It's not long since Apple released macOS Big Sur 11.3 with a number of new features (read: What's in Big Sur 11.3) and Apple's plans for the successor to Big Sur will be unveiled at WWDC on 7 June. You might think that would mean that Apple was wrapping up development work on Big Sur, but no: Apple has just released another update to Big Sur that will bring even more new features.
Big Sur 11.4 release date
Apple relased macOS 11.4 on 24 May 2021. The company released iOS 14.6 at the same time.
Big Sur 11.3 was months in the making, but it was a reasonably big update to macOS. macOS 11.4 is not as feature heavy - which is no surprise because Apple will be preparing to launch the beta of macOS 12 at the WWDC event on 7 June. Read about what's expected at WWDC in our news round up.
While the update is sparse in terms of new features, it does correct a number of security flaws, one of which had already been exploited by hackers. More information about why you should update below.
What's in Big Sur 11.4?
It seems that Big Sur's only new feature, according to Apple's accompanying notes, is support for podcast subscriptions. However, the beta showed up a few new features including support for the latest graphics cards from AMD (more details below).
As usual, the Big Sur update also brings a number of security fixes.
Apple has also closed a list of security vulnerabilities with macOS 11.4. Apple lists 73 Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) entries that have been fixed.
One of the vulnerabilities has already been exploited by hackers, so anyone who uses Xcode on their Mac should urgently install this update. The bug was found in the Apple framework, which controls user permissions to use the components. The pop-up: "May [App] use the [camera / microphone, etc]?" comes from this framework, officially called the Transparency Consent and Control Framework.
The attackers hid the malicious code in Xcode and then found apps in the system that already had permission to take screenshots and placed Apple Scrip files in the app files that can take the screenshots. Since the user of the app had already granted screenshot permission, the malicious code could take the pictures from the desktop without the user noticing anything.
According to Arstechnica, the developers who downloaded a fake version of Xcode were particularly affected.
More details on Apple's support website.
While Apple doesn't refer to the following, it seems likely that there will be changes relating to them:
AMD graphics card support
When Apple released the third beta of Big Sur 11.4 it included support for graphics cards based on the AMD Navi RDNA2 architecture.
The following AMD Radeon cards are now supported:
- Radeon 6800
- Radeon 6800XT
- Radeon 6900XT
These Radeon graphics cards are relatively new - released at the end of 2020. They are intended for professional gaming and professional use (e.g. Adobe Premiere Pro). You can currently install the AMD cards of the Radeon Pro and Radeon Pro Vega series in the professional Mac, so it is possible that Apple will offer these cards as an upgrade option for the Mac Pro in the future. They could also be used as eGPUs.
Apple Music is to get high-res audio - lossless as well as a feature called Spatial Audio.
While there are no references to support for the new spatial audio and Lossless features coming to Apple Music, it is possible that the Big Sur update is laying some kind of groundwork for this.
Find My app
We have seen changes to the Find My app on iPhones and iPads. Since this app is also available for Macs it seems likely the same changes will be available. The Find My app is where AirTags are managed and the new change will make it possible to provide an email address to be contacted on should an AirTag be found. Currently only a phone number is given.
How to get the Big Sur beta
If you would like to join Apple's beta program to get an insight into the new features and change that are coming read: How to become an Apple beta tester.
Before you install a beta you should be aware that beta versions usually contain a lot of bugs, so the installation is at your own risk.
If you are interested in participating in testing the new updates, you can go to the sign up for Apple's beta software programme.
Apple also runs beta programs for iPadOS, tvOS, WatchOS, and iOS.
For more information read: How to get the macOS beta.