Five new features that iOS 15.4 brings to your iPhone and iPad

With Apple announcing its Mac Studio, the iPhone SE 3, the Studio Display, and more at its March 2022 event, the release for iOS 15.4 has followed a week after, available for your iPhone SE, iPhone 6S, and above.

iOS 15 was released in September 2021, and it brought SharePlay, widgets to iPadOS, Focus modes, and more, all focusing on a theme of productivity.

But Apple has been full steam ahead with .1 updates since then, as 15.1, 15.2, and 15.3 have all brought bug fixes and refinements to your iPhone and iPad.

With this in mind, here are five features that you can get acquainted with as iOS 15.4 downloads to your device.

1. Face ID with a mask

iOS 15.4 FaceID Mask

(Image credit: Future)

While Apple introduced a feature that would allow your Apple Watch to authenticate you by unlocking your phone, it wasn't helpful to those who didn't own a watch.

With iOS 15.4, you can enable an additional feature where you will be asked to scan your face while wearing a mask. The Face ID hardware will then recognize your eyes and facial features to unlock your phone instead.

2. Universal Control with iPadOS 15.4

Universal Control

(Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)

This is something that was announced at WWDC in 2021, Apple's yearly developer conference, but it was delayed from the latter half of 2021 to the release of iPadOS 15.4.

As long as you have a certain iPad model and a Mac running macOS 12.3 Monterey, you can use your mouse cursor across both devices, so you can drag and drop your content seamlessly.

If you're struggling to set Universal Control up, we've got a guide to help out with that.

3. New Emoji

iOS 15.4 Emoji

(Image credit: TechRadar)

A new update wouldn't be the same without new emoji, and this time there's a bunch you can use.

From a salute to different genders being pregnant, alongside many new hand gestures, there's plenty to choose from for your WhatsApp and Twitter messages.

4. Better anti-stalking measures for AirTag

iOS 15.4 AirTags

(Image credit: TechRadar)

When you set up a new AirTag in iOS 15.4, you will be greeted with a pop-up explaining that it's a crime to use it to track people, making users aware of its misuses across the world so far.

There's also better ways to manage its Notifications through the Find My app, so you can configure when the time-tracking alerts will arrive, alongside deciding whether to deliver all of its notifications right away or at a certain time of day.

5. Notes in iCloud Keychain

iOS 15.4 iCloud Keychain

(Image credit: TechRadar)

You've been able to save and sync your passwords in iCloud since 2019 with the release of iOS 13. But 15.4 allows you to add notes to your custom iCloud passwords through iCloud Keychain.

While it sounds like a small feature, it's significant due to other password apps having this for a number of years, and the ease of adding some extra reminders in these sections can help, especially if you have multiple accounts for the same site.

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Five new features that iOS 15.4 brings to your iPhone and iPad

With Apple announcing its Mac Studio, the iPhone SE 3, the Studio Display, and more at its March 2022 event, the release for iOS 15.4 has followed a week after, available for your iPhone SE, iPhone 6S, and above.

iOS 15 was released in September 2021, and it brought SharePlay, widgets to iPadOS, Focus modes, and more, all focusing on a theme of productivity.

But Apple has been full steam ahead with .1 updates since then, as 15.1, 15.2, and 15.3 have all brought bug fixes and refinements to your iPhone and iPad.

With this in mind, here are five features that you can get acquainted with as iOS 15.4 downloads to your device.

1. Face ID with a mask

iOS 15.4 FaceID Mask

(Image credit: Future)

While Apple introduced a feature that would allow your Apple Watch to authenticate you by unlocking your phone, it wasn't helpful to those who didn't own a watch.

With iOS 15.4, you can enable an additional feature where you will be asked to scan your face while wearing a mask. The Face ID hardware will then recognize your eyes and facial features to unlock your phone instead.

2. Universal Control with iPadOS 15.4

Universal Control

(Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)

This is something that was announced at WWDC in 2021, Apple's yearly developer conference, but it was delayed from the latter half of 2021 to the release of iPadOS 15.4.

As long as you have a certain iPad model and a Mac running macOS 12.3 Monterey, you can use your mouse cursor across both devices, so you can drag and drop your content seamlessly.

If you're struggling to set Universal Control up, we've got a guide to help out with that.

3. New Emoji

iOS 15.4 Emoji

(Image credit: TechRadar)

A new update wouldn't be the same without new emoji, and this time there's a bunch you can use.

From a salute to different genders being pregnant, alongside many new hand gestures, there's plenty to choose from for your WhatsApp and Twitter messages.

4. Better anti-stalking measures for AirTag

iOS 15.4 AirTags

(Image credit: TechRadar)

When you set up a new AirTag in iOS 15.4, you will be greeted with a pop-up explaining that it's a crime to use it to track people, making users aware of its misuses across the world so far.

There's also better ways to manage its Notifications through the Find My app, so you can configure when the time-tracking alerts will arrive, alongside deciding whether to deliver all of its notifications right away or at a certain time of day.

5. Notes in iCloud Keychain

iOS 15.4 iCloud Keychain

(Image credit: TechRadar)

You've been able to save and sync your passwords in iCloud since 2019 with the release of iOS 13. But 15.4 allows you to add notes to your custom iCloud passwords through iCloud Keychain.

While it sounds like a small feature, it's significant due to other password apps having this for a number of years, and the ease of adding some extra reminders in these sections can help, especially if you have multiple accounts for the same site.

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New Windows 11 update shows Microsoft still wants to take down the iPad

Microsoft has released a software preview for Windows 11 that will make using the operating system on tablet devices, and 2-in-1 laptops, much better.

As DigitalTrends reports, Windows 11 Insider Preview Build 22563, which has just been released to people signed up to receive early versions of Windows 11 to test, optimizes the taskbar on tablets and 2-in-1 devices.

In the new update, the taskbar now has two states: a collapsed and expanded mode. When the taskbar is collapsed, it appears much thinner, giving you more screen real estate and helping to prevent accidental presses of taskbar buttons.

Meanwhile, the expanded mode makes the taskbar wider, allowing you to select items more easily, such as apps, using the touch screen.

Switching between the two modes looks pretty easy as well, and is done by simply swiping your finger up or down at the bottom of the tablet’s screen where the taskbar resides.

It seems that this version of the taskbar will only be available on Windows 11 tablets and 2-in-1 laptops, which have touchscreens that either detach from the keyboard, or can be folded back, and used as a tablet. Desktop PCs and traditional laptops won’t get this new taskbar.

As it’s currently in a Preview Build, it also means that regular Windows 11 users won’t see it just yet. However, if testing goes well and there’s a positive reaction from Windows Insiders, we could see the feature appear in a Windows 11 update sometime in the future.


Analysis: Microsoft’s tablet ambitions remain

Pics of Microsoft 8 2-in-1 PC

(Image credit: Microsoft India)

This new update shows that Microsoft’s tablet ambitions remain undeterred. While its rivals Apple and Google have found immense success with tablet devices, Microsoft has yet to do the same. Its attempts to take on the mighty iPad and gain tablet market share have been a mixed bag.

There was the deeply unpopular Windows 8, which dropped much of the classic interface of Windows, including the taskbar and Start menu, for an interface with large icons that was aimed at tablet use. The problem was, Windows 8 tablets were largely ignored, and desktop and laptop users hated having to put up with an interface that was designed for touchscreens they didn’t have.

Microsoft found more success with its Surface Pro line of 2-in-1 devices, alongside Windows 10, which struck a more even balance with an interface that was better suited to traditional PCs, while also having a tablet mode.

However, Surface Pro sales still lag behind iPad and Android tablet sales, but it seems Microsoft isn’t giving up. If Windows 11 continues to evolve to work even better on tablet devices, then this could be Microsoft’s best bet yet to take on Apple and Google.

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Glass app trumps Instagram by bringing its photo-sharing network to iPad

Instagram's move away from its photographic core has left a spot open for enthusiast-friendly photo-sharing apps like Glass – and now that new contender has brought its glossy, magazine-like experience to iPad.

Glass 2.0 is now available for iPads running iPadOS 14.0 or later, although you'll still need to pay the monthly £4.49 / $ 4.99 or £24.99 / $ 29.99 annual subscription to access it. There's a two-week free trial to give you a taster, though.

As we discovered in our exclusive interview with the makers of Glass, this membership fee is partly a result of the developers' decision to forego venture capital investment, with the aim being to create a sustainable community.

Given what's happened to Instagram, and many other pretenders to its photographic throne, this seems a wise move – and the arrival of an iPad app in particular supports the idea of a photo-centric sharing space. 

The larger screen gives you a better view of painstakingly-crafted shots, and many photographers use iPads anyway as part of their in-the-field editing workflow thanks to apps like Lightroom. Strangely, Instagram has never launched a dedicated iPad app and, last year, said that one is unlikely to arrive anytime soon.

Since its launch six months ago, Glass has added new features including categories and 'appreciations' for liking photos, but there's no algorithm running behind it to organize your feed. Instead, you get the chronological feed that Instagram has hinted will be returning to its app in 2022.

The Glass team will also be launching a web-based version of its app, to rival the likes of Flickr, with a beta version expected to arrive in March or April.


Analysis: A pricey but polished Instagram alternative 

The Glass app on iPad

(Image credit: Glass)

Our early experience with the Glass iPad app is that it's a little buggy, with the app having a tendency to crash on our iPad Air. But we're sure these wrinkles will be ironed out and the app certainly has potential on the bigger screen of Apple's tablets.

Sadly, there's no Android version in the works just yet, with Glass' maker stating that its focus is currently on launching Glass for Web over the next few months. But if you're an iOS fan and photographer, the free trial is certainly worth a spin.

There is currently a gap between Instagram – which we've previously argued is broken for photographers – and veteran platforms like Flickr, which is big on community but lacks the polish of Glass.

There's no doubt the £4.49 / $ 4.99 monthly or £24.99 / $ 29.99 subscription fee is pretty high and could be off-putting for anyone who's bank balance is currently enduring death by a thousand subscriptions.

But the flip-side is that the ad-free Glass is being developed by a small team of photography enthusiasts who are keen to avoid the bloat and e-commerce traps that have lured Instagram away from its photographic heritage.

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Universal Control blasts open the door between Mac and iPad for an eye-opening experience

Are macOS and iPadOS becoming one? Not exactly, but the arrival of Universal Control on iPad OS 15.4 Beta and macOS Monterey 12.3 Beta pierces the thinning barrier between the two.

The update, which may take weeks to arrive for general download, connects a Mac and iPad and creates an open road for your cursor to travel from one interface to the other without breaking a sweat.

There are some small hoops to jump through, like signing in to all the devices with the same Apple ID and verifying that you want to connect these systems, but you only do that once. After that, Universal Control gives you a double-wide desktop, albeit one with some significant limitations.

Universal Control

Both systems, the iPad and MacBook appear in the display settings. (Image credit: Future)

Universal Control might remind some of Apple’s Sidecar for macOS, which Apple introduced a few years ago. It’s similar but less of a two-way street than Universal Control. It extended the Mac desktop onto the iPad, which more or less put the iPadOS to sleep in the background. It was a bit more than that, though, in that you could use your finger on the iPad like a mouse and, if you had an Apple Pencil, use it to draw on some macOS apps much in the same way you would on an iPad.

After I installed the latest development betas and set up my iPad Pro 12.9 and MacBook Air M1 with the Universal Control, I found I could instantly move my cursor on the Mac to the left, see a little control bar appear along the edge of my iPad display (it appears only upon the initial connection), and slip right through the ether to the iPad screen. After that, the door is more a less open for dual-platform operations. I can even grab, say, an image and drag it from the Photo app on the Mac into Procreate running on the iPad. I could not, however, drag and drop images from my Mac desktop into a Mail window open on the iPad. They would drag to the screen, but then disappear instead of appearing in the message.

There’s still the ability to extend or mirror your Mac display onto the iPad, though it’s hidden under Advanced settings. This offers the added benefit of being able to drag over complete application windows from one screen to the other. When I use Universal Control to move my mouse between platforms, it puts the iPad to the left of my Mac. Switching to screen extension expands the Mac display on the opposite side.

Universal Control

Some of the settings to control how much dual screen interaction you get through Universal Control. (Image credit: Future)

Screen extension also turned off the iPad’s Magic Keyboard trackpad but, like Sidecar, it still lets me use the Apple Pencil. I can even enable the Pencil’s double tap in the settings.

In Universal Control’s “Linked Keyboard and Mouse Mode” I can also use the keyboard on the Mac to take notes on Note on the iPad, while also using the same keyboard to take notes in another instance of Notes on the Mac. That’s an instant doubling of my productivity power. I can do it in reverse, as well, using the iPad's Magic Keyboard to type on either screen.

Universal Control

Universal Control in action (Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)

The ability to connect the two disparate OSes and use one keyboard and mouse to control all of it is, as some have noted, magical. It’s also still limited. Until I can drag complete windows and Mac or iPad Apps from one screen to the other, this universe will still feel relatively small.

It’s early days, of course. The beta’s not done, and Apple may refine and add some features before it arrives as a fully baked set of updates.

Ever since Apple started positioning the iPad as a productivity tool and not simply a content consumption device, it’s been transforming iPadOS – like adding mouse and trackpad support – to better support that notion.

Universal Control is another exciting, big step in a long-term effort to make the marriage between iPad OS and macOS seamless.

 Will they ever become one platform? I think it’s still too soon to tell.

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Fix for critical Safari bug out now: iPhone, iPad and Mac users should update immediately

Apple has rolled out new versions of its iOS, iPadOS and macOS operating system, patching up a major security flaw in Safari across all of its devices.

This bug leaked users' Google data and browsing history that's stored within the browser, so if you're an Apple user, we recommend you update the operating system on your devices immediately.

The updates include iOS 15.3, iPadOS 15.3 and macOS Monterey 12.2, and while they don't add any new features other than “bug fixes and security updates”, they're still “recommended for all users”.

Apple has also released updates for Big Sur and Catalina (v11.6.3 and Catalina Security Update 2022-001 respectively) for anyone still on the older versions of macOS.

All patched up

Those aren't the only software updates released by Apple – watchOS 8.4, tvOS 15.3, and HomePod Software 15.3 have also been rolled out publicly.

The updated watchOS also fixes some bugs, particularly the issue that prevented some Apple Watch 7 users from properly charging their devices when using specific chargers.

Meanwhile, the latest HomePod update adds “performance and stability improvements” and Siri voice recognition for up to six users. It's worth noting that this particular update is region specific and applies to users speaking in English in India and in Italian.

As for the newly updated tvOS, Apple hasn't shared any details on what the latest version brings, but we can assume it's another round of performance improvements.

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10 best widgets for iPhone and iPad: our picks for the top choices

One of the best features of iOS and iPadOS is the ability to add widgets to your home screen. The fact that you can place them pretty much anywhere you want gives users more control over customization than ever before.

With widgets available for just about anything you can think of the sheer number of options can make this a slightly bewildering proposition. Which ones do you choose? How do you know if they are any good? 

That’s why we’ve put together a list of some of our favorite widgets, to help you narrow it down a bit. Here are our picks for the best widgets for iPhone and iPad.

What is a widget?

If you’ve never used these before, a widget is basically an extension of an app. It provides a window that gives specific information from the app at a glance, so you don't have to open the app to find what you're looking for. Widgets exist for pretty much anything you can imagine – weather, photography, fitness, news, or stocks and shares, to give just a few examples.

While there are some widgets preinstalled on the iPhone and iPad, many apps offer the option of adding a widget once you’ve downloaded them. This massively widens your choice and allows you to personalize your selections to really fit your needs. To start you off, here are some that we recommend. 

10. Night Sky

Night Sky iOS Widgets

(Image credit: Night Sky)

Night Sky is an app that tells you all about the heavens. Use it to learn about stars, planets, satellites, and more, with the aid of augmented reality and other great features.

The widget is relatively basic but will let you know about any upcoming and live events, passing satellites, and the time of sunrise and sunset each day. It’s a great combo for anybody who wants to know a little bit more about the wonders of the universe. (The only thing missing is a voiceover from Professor Brian Cox.) The premium version has even more widgets to offer on top.

9. Photo Widget: Simple

Photowidget iOS Widgets

(Image credit: Photowidget)

While there is a stock photo widget preinstalled on iPhones and iPad, it's pretty rudimentary. If you want to curate your own albums and dictate how often the image changes Photo Widget: Simple will do the job nicely. It’s free to download and use as well. 

You can even use it to create entire themes for your iPhone or iPad. Wallpapers, app icons, and other widgets – countdown, constellation, calendar, clock, memo, and to-do list – can all be customized from here. It's a great widget for several reasons.

8. Carrot Weather

CARROT iOS Widgets

(Image credit: CARROT)

Carrot Weather is, quite simply, our favorite weather app. It recently won Apple Watch App of the Year at the 2021 Apple App Store Awards and a 2021 Apple Design Award, and with good reason. Carrot Weather combines a wicked sense of humor with accurate weather forecasts, as well as a clean interface.

The widget is only available as part of the premium service for £4.99 a month, but in our view, it’s well worth it. The widget is customizable, and lets you see the weather forecast at a glance, without needing to open the app. This is exactly what you want from a weather widget and this one does it with a bit of extra personality.

7. Fitness

Fitness OS Widgets

(Image credit: Apple)

Fitness comes pre-loaded on iOS as it's made by Apple, which is great for a couple of reasons. One, it is optimized for syncing your Apple Watch with your iPhone. And two, it doesn’t cost anything to use. If you’re a fitness enthusiast or looking for a nudge to help you make some healthier choices, this is a great widget to use.

At a glance, it will give you access to information such as calories burned, active minutes, and how long you’ve spent standing. There’s an alternative option of showing the Progress Ring, which gives a quick visual representation of how close you are to completing your pre-set goals for the day.

6. Find My

Find My iOS Widget

(Image credit: Apple)

The Find My app from Apple may not be one you use on a regular basis, but when you need it, it’s worth its weight in gold. You can use it to keep track of things you are worried about losing – your AirPods, Apple Watch, or something with an AirTag attached to it. You can even use it to keep a close eye on people – for example, making sure your child gets home safely from school. 

The widget gives you all this information, without needing to load the app. The widgets come in two flavors – People and Items – so you can decide whether you want one or both on your home screen. 

5. Google Maps

Google Maps iOS Widgets

(Image credit: Google)

Google Maps is a fantastic tool wherever you are in the world, and it gives you a wide variety of widgets to choose from. This includes a Google Travel Times widget, which tells you how long it will take you to get from one place to another.

You can access a widget that will tell you about things like local traffic conditions, shop opening hours, and restaurant reviews in the local area. And there's a widget that lets you find nearby places such as groceries, restaurants, and petrol stations. That's a wealth of widgets for all your travel needs. 

4. Flipboard

Flipboard iOS Widgets

(Image credit: Flipboard)

Flipboard is an award-winning app that draws from thousands of different sources to curate news and information to suit your interests. Set up the topics you’d like to follow and the major headlines from those subjects will appear on your Home Screen, thanks to the widget.

The widget is available in four different sizes. You can choose from a thumbnail with a single headline up to a much larger roundup of four of the latest stories. You can also choose from four different feeds: your own ‘For You’ feed, the ‘Daily Edition’ for the latest news, ‘10 For Today’ for a selection of in-depth stories, or ‘Flipboard Picks’ for a set of stories specially selected by Flipboard staff.

3. Calm

Calm iOS Widgets

(Image credit: Calm)

Let’s face it, the world is a stressful place to be at the moment. This is why we love Calm, the recipient of multiple Apple awards. The Calm widget lets you access Daily Calm with a single tap, as well as breathing exercises and Sleep Stories. 

Daily Calm is a 10-minute-long guided meditation, while Sleep Stories are bedtime stories read by well-known celebrities, such as Stephen Fry, Matthew McConaughey, and Leona Lewis. If you choose to subscribe, you get access to all of Calm’s content. You can pay £28.99 for an annual subscription or a one-off £299.99 payment gives you access forever.

2. Spark – Email App by Readdle

Spark iOS Widgets

(Image credit: Spark)

Spark – Email App by Readdle is a super smooth way to organize your inbox. It helps to prioritize your email, notifies you about emails from people you know, and ignores the spam, among a host of other great features. You can also connect all your email accounts, so no more bouncing from one app to another.

The widgets build on this, by allowing you to choose up to three of them for quick access. The developers themselves particularly love Recently Seen, Attachments, and Calendar. You can also decide whether to have a small widget that tells you how many emails you’ve got or a larger list of what’s waiting in your inbox. It’s a great tool for seeing what’s important at a glance.

1. Widgetsmith

Widgetsmith iOS Widgets

(Image credit: Widgetsmith)

Widgetsmith is a superb tool for customizing widgets for your home screen. And it covers all sorts of topics – weather, astronomy, and calendars are just a few examples. You can even set the widgets to change through the course of the day.

So Widgetsmith might show you the weather when you get up in the morning, before switching to your calendar as you get through all your meetings, and then switch again to show you your reminders for the next day as you enter the evening. Some additional features, such as Tide and Weather hosted data, are available for a premium.

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Disney Plus gets even better for families with Apple SharePlay on iPhone and iPad

The Disney Plus streaming service now supports Apple SharePlay, meaning subscribers can sync up TV shows and films on the platform through a host of different Apple devices.

This latest update to the Disney Plus app has come into effect on iOS, iPadOS, and tvOS, meaning anyone watching on their iPhones, iPads or Apple TV 4K streaming devices can benefit. You will need to be running version 15.1 or above on these operating systems, though.

The update is a godsend for large families, or those hoping to connect virtually with friends and relatives over the holidays, supporting up to 32 simultaneous viewers. 

Each viewer will need to subscribe to Disney Plus separately, though, and obviously own a compatible Apple device. For those outside the Apple ecosystem, there's still a way to gain similar functionality.

Gather round, everyone

Disney Plus launched its own GroupWatch feature earlier in the year, which lets up to seven subscribers (or four profiles on the same account) co-watch a title at the same time – and it even works on non-Apple products.

The rise of co-watching has been a fascinating development in the world of TV streaming services. Platforms are increasingly offering their own official functionality, having seen after a surge in third-party browser add-ons that let users sync up their Netflix accounts and even message in a sidebar during streams.

Not everyone is catching up, though. Netflix has yet to support Apple SharePlay, despite no doubt being the most desirable place to get this kind of functionality. For big virtual gatherings, Disney Plus Christmas movies may have the advantage over Netflix Christmas movies.

Via Pocket-lint

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