iOS 15.4: here’s everything we know so far

After the truly tiny update that was iOS 15.3, we're now learning about iOS 15.4, and thankfully this already looks to be a much, much bigger update for Apple's operating system.

The first four betas are out now for developers, and with them comes news of several big included features, such as the long-awaited Universal Control, Face ID functionality with a mask, and more.

With rumors of a March event by Apple, it was finally confirmed, with a March 8 date with the title 'Peak Performance', perhaps hinting to new Macs, but it wouldn't be a stretch to consider 15.4 releasing on the same day as the event.

Below we've detailed everything we know about iOS 15.4, including when it's likely to launch, and we'll be updating this article when we hear more, so check back soon.

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? The latest iOS release
  • When is it out? The beta is out now, we expect the finished version on March 8
  • How much will it cost? It’s free

iOS 15.4 release date and compatibility

iOS 15.4 is already available, but only in beta form, and only for developers. While you don't technically have to be a developer to grab this version, we'd recommend at least waiting for the public beta, and if you want it to be bug-free then you should wait for the finished release.

We're generally seeing roughly a four to six-week gap between new iOS versions, which means that given iOS 15.3 landed on January 26, we'll probably see the finished version of iOS 15.4 sometime around the confirmed March 8 event.

As for compatibility, it's exactly the same as every other version of iOS 15, meaning that if you're on iOS 15 or above you'll be able to get iOS 15.4 as well. Specifically, that's all handsets from the iPhone 6S onwards, including the iPhone SE (2020) and the original iPhone SE, plus the iPod touch (7th gen).

A selection of iOS 15 screenshots showing how the software works

(Image credit: Apple)

iOS 15.4 features

Thanks to the betas we know many of the features that will probably arrive in iOS 15.4. However, it's possible that there might be other features too, or that some of these won't ultimately make the cut.

Face ID with a mask

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The Covid-19 pandemic presented a problem for iPhones, as with the whole world suddenly wearing masks, Face ID wasn't always viable. Apple addressed this problem a while back by allowing your iPhone to unlock if you were wearing an Apple Watch, but with iOS 15.4 it seems to have properly fixed the issue.

The iOS 15.4 beta allows you to set Face ID to work even when you're wearing a mask, by having it just scan the visible parts of your face, such as your eyes. The second beta has also improved this feature slightly, by instructing users how to position their eyes when unlocking the phone.

Apple warns that this is less accurate, and we'd assume also less secure, but it's a way to properly use Face ID with a mask on. It's also optional, so if you'd rather keep doing things the current way, you can disable this feature.

Universal Control

WWDC 2021 screenshot

(Image credit: Apple)

Universal Control is technically more of an iPadOS 15.4 feature than an iPhone one, as it allows users to connect an iPad to a Mac and use a single mouse and keyboard across both devices, with the iPad’s display being like an extension of the Mac’s.

This feature has been a long time coming, as we first heard about it back at WWDC 2021, but it's finally arrived in the iPadOS 15.4 beta.

New emoji

A selection of the new emoji added with iOS 15.4

(Image credit: Emojipedia / Apple)

If, somehow, you feel that there just aren't enough emoji yet, then iOS 15.4 could help, as the beta includes 37 new ones, along with 75 skin tone variations for better inclusivity.

New emoji, some of which you can see above, include a biting lip, a melting face, heart hands, and many more.

Anti-stalking measures for AirTag

Apple AirTags

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Apple has a whole range of measures planned to prevent unwanted AirTag tracking, and the first of those have arrived in an iOS 15.4 beta. These include a warning when setting up AirTag that using one to track someone unknowingly is illegal, and that AirTag is designed to be detectable and for law enforcement to be able to link it to the owner.

It also includes clearer identification of devices, so you shouldn't get any ‘Unknown Accessory Alerts’.

A new Siri voice

One of the iOS 15.4 betas includes a new voice for Siri. This is a fifth option under the 'American' category. So it's an English language voice, and specifically in a US accent. This is a female voice, and you can hear a sample of it below.

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Tap to Pay

Apple recently announced plans for a Tap to Pay feature, which would turn your iPhone into a contactless payments terminal, and the second iOS 15.4 beta adds frameworks for developers to enable this service in their apps.

Notes in iCloud Keychain

If you use iCloud Keychain then you'll now be able to add notes alongside any password. This is a fairly standard feature of password managers, so it's been a long time coming and is good to see.

Apple Card widget

If you use Apple Card, then with iOS 15.4 you'll be able to add a widget for it to the Today view. This will display your balance, your available funds, and your daily spending across various categories.

Digital IDs in the Wallet app

Apple Wallet state ID

(Image credit: Apple)

Before we move on to smaller features, here's a big feature that there’s not actually any sign of in iOS 15.4 yet, but which might be included, since we know it’s being worked on.

This feature would allow US users to add their driver’s license or state ID to the Wallet app, and it would then be accepted at TSA checkpoints in select airports, with retailers, events and venues eventually expected to add support for these digital IDs too.

However, even once this feature is added, the roll out looks likely to be slow. It’s going to land on a state-by-state basis in the US (with Arizona, Georgia, Connecticut, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Oklahoma, and Utah looking to be first in line), and there’s no word on exactly if or when the feature will expand to other countries.

Other features

Beyond the features above, all sorts of smaller tweaks and improvements have also been found in iOS 15.4.

These include the ability to turn off notifications for Personal Automations in Shortcuts if you don't want to be alerted about them, set up custom email domains directly from iCloud Mail on the iPhone (if you have an iCloud Plus subscription), activate SharePlay from the Share Sheet, and customize the left and right corner swipe gestures in the Notes app.

You can also choose whether to show still frames or poster art in the Up Next section of the TV app, use your iPhone to sign in to passkey-compatible websites and apps on your iPad or Mac, and make use of what Apple describes as 'new DualSense adaptive trigger firmware features' when you've paired Sony's latest controller with your phone.

Plus, those in the EU can now add their Covid vaccine cards to the Wallet app, and there's also evidence in the iOS 15.4 beta that Apple is working on a 'Cosmetic Scan' feature, which would be used to check your iPhone for damage when trading it in.

Bug fixes

New versions of iOS almost always come with bug fixes, and iOS 15.4 is no exception. One such fix is that third-party apps will now display animations at 120Hz when using the iPhone 13 Pro or iPhone 13 Pro Max, which in some cases they weren't doing previously.

The second iOS 15.4 beta also fixes a bug that caused Siri to record and store interactions from a 'small portion' of iPhone users, even if they opted out.

We'd expect other bugs have been fixed too, but we're not sure which ones.

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Surprise Windows 11 update fixes some of our biggest issues – here’s how to get it

Microsoft has just released a much-publicised Windows 11 update that finally brings Android apps to your PC, but the company has also slipped out a surprise update. Windows 11 Build 22557 brings some really cool new features – and addresses many of our complaints.

Unlike the recent update, which is available to all Windows 11 users, and had a blog post from none other than Microsoft’s Panos Panay, Chief Product Officer, Windows + Devices, Windows 11 Build 22557 has only been released on the Nickel Release branch. This is an active development branch that allows developers to get access to early versions of the operating system to help ensure their apps and products work well with the update.

Usually, we wouldn't pay attention to these kind of updates, but this one is noteworthy as it gives us an idea of what will be coming in Windows 11’s major update later this year, which is currently known as Windows 11 22H2.

It also brings some tweaks and fixes to Windows 11 that many of us have been waiting for since the operating system’s launch last year.

Start menu showing pinned apps organized into folders.

(Image credit: Microsoft)

New features coming to Windows 11

One of the biggest features that’s arrived in Windows 11 Build 22557 is the ability to drag and drop files onto an app in the Taskbar in order to quickly open the file in the chosen app. It’s a handy feature in previous versions of Windows that many people use every day, so the fact that it wasn’t included in Windows 11 frustrated a lot of users.

Adding app shortcuts to the Windows 11 Taskbar is also getting easier, as you’ll be able to drag and drop apps from the Start menu to the Taskbar, automatically pinning them there.

The Windows 11 Start menu is also getting updated, and will get support for folders. Again, this is a handy feature that has been present in previous versions of Windows, and its absence in the latest version was certainly perplexing.

Folders in the Windows 11 Start menu will can be created by dragging and dropping one app onto another, and these folders can be named for easier organization.

As we expected, Focus Assist is getting a big overhaul. In the new update, it’s now just called “Focus” and will allow you to easily mute notifications from some apps and start a “Focus Session” with a focus timer and calm music from Spotify. This allows you to minimize distractions when you need to focus.

Microsoft has also introduced a useful accessibility feature known as Live Captions which cleverly displays subtitles for any audio content you play.

Live captions (launched from Quick Settings Accessibility flyout) generating captions for a video playing in the web browser.

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Other tweaks include the ability to pin files to the Quick Access part of Windows Explorer (which yo can already do with folders), and integration between Windows 11 and services such as OneDrive and have been improved.

Snap Layouts for quickly organising your desktop have got a new design and animations, and the useful Task Manager tool has got a visual makeover as well to better fit in with Windows 11’s aesthetic.

Analysis: should you download this Windows 11 update now?

Windows 11 Build 22557 certainly sounds like a feature-packed update that will address many of our problems with the operating system. But how do you get the update right now – and should you?

As we mentioned earlier, this is a preview build for developers, and that means you can’t just go into the Windows Update tool and find it there.

Instead, you’ll first need to sign up to the Windows Insider Program and then choose to join the Dev channel. You can find out more about doing this at Microsoft’s Windows Insider website.

Once signed up, you should be able to download and install Windows 11 Build 22557.

However, we recommend that you think carefully before doing this. As exciting as the new features sound, because this is an early build there will likely be bugs and unfinished features that could cause problems for your computer.

So, for most people, we’d recommend holding on tight until the official release of Windows 11 22H2 arrives, which will be some time in the second half of 2022. This will hopefully give Microsoft a chance to iron out any problems, making the wait for these much-needed Windows 11 improvements worthwhile.

Via Windows Latest

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The new-look Gmail has landed – here’s all you need to know

Google has given users their first proper view of the new-look Gmail as the company looks to bring a host of its top products into one place.

The company recently revealed that Gmail was set for a major makeover that would provide users with a one-stop shop for all their communication needs – whether via email, video conferencing, or instant messaging – without them having to open up extra tabs or windows.

The rollout of the new Gmail appears to have already begun, with the company saying that users with personal Google accounts and those on Rapid Release domains are able to access it now.

Gmail update

This new-look Gmail brings the likes of Google Chat, Spaces and Meet into a new, integrated view, the company revealed in a guide on its Gmail Help blog.

As well as this integrated view, the new Gmail will allow users to view specific app menus in a collapsible panel, and get alerts for new Chat and Space messages through notification bubbles. 

Gmail integrated view

(Image credit: Google)

Going forward, all Google apps in Gmail will be situated in a single menu on the left of the screen. Users can switch between them by clicking on an app's menu, or point to an icon to see a preview, with the new collapsible panel able to be hidden or displayed with a click at any time.

Google also notes that individual and group chat messages can be accessed from the Chat tab, including opening into a small pop-up window at the bottom of your screen.

Finally, notifications will now appear on the bottom left corner as a bubble whenever you get a new chat or space message, with a preview displaying when you point at the bubble. Clicking on the bubble will allow users to open the message and reply directly from the chat or spaces tab, or open up a small pop-up window for a more concrete view.

Or if you'd rather just forget this method of communicating, notification bubbles can be turned off with a few clicks.

Google says it is now preparing a wider rollout over the next few weeks, with Scheduled Release domains next to begin receiving the new look on February 28.

Once launched, users will be able to enable the new view by navigating to Settings > Quick Settings > Try out the new Gmail view, then in the new window, clicking Reload.

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Here’s how you can save Wordle offline and play for years to come

While Wordle has been bought by the New York Times for an undisclosed amount, a method has been discovered to play the game offline for years to come, while still being able to share your daily results as normal.

Since the debut of Wordle in November 2021, which was meant by Josh Wardle to be used as a way of keeping in touch with his partner, it’s grown into over 300,000 users playing a day. Sharing your score to Twitter has been a big part of this, with it being unlikely to log on to the social website and not see a tweet with green and white dots.

But some users have been anxious as to how their winning streak would continue, once the buyout by the New York Times is complete. In the past, some games have moved behind a paywall, requiring you to sign up. But while Wardle mentioned in a tweet that saving your streaks is in progress, users have already found alternate ways if the dreaded scenario comes true.

However, with countless copycats having appeared on the App Store, but still appearing on the Google Play Store, there’s a risk that we could see an influx of these once the sale is done.

A time capsule of January 2022

Across the years there have been other games that have taken off, similar to Wordle. Eventually, they either slowly faded away or were bought by another company.

Flappy Bird was one such game in 2013 before the developer took it down from both the Apple App Store and Google Play Stores. There was also Temple Run back in 2011, where there would be leaderboards between my friends and family as to how far we could run.

But Wordle has a userbase that wants to keep the daily routine of solving a word, then sharing it with friends and family. Users have discovered that saving the page in a web browser, will also store the words that are to come for many years.

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Launching this on Safari on my MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021) loaded up Wordle with no issues. I switched off the Wi-Fi, just in case it was trying to reach the site, but sure enough, the latest word was ready to be solved.

The only downside is that my streak is reset – but it’s a small price to pay for the changes that may be coming to Wordle soon.

Playing Wordle offline on a MacBook Pro

(Image credit: TechRadar)

I’m expecting a dedicated app to appear on most platforms – from the App Store to the Nintendo Switch in time. The New York Times will want to make the game available on more platforms than just the web. But as long as you can share those green and yellow marbles on social media, users may have no issue with this.

For the time being, Wordle is still the same as it was in December, but if you want to move to your PC or Mac to get ahead of the curve for the changes that may happen to the game in the coming months, it wouldn’t be a bad move.

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Wordle hard mode adds an extra layer of challenge – here’s how to turn it on

Wordle is the word-a-day game taking the internet by storm. The popular word game present a daily challenge in which you must guess a five-letter word in six guesses or fewer. Wordle will then keep track of your stats, including win rate percentage, and a breakdown of the number of tries it takes you to reach the correct answer each day.

While Wordle's strict ruleset already makes the game quite challenging, there's actually a secondary mode tucked away in the options menu – for those wanting an even greater challenge. It doesn't change up the words you'll be guessing in any way, but it does impose further restrictions that could make your Wordle experience that much tougher.

Under normal rules, Wordle will notify you of letters you've guessed correctly. A green tile indicates you've got the right letter in the right place, while a yellow tile tells you that letter is in the word, albeit in a different spot. Meanwhile, a greyed out tile tells the player that letter isn't in the word at all.

That's also the case on hard mode, but there's one big difference. With hard mode, you're forced into using all the yellow tiled letters you've accrued so far. So for example, if you've guessed the word to be “CHIMP” and “I” and “M” flag as yellow, you'll be required to use those letters in your next guess.

To many of you, this may not seem like much of a restriction. After all, using the correct letters gives you a better chance of guessing the word, right? Well, yes and no. The more yellow letters you have in your guess, the fewer new letters you'll be able to play with on subsequent guesses, and this can be especially strict when you consider you only have six guesses to begin with.

Wordle on iOS

(Image credit: Wordle)

How to access Wordle hard mode

Activating hard mode on Wordle is simple enough, and just requires you to head into the site's settings menu. You can do so by tapping or clicking the cog icon in the top right of the screen. It's just right of the title, and next to the option to view your overall statistics.

Once you're in the settings menu, the very first option, “Hard Mode,” is what you're after. By turning that on, you'll now be required to use all correct letters you've uncovered in subsequent guesses.

The settings menu also contains options for a dark theme and a color blind mode for those who may need it. The former might be a good option to reduce eye strain if you tend to spend a lot of time thinking about each guess.

And that's it! With hard mode activated, you can back out of the settings menu and experience your daily Wordle challenge with added restrictions. Do note that there doesn't seem to be any added benefit to playing on hard mode, and it can be turned off at any time by simply re-entering the settings menu and tapping the option once again, reverting Wordle to its default rules.

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Google Play Games beta arrives for some Windows 11 users – here’s how to access it

Back in December, it was revealed that Google had plans to bring Android games to Windows 11 and Windows 10 systems in 2022. The company is ready to show more of its hand, with a small beta release of the Google Play Games service.

This means that eager gamers in Hong Kong, South Korea, and Taiwan have the chance to sign up and play their favorite Android games on Windows.

It's a move that sees Google competing directly with the Windows ecosystem for the Android component of Windows 11 that, in conjunction with the Amazon Appstore, gives users of the latest version of Windows the opportunity to install Android apps and games.

Google has developed a unique app that can be used to access a growing catalog of games, which includes Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, Summoners War, State of Survival: The Joker Collaboration, and Three Kingdoms Tactics. Although the app has not officially launched just yet, there is a beta program underway that can be used to get early access to it.

Cross platform gaming on Windows

With the app installed on a Windows PC, gamers will be able to play the cream of the gaming crop across mobile, tablet, Chromebook, and Windows PC devices – complete with the benefit of playing with a mouse and keyboard.

While sign-ups for Google Play Games beta are now open, they are only open to people in Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, so if you have accounts based in these countries, you're in luck. Otherwise, you may have to wait.

There's more information available here – otherwise, you'll just have to wait until Google launches Google Play Games to PC users worldwide.

As the company has confirmed that more countries having access will be announced soon, we suspect a bigger announcement of the service will come at this year's Google I/O, where Android 13 will most likely be announced.

Google has shared a video, showcasing what you can expect from Google Play Games:

While Google does promise that it “will have more to share on future beta releases and regional availability soon”, it's an intriguing stance from the company in avoiding the Microsoft Store completely, and it may lead to more categories from the Google Play Store, arriving on Windows 11 soon after.

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Microsoft has uncovered loads of Windows 11 security threats – here’s what you need to do

Microsoft has revealed that it has discovered several serious security vulnerabilities in Windows 11, as well as other versions including Windows 10.

The revelations came as part of January 2022’s ‘Patch Tuesday’ – the day of the month that Microsoft releases a swathe of patches to fix issues in its software.

While many of the vulnerabilities, which don’t just affect new versions of Windows, but also older versions such as Windows 8, Windows 7 and Windows Server 2019, were fixed with patches, six of the threats were highlighted as zero day threats.

While many security vulnerabilities are thankfully found and fixed before malicious users find and exploit them, zero day threats are vulnerabilities that are already out in the wild, which means they are particularly worrying.

In total, Microsoft announced the existence of 97 new exploits – which is certainly a troubling number. As a report in Forbes explains, Microsoft has limited the information about the zero day exploits to ensure it has time to address them before they are exploited. Microsoft believes that so far, there have not been any attacks using the vulnerabilities. Obviously, though, time is of the essence.

The zero day vulnerabilities are:

  • Critical – CVE-2021-22947 – Open Source Curl Remote Code Execution Vulnerability
  • Important – CVE-2021-36976 – Libarchive Remote Code Execution Vulnerability
  • Important – CVE-2022-21919 – Windows User Profile Service Elevation of Privilege Vulnerability
  • Important – CVE-2022-21836 – Windows Certificate Spoofing Vulnerability
  • Important – CVE-2022-21874 – Windows Security Center API Remote Code Execution Vulnerability
  • Important – CVE-2022-21839 – Windows Event Tracing Discretionary Access Control List Denial of Service Vulnerability (limited to Windows 10 and Windows Server 2019)

Of the 97 vulnerabilities, eight are labeled as ‘critical’, with 88 labeled as ‘important’. This means they are particularly dangerous, so users should make sure they are protected against them as soon as possible.

What should you do?

Microsoft’s warning is certainly troubling, but there’s no need to panic, as long as you take some precautionary steps. While the zero day threats are in the wild, they’ve not been used and Microsoft is actively working on fixes.

Meanwhile, it has also created patches for many of the other vulnerabilities. So, the best thing you can do right now is ensure that Windows 11 (or whichever version you have installed) is updated with the latest security patches.

They should download automatically, and If that’s the case you may see a prompt in the taskbar to restart your PC. You may also notice when you go to turn off your PC that there are options to ‘Update and restart’ and ‘Update and shut down’ – make sure you pick one of those.

You should also check to make sure there are no updates waiting for you. To do this, open up Settings and go to Windows Update > Check for Updates. If any are found, download and install them.

If you have any anti-virus or anti-malware software installed, make sure they are updated as well.

Hopefully Microsoft will continue to investigate and fix these vulnerabilities ASAP.

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