Apple has released macOS Big Sur 11.3 after months of beta testing. You can install it now and you should because the new update to macOS Big Sur closes a dangerous security hole that was being exploited by malware authors (more on that below).

New features in Big Sur 11.3 include: a new Autoplay feature in the Apple Music app (already seen in iOS 14), more information about your Mac warranty in About This Mac, a collection of new emoji, more support for games controllers, better compatibility with iOS apps on M1 Macs, and the new 'Hello' screensavers that celebrate the new 24in iMacs.

There is also a new iOS 14.5 version. For more information read What's in iOS 14.5.

The last Big Sur update was Big Sur 11.2 and it arrived at the beginning of February. That last update to Big Sur did not offer much by way of new features, but did include a number of important security updates.

Big Sur 11.3 release date

macOS Big Sur 11.3 has was released by Apple on Monday 26 April. It should be available to download from System Preferences > Software Update.

We recommend you install the update because there is a security vulnerability in older versions of the macOS.

Soon we will hear about the next major update, macOS 12, which will be announced at WWDC 2021 in the summer.

How to update to macOS 11.3

To update your Mac you will need to do the following:

  1. Open System Preferences
  2. Click on Software Update
  3. Click to update the software if an update is available
  4. Alternatively, click on the Apple logo in the menu bar and choose Software Update.

If you haven't updated to Big Sur yet read: How to update macOS: Update to Big Sur from Catalina.

We talk in more detail about all the new features in Big Sur in our guide to Big Sur.

New Big Sur 11.3 features

macOS Big Sur 11.3 arrived on the same day as iOS 14.5. It offers many of the same features, and brings others to the Mac that were already enjoyed on iOS. The biggest changes are probably those coming to the M1 Macs, which will be able to access Touch Alternative settings so that they can mimic some of the gestures used on touch screens on their keyboard and mouse.

Here's a run through of the new features in macOS 11.3:

Security

macOS 11.3 closes a particularly serious vulnerability that was being used by a group of hackers to distribute malware.

This was possible because of a flaw with Apple's usual security measures built into the macOS. Normally new programs are stopped by Apple's GateKeeper and a series of tests undergone before they can be opened.

However, prior to 11.3 there was a bug in Apple's test system that meant that apps that were based on scripts and enclosed in a bundle could be executed without warning.

We explain how macOS Big Sur closes this dangerous security hole in a separate article.

Improvements for iOS/iPadOS apps on the Mac

If you bought an M1 Mac hoping to be able to use iPhone and iPad apps and games on it you may have had a somewhat disappointing experience to date. You will be pleased to learn that Apple is addressing some of the problems with the way these apps translate to the Mac.

The biggest improvement will no doubt be the new Touch Alternatives preferences pane that will allow users to map the gestures used on their touch screen device to the Mac keyboard or mouse. You can adjust these by clicking on the app's name in the menu bar and chooseing Preferences. 

Following the update iPadOS apps will also launch with a larger window and there will be an option to change the app's window size.

Games controller support

The new Controller Emulation feature is similar to the Touch Alternatives feature. Those playing games on the M1 Macs will be able to map games controller functions to the Mac's keyboard and mouse.

Users will find new Games Control setting in the game's preferences that will enable them to map the keys on a Mac keyboard to the usual controls on a Games Controller.

For example, the X button on the controller can be mapped to the letter Q on the keyboard, W, A, S, D serve as directional arrows. The Big Sur update will also add support for the PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S gaming controllers.

Big Sur 11.3 also brings support for the PlayStation 5 DualSense and Xbox Series X/S controllers.

Improved Safari features - Start Page will be more customisable. Users will be able to re-arrange the sections with customisation controls. In addition, new extensions types will enable developers to create extensions for features that can appear on the new tab page. There will also be a new Web Speech API for developers so that they can incorporate speech recognition into their web pages.

New emoji

Just like iOS 14.5, macOS 11.3 brings 214 new emoji. You'll find new smileys, couples kissing, two new hearts, women with beards, and more skin tones for interracial couples. You'll also notice that the blood drops have disappeared from the emoji that shows a syringe - turning it into an injection. The old headphones emoji now looks like the AirPods Max too.

Hello screensaver

The update to macOS Big Sur includes a new screen saver, although right now it's not clear whether it will work on non-M1 Macs (the version in the macOS 11.3 Release Candidate only works with M1 Macs). We explain how to get the Hello screensaver on any Mac running Big Sur 11.3 here: How to get the Hello Mac screensaver.

Hello screensaver

Siri

MacOS 11.3 will, like iOS 14.5, stop Siri's voice being either male (in the UK) or femail (in the US) by default. Now you will be able to choose which voice is used during set up. Those voices are no longer referred to as Male or Femail. Instead UK users get Voice 1 and Voice 2, while US users get four voices to choose from - which is probably why Apple is saying that the update brings "More diverse voice options for Siri".

Apple Music

The Apple Music improvements bring the Music app on the Mac into line with the same app on iOS.  

A new Autoplay feature (that you need to enable) will cause Apple Music to continue to play similar music even if the current playlist finishes.

There's a new Made For You Library shortcut that should simplify the process of finding personal mixes and playlists.

A new City Charts feature will provide playlists based on what's popular in various cities around the world. And another new option will offer upcoming and live special events based on your interests.

Just as on iOS 14.5, Apple is also adding the ability to share lyrics when you send links to your friends via iMessage, Instagram or Facebook Messenger. The function is limited to a maximum of 150 characters, but you can easily select the most relevant paragraph. When the recipient receives the message that part of the track will play.

Reminders

Following the macOS Big Sur 11.3 update you will be able to easily sort Reminders by various criteria. Users will also be able to move Reminders manually up and down via drag and drop within any list. The update will also offer support for printing Reminders.

The update also fixes an issue where Reminders created via ‌Siri‌ could be unintentionally set for early morning hours.

Apple News

Apple has redesigned News+. There is a new News+ For You tab to help subscribers quickly access their magazines and newspapers. The process for managing downloaded issues is also simplified.

The Search is also improved to help you find relevant topics, channels, and stories.

Support for stereo-paired HomePods 

It is now possible to change the default setting to stereo-paired HomePods. It had only been possible to use two HomePods as paired stereo speakers via AirPlay and Apple Music, which had annoyed some users. It is already possible to use dual HomePods without problems with iPhone, iPad and Apple TV, so it was long overdue that the same functionality should come to the Mac.

About This Mac

About This Mac now displays Apple warranty status and AppleCare+ coverage and users can purchase and enroll in AppleCare+ from the About This Mac section. Users will be able to view the Mac's warranty information under About This Mac > Support.

Other new features & fixes

  • As with the iPhone iOS 14.5 update, macOS 11.3 will introduce AirTag support to the Mac.
  • M1 Macs have hibernation support.
  • Safari on the Mac gains the ability to customised the Start Page section order.
  • Fixes problem where iCloud‌ Keychain might not turn off.
  • Fixes AirPods‌ audio routing to incorrect device when Automatic Switching and problem where AirPods‌ Automatic Switching notifications might be missing or duplicated.
  • Fixes problem with External 4K monitors not displaying in full resolution when connected over USB-C.

No more Rosetta?

It was a concern when in Apple's third preview version of macOS Big Sur 11.3 a message appeared suggesting that Rosetta might be ommitted. It was felt that it may relate to a patent dispute with Intel and could prevent the execution of old programs on the new M1 Macs.

The developer Steve Moser discovered a suspicious hint in the third beta version. He was a a message that suggested that Rosetta 2 would be removed during installation and that the emulator that translates code written for x86 for the ARM architecture is not available in the region.

It is not clear where Apple intends to switch off Rosetta 2 of if this feaure has arrived with Big Sur 11.3. It seems likely that it hasn't been implemented and that Apple has just included the message in case it ever has to be implemented.

If you want to take part in testing the next new update, you can sign up for Apple's beta software programme. In addition to new versions of macOS, you'll be able to test upcoming versions of iOS, iPadOS, tvOS and watchOS.