Apple has released a new beta version of iOS 14. The latest beta version is iOS 14.5 and this time the focus is on strengthening personal privacy, something that has led companies like Facebook to launch a fierce attack on Apple.
Apple began beta testing iOS 14.5 on 1 February 2021. It's available for developers and public beta testers. A new update to the iOS 14.5 beta arrived on 16 February: beta 2 bringing more than 200 new emoji.
A third update to the 14.5 beta came on 2 March. This update adds a new option to the Find My app that could indicate that the AirTags are finally due to launch soon, more on that below.
Apple has also released a new beta for the iPad. iPad OS 14.5 is similar to the iPhone software - for more information read: what's coming in iPadOS 14.5. There is also a new beta for tvOS 14.5 and watchOS 7.4.
What's in iOS 14.5?
There are various new features coming in iOS 14.5. We know about a few so far but it's likely more will come. There may also be bug and security fixes.
The Find My app, which makes it easy to locate lost iPhones, Apple Watches, Macs and more, will allow you to add non-Apple products so that you can locate them.
The first non-Apple items that can be found are Beats headphones and headphones from Belkin that will be released soon.
This capability could also be made possible by the introduction of the long-rumoured AirTag.
There will be a new Items tag for you to manage various trackable items.
217 new emoji
iOS 4.5 beta 2 has added hundreds of new emoji including new smileys, two new hearts, emojis for women with beards, and the ability to use more skin tones to create interacial couples.
Apple has also removed the blood drops from the emoji that shows a syringe - so that emoji better represents having an injection. The old headphones emoji now looks like the AirPods Max.
Color cast bug fix
Some users report that Beta 2 fixes the greenish or yellowish bug on some iPhones 12. The first reports of this issue came in November 2020. Read: How to fix iPhone yellow screen tint.
There are a few new options for Siri Shortcuts: On the one hand, you can use the automation app to take a screenshot, and this action can be integrated into your own shortcuts. There's also a new shortcut that locks the screen orientation and one that toggles between 4G and 5G.
Apple has been reducing the amount of screen Siri takes up. In iOS 14.5 Apple will revise the fields for Siri Requests, showing them in several bars at the top and bottom of the screen.
Choose your default music (and podcast) app
This new iOS 14.5 feature is lurking in the iOS 14.5 beta. Discovered by Reddit users, the feature will mean that when asking Siri to play a tune you will be asked to specify which service to play it on - with the option to choose from the various music services or podcast apps you use such as Spotify.
After you select the service Siri will ask you to confirm that it can access your data in that app.
It is impossible not to see this development in the light of recent criticism of Apple that the company is taking advantage of its strong position in the market, not least with Epic's lawsuit against the company as an example.
Are these features now coming to mitigate any criticism of Apple's position or does it just happen to be a matter of time?
Unlock iPhone wearing a mask
We are most excited to hear that a change in iOS 14.5 could make it possible to unlock your iPhone even when wearing a face mask as long as you are wearing an Apple Watch.
The new feature means that if your watch is unlocked and your iPhone detects that you are wearing a mask it will 'tap' your wrist to ask you to confirm that the iPhone should be unlocked.
Apple has already indicated that the 14.5 release will focus on privacy.
Apple has said that it's going to change the rules relating to how developers and advertisers can track users in iOS 14.5.
The new rules have received criticism, but almost exclusively from companies that make a living from tracking for advertising purposes, with Facebook at the forefront. Apple points out that the rules do not prohibit tracking but only mean that users themselves must decide whether they want to be tracked or not.
There is one way Apple is offering information to advertisers. Apple will introduce a way to identify the original webpages or apps that the user arrived from. Apple promises in its developer notes to make this identification in a privacy-friendly way. How this should look in practice will probably be shown in the later betas.
In iOS 14.5 Apple's will extend the scope of a security function called Pointer Authentication Codes (PAC) so that it applies to a category that was previously unprotected. This should make iPhones even harder to hack.
Under the new system, cryptographic signatures will be used to ensure that code in the memory has not been manipulated, and to highlight fake versions of various functions.
It should have the effect of making zero-click attacks harder. Read about this here: iPhone security update to thwart zero-click attacks.
YouTube support for picture-in-picture
MacRumors has noticed that YouTube (when viewed via a browser, not via the app) seems to have regained support for the picture-in-picture feature as of the latest beta of iOS 14.5.
It's possible this is an error on Google's part - which famously removed support following the launch of iOS 14 in September 2020 - that will be 'fixed' in a later update. But we're keeping our fingers crossed.
Fitness + and AirPlay 2
If you have subscribed to Apple Fitness+ you will be pleased to learn that in iOS 14.5 it will be possible to stream Fitness+ content to a smart TV, so you will be able to watch the workout videos on a large screen.
Share Apple Card
Another potential new feature, identified by MacRumors, will allow multiple people to use the same Apple Card account, probably via Apple's Family Sharing feature.
Support for PS5 and XBox controllers
The new 14.5 update also adds support for Sony and Microsoft latest controllers.
This means that both the Playstation 5 Dualsense controller and the Xbox Series X controller can be used with the iPhone and iPad. For example, to run games on Apple Arcade.
The corresponding screen in the Settings app has been almost empty most of the time: If there was no update from Apple available, the user would see the standard sentence "Your software is up to date". Now this sentence is expanded to include information about fixed security vulnerabilities, and the screen also shows when the user last checked for updates.
Apple is adding a new 'For You' section based on your playlists. In addition, Apple Music will show the release dates of the individual songs and albums more precisely (currently only the year is shown). In iOS 14.5 the month and day can also be seen.
Dual SIM and 5G
If you wanted to use the 5G standard connection with iPhone 12, you had to limit yourself to using one SIM card. If you added a second SIM card both connections would divert to 4G. iOS 14.5 will introduce support for 5G on both lines, at least in the USA (it was previously available in Mainland China).
In addition to the obvious innovations on the surface, Apple has fixed some bugs in the background . So Carplay works as intended, even if the iPhone shares contacts via Carplay. iPad Pro 11 and iPad Pro 12.9 (from third generation) could not connect to an external monitor via the USB-C multiport adapter, this has now been fixed.
How to get the iOS 14 beta
One of the best things about Apple's beta program (read: How to become an Apple beta tester) is that it gives us an insight into the new features and change that are coming to iPhones.
If you are interested in participating in testing the new updates, you can go to the Apple Beta Software Program and enter your details. Note that beta versions usually contain a lot of bugs, so the installation is at your own risk.
There are also new beta versions of the software for iPadOS, tvOS, and WatchOS.
Beta testers will find new beta versions of iOS 14.5, as well as iPadOS 14.5, tvOS 14.5 and watchOS 7.4.
For more information read: How to join Apple's beta program and try out new software. Also read: How to get the iOS beta.