Apple releases iOS 14.5, the biggest update since iOS 14 first launched

Enlarge / Apple’s 2020 iPad Air.

Samuel Axon

Today is the day: Apple has finally released iOS 14.5 and iPadOS 14.5 worldwide after a longer-than-usual beta period. If you’re using a supported device, you should be able to find the update on the software update page in the iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch’s Settings app.

This is arguably the biggest update of the iOS 14 cycle that began with iOS 14.0 and iPadOS 14.0 on September 16 of last year. The most consequential change for many is App Tracking Transparency, a new policy whereby app developers are required to get user opt-in to track users between apps.

But iOS 14 and iPadOS 14.5 also introduce a long-needed workaround for using Face ID when wearing a mask, support for the new AirTag accessory, several changes aimed at making experiences within the software more inclusive for a diverse user base, new Siri features and voices, and changes to the Reminders, News, Music, and Podcasts apps, among other things.

Here’s what you can expect to see when you install the new software.

App Tracking Transparency

Apple’s long-debated, long-awaited App Tracking Transparency feature and policy will now be fully enforced starting with today’s release of iOS 14.5 and iPadOS 14.5 (as well as tvOS 14.5, which we wrote about earlier today).

A large portion of the apps in the App Store for these devices utilizes a tracking technique called ID for Advertisers (IDFA) to track users’ activity between multiple apps published by multiple companies, to inform ad targeting and other monetization and data collection techniques.

Last year, Apple announced that it would begin requiring all apps to ask for users’ permission in advance to do this on an app-by-app basis. Anticipating that many users would opt out and that the change would therefore significantly impact revenue, various app developers and ad networks have criticized the move, saying it will hurt big and small businesses alike.

Those critics are not making that up: the move is likely to have a significant impact on the bottom line for many types of apps that rely on advertising for revenue. But Apple maintains that users’ control over how they are tracked and how their data is used and accessed is the most important concern at hand.

Apple initially delayed the move (which was originally planned for the first iOS 14 release) so developers and advertisers could have more time to prepare. Today’s launch of iOS and iPadOS 14.5 is the point of no return; the requirement will now be enforced. (Some apps already implemented it before today’s release.)

A COVID-mask Face ID workaround: Use your Apple Watch

Face ID seemed like an overall win over Touch ID after it was first introduced in 2017, but as we all know, the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 put Face ID phones in a tough spot.

With people all around the world wearing masks to protect themselves and others from the virus, Face ID phones are unable to use their main method of authentication for getting past the lock screen or using features like Apple Pay.

Now, users who update their iPhones to iOS 14.5 and their Apple Watches to the also-just-released watchOS 7.4 can unlock their said phones with said watches.

When you’re wearing an Apple Watch and that Watch is unlocked and close to your iPhone, you should now be able to just glance at the iPhone screen and see it unlocked via the Watch’s own authentication. The Watch will give you haptic feedback to let you know the iPhone has been unlocked.

This works on all Face ID iPhones paired with an Apple Watch Series 3 or later, provided both devices are running the latest software.

Diversity and inclusion

Apple has made a few small but meaningful changes to better represent iPhone users in a couple of parts of the iPhone and iPad experience.

First off, Siri has two new voices in the United States modeled after Black American English. You’ll find these in the Siri page for voices within the Settings app. Select “American” under variety and, in addition to the two existing American accents, you’ll find two more voices: a Black female voice, and a Black male voice.

Further, Siri no longer has a single voice that’s treated as the default. Users select from multiple options when first setting up their phones now.

Apple has also introduced new emojis meant to allow users to express themselves better. In addition to various new heart and face emojis, Apple has added a woman with a beard emoji in various skin colors, as well as the ability to independently select the skin color for each of the two people in the emojis of couples hugging and the like.

New Siri and Maps capabilities

Siri can now be used to initiate FaceTime calls with groups of people; you just need to ask it to call any already existing Messages group.

Also, iOS and iPadOS 14.5 give Siri the ability to announce incoming calls through connected AirPods or Beats headphones. They also support “calling emergency contacts if the iPhone owner needs assistance and is unable to make a call,” Apple says.

When driving, users can tell Siri about hazards on the road so other drivers can be warned, for example by saying “Hey Siri, there’s a crash up ahead.” Users can also tell Siri when a previously reported incident has been resolved.

And while we’re on the subject of cars and maps, we’ll use this opportunity to mention that Maps users can now share their ETA with contacts when traveling with walking or cycling directions. That’s a feature that people have been requesting for a while now. Additionally, CarPlay users can use Share ETA with Siri.

Apple app updates

Apple has introduced a few new features and design changes to some of the iOS apps it has made itself. For example, Podcasts now has a redesigned show page, plus top charts section and new categories and curated collections in the search tab. Users can also save and download episodes individually and see them added to the library automatically.

Apple News likewise has a redesigned Apple News+ tab with a prominent place to manage and download magazine and newspaper issues. It also has some improvements to search, with a category-based results page.

Apple Fitness+ within the Fitness app can stream audio and video to any AirPlay 2-enabled TV or device, potentially expanding the places the service can be conveniently used in the home or other setting.

Apple Music now offers users the option to share individual lyrics segments via Messages, Facebook, or Instagram Stories. It also has city-specific playlists for several large urban centers like Los Angeles, Chicago, Dublin, Berlin, Jakarta, Istanbul, Tokyo, Seoul, and Dubai, among many others.

Reminders has new sort options within reminder lists; users can now sort by title, priority, due date, or creation date. They can also print reminder lists with an easily accessible widget within the app.

Grab bag

There are a few other features that don’t neatly fit into the buckets above. They include:

  • Support for AirTags, Apple’s new geolocation devices.
  • Dual SIM support that “enables 5G connectivity “on the line that’s using cellular data on iPhone 12 models”
  • The ability to tweak playback speed in the Translation app by long-pressing the play button
  • Support for the PlayStation 5’s DualSense controller and Xbox Series X|S controllers via Bluetooth
  • Several bug fixes, which are listed in the full update notes below

Leave a Reply