Apple has released a new version of iOS 14. The new iOS 14.5 started landing on compatible iPhones on Monday 26 April - if it's not showing up on your phone you shouldn't have long to wait. It brings a bunch of new features to your iPhone.
iOS 14.5 has been in beta since February so we had a very good idea of what to expect from the new version. New features include a simple way to unlock an iPhone while you are wearing a mask, more than 200 new emoji, and a number of security and privacy enhancements.
Apple began beta testing iOS 14.5 in February 2021 and it's been available for developers and public beta testers ever since, although there have been eight different versions of the beta - not far off the number of beta versions we'd expect for a full iOS update. The wide expanse of this update does seem to justify the long development time and there are a lot of essential and important innovations included.
It was expected that iOS 14.5 would be ready to ship before 30 April 2021 as the AirTag and a new purple version of the iPhone 12 arrive that day. The AirTag will require iOS 14.5.
Apple has also released a new beta for the iPad. iPadOS 14.5 is similar to the iPhone software. One of the biggest changes there is the fact that if you start up an iPad in landscape orientation the Apple logo will show that way round! For more information read: what's in iPadOS 14.5. There is also a new beta for tvOS 14.5, watchOS 7.4 (which is required for the masked phone unlocking), and macOS 11.3. Apple is already working on iOS 14.6, read about that here: What's coming in iOS 14.6.
iOS 14.5 release date
Apple released iOS 14.5 on Monday 26 April. It should show up on your iPhone, or you may find it in Settings > General > Software Update. If you don't see it yet you probably won't have long to wait until it shows up.
The release of iOS 14.5 is necessary for new products arriving on Friday 30 April such as the AirTags, of which Apple notes: "AirTag requires iPhone or iPod touch running iOS 14.5 or later, or iPad running iPadOS 14.5 or later".
An update to Find My that will allow users to locate non-Apple items will also rely on iOS 14.5 for some of its features. More here: Apple's Find My app will find other third-party products.
What's in iOS 14.5?
There are various new features arriving with iOS 14.5 along with some important security updates. Read on for details of what to expect:
Unlock iPhone wearing a mask
You may have heard that iOS 14.5 will help us with one of the biggest problems of this pandemic struck age: not being able to use Face ID to unlock our iPhones.
The great news is that it is true: Apple has made it easier to unlock your iPhone while wearing a mask. The not so good news is that it will require an Apple Watch as your alternative means of unlocking, and it won't enable you to pay for things using Apple Pay - you will still need to enter your passcode for that.
Thanks to the new feature if you are wearing an Apple Watch running watchOS 7.4 of later and you attempt to unlock your iPhone while wearing a mask your iPhone will unlock without you having to enter your passcode.
Apple has a few measures to make sure that this is secure. For example when your iPhone unlocks you will feel a tap on your wrist to warn you - and give you the option to lock the iPhone. A partial scan will take place of the area around your eyes, and your iPhone and Watch will have to be close to each other. You also won't be able to use your banking app or any other app without entering your passcode to unlock the device.
We run through how to unlock your iPhone when wearing a face mask in a separate article.
217 new emoji
Everyone loves new emoji and iOS 14.5 delivers more than 200 new emoji including new smileys, two new hearts, emojis for women with beards, and the ability to use more skin tones to create interracial couples.
Apple has also removed the blood drops from the emoji that shows a syringe - so that emoji better represents having an injection, something a lot of us are experiencing right now thankfully. The old headphones emoji now looks like the AirPods Max.
There are a number of changes coming to the Music app and also the music you choose to play on your iPhone.
First up, you will be able to choose a preferred music streaming service, rather than being stuck with Apple Music.
Now the first time you ask Siri to play music it will ask you to confirm which service you wish to use.
Siri won't ask you to confirm this every time, but it will ask from time to time.
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.
Other new features coming to the Apple Music app include new slide gestures to add a song to a Now Playing queue/. You can either add a track to Play Next or Play Last thereby slotting it into place in your playlist.
You'll also find a new … beside track names that gives you access to various options including Share Song, View Lyrics, Share Lyrics and so on. If you choose to Share Lyrics you can actually select a particular lyric and quote it in a iMessage and when the recipient receives the iMessages that part of the song will actually play in the Messages app.
The Music app now includes new City Charts so you can listen to what people are listing to in various cities around the world.
A new For You section uses an algorithms to make suggestions based on existing automated playlists.
Apple Music will also show the release dates of the songs and albums a little more precisely - showing date and month, rather than just the year.
There are new Maps features, but as is so often the case these are predominantly US based. For example, a new ability to report incidents such as Accident, Hazard and Speed Check is only available in the US.
However, there are new features available elsewhere. For example, you can set a walking or cycling route and send your ETA (estimated time of arrival) to someone.
Once you have set your walking or cycling route select Go, then tap on the overlay that shows your arrival time and length of journey to bring up the various options. Tap on Share ETA and choose the person you want to share with. Interestingly this will default to people you have recently been conversing with - even if you were talking to them in WhatsApp. However, the person we were sharing the route with didn't receive a notification and could only see our ETA if they had the Maps app open. We assume that they will receive an alert once the feature is working properly.
There is a new Smart Button and an updated interface for the Podcast app, including a new Resume button.
You now Follow podcasts rather than Subscribe (to differentiate from the new paid Podcast service Apple is launching.
There are new options to sort lists by Due Date, Creation Date, Priority, Title. You can print your list too.
There is a new new For You feature and a Browse tab and the News+ section has been redesigned.
There are new settings in the Find My app that relate to the new AirTags and the other items that can now be tracked using Apple's Find My network.
These updates join a recent change to the Find My app that added the ability to locate non-Apple products - non-Apple items that can be tracked using the service are Beats headphones, headphones from Belkin and Chipolo trackers. This is also where items that have AirTags will be added. Read our round up of AirTag alternatives.
One new feature in iOS 14.5 is the Precision Finding feature that lets the iPhone 11 and 12 track an AirTag precisely using haptics and directional indicators.
Under the Me tab there is also a new a default option that indicates that you will be alerted if an AirTag might be tracking you.This is on by default so there is no need to set anything up, it just means you will be alerted if someone has placed an AirTag in your pocket, for example.
One of the biggest changes coming to Siri in iOS 14.5 is a change from the default Siri voice. In the US the default Siri is female while in the UK the default Siri is male. In the updated iOS users will be able to choose whether Siri is male or female during set up, rather than changing the default later on.
The Siri options are no longer listed as male or female. Instead in the UK you get Voice 1 and Voice 2. In the US there are four voices to choose from.
Apple has been giving Siri less screen space since the arrival of iOS 14. In iOS 14 the answers of the personal assistant appeared like a notification, rather than covering the entire screen. Now Apple has revised the fields for Siri Requests so that they appear as several bars at the top and bottom of the screen with the centre remaining empty.
Siri will also be able to announce incoming calls and say who is calling and users will be able to answer calls hands free if they are wearing AirPods or Beats headphones.
Users will also be able to ask Siri to dial emergency contacts and create Group FaceTime calls.
There are a few new options for Siri Shortcuts: You will be able to 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.
Fitness + and AirPlay 2
If you have subscribed to Apple Fitness+ you will be pleased to learn that in iOS 14.5 it is possible to stream Fitness+ content to a smart TV, so you will be able to watch the workout videos on a large screen.
Unfortunately you can't see on the TV screen how long you have remaining or how many calories burned, for that you need to look at the iPhone or iPad.
Support for PS5 and XBox controllers
The new 14.5 update 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.
These new controllers will work with the Apple TV if the tvOS 14.5 update is installed.
Colour cast bug fix
The first reports of this issue came in November 2020 and this has been high on the list of one of our colleagues who's iPhone 12 is affected by the colour cast bug. There had been reports that the beta had fixed the greenish or yellowish bug on some iPhones 12 and Apple's notes accompanying the release do suggest that this is the case. Read: How to fix iPhone yellow screen tint.
iPhone 11 battery calibration
iOS 14.5 brings some changes to the way the battery capacity is measured in the iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max. It seems that prior to the update battery health estimates for the iPhone 11 series may have been incorrect which may have lead to unexpected battery drain.
Following the update the iPhone will recalibrate the maximum battery capacity which should address the inaccurate estimates of battery health.
Some users had identified a problem with fast draining batteries in iOS 14 so hopefully this will address that. Although that incident was said to mainly affect older devices are affected - iPhone 7 to iPhone SE.
Apple's also fixed a bug that could cause AirPods audio to route to the incorrect device when Automatic Switching was in use.
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).
There are also improvements to the 5G Smart Data Mode that should mean users can improve data usage and extend battery life.
Apple has addressed a bug that caused some Messages to persistently fail to send a text.
Security & Privacy
Apple indicated long ago that the 14.5 release would focus on privacy. Now it has arrived so has the deadline by which app developers were to comply with Apple's new rules about how developers and advertisers can track users in iOS 14.5.
Developers are now required to ask for and receive a users permission before an app can access that users random advertising identifier. This identifier is used to track activity across apps and websites.
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.
In iOS 14.5 Apple will also 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.
Another change in iOS 14.5 seems to be a means by which users can choose to install a security update without also having to update the operating system. This would work much like on a Mac where free-standing security updates are sometimes released that do nothing but block security flaws. More here: Next iOS update to separate security updates.
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.
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.