emergency SOS settings have changed to use Call with Hold for all users. Call with 5 Presses is still available as an option in Emergency SOS settings.
  • Close-up in Magnifier uses the ultra-wide camera on iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max to help you see small objects.
  • Volume controls can be set to adjust as you rotate your iPad, on iPad (5th generation and newer), iPad mini (4th and 5th generation), iPad Air 2, iPad Air (3rd and 4th generation), and iPad Pro.

Bug fixes

Apple’s software is a generally solid experience, but there are still plenty of bugs to run into. If the company is to be believed, you shouldn’t encounter any of the following bugs after updating your iPhone, iPad, or Mac:

  • Keyboard may insert period between typed numbers.
  • News widgets in Today View may not open articles when tapped.
  • Photos and videos may not sync to iCloud Photo Library.
  • Speak Screen Accessibility feature may quit unexpectedly within the Books app.
  • Live Listen may not turn off when switched off in Control Centre.
  • Audio may sound distorted while watching video in the Apple TV app (macOS).
  • Some photos and videos may be unintentionally moved when organising albums in Photos (macOS).

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