Apple today released iOS 15.4 and iPadOS 15.4, the fourth major updates to the iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 operating systems that first came out in September. iOS and iPadOS 15.4 are huge updates that bring quite a few useful new features to the iPhone and the iPad.
Face ID With a Mask
With iOS 15.4, there is now an option to unlock your iPhone while wearing a mask with no additional hardware like the Apple Watch required. Apple warns that full face ID is the more secure option, but mask Face ID is now available.
Face ID with a mask can be enabled after updating to iOS 15.4, and it is designed to use the area around your eyes for authentication purposes. It works with glasses, but it is not compatible with sunglasses, and you must be looking at the iPhone to unlock it with a mask on.
Face ID with a mask is limited to the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 models, so it is not available on the iPhone 11. Unlike the iPhone unlocking feature that uses an Apple Watch to authenticate when you’re wearing a mask, the Face ID with a mask option and can be used to authenticate Apple Pay transactions and third-party app logins.
Spring iOS updates often bring new emoji characters, and iOS 15.4 is no exception. The update introduces support for Emoji 14, adding 37 emoji and 75 skin tone additions for a total of 112 new characters.
New faces include melting face, saluting face, face with open eyes and hand over mouth, face with peeking eye, face with diagonal mouth, and dotted line face, while new emojis include biting lip and bubbles.
There are several new hand emojis, such as heart hands, rightwards hand, leftwards hand, palm down hand, palm up hand, hand with index finger and thumb crossed, index pointing at the viewer, along with an update to the handshake emoji.
Nest with eggs, empty nest, x-ray, crutch, playground slide, wheel, ring buoy, hamsa, mirror ball, jar, identification card, and low battery are new items, while plants and animals will include coral and lotus. As for fantasy characters, we can expect a new troll emoji, and eggs, beans, and pouring liquid make up new food items.
Turn Off Notifications for Personal Automations in Shortcuts
For Personal Automations that are set up in the Shortcuts app, there’s a new “Notify When Run” option that lets you toggle notifications for Shortcuts that are activated on or off. With this option, you can choose not to be notified when a Shortcut activates, something that wasn’t possible with earlier versions of iOS 15.
Notify When Run only shows up when you disable the “Ask Before Running” setting.
The Shortcuts app also upports adding, removing, or querying tags with Reminders.
There’s now an Apple Card widget in the Today view, which can be added to the Home screen. The Apple Card widget shows your current balance and your daily spending in different categories.
iCloud Keychain Notes
iCloud Keychain users can now add notes to any password entry, bringing iCloud Keychain more in line with other password storing options like 1Password.
On iPhone and iPad, iCloud Keychain can be accessed in the Settings app under “Passwords.”
Hiding Password Alerts in iCloud Keychain
Apple provides security recommendations for weak or compromised passwords that are stored in iCloud Keychain, but in some situations, you might not be able to change those passwords.
If that’s the case, in iOS 15.4, you can dismiss those alerts by tapping on the “x” button next to the alert. The action will hide the security recommendation so that it doesn’t show up in the main Passwords section of the Settings app.
If you need to view the alert again, it can be found under Hidden Security Recommendations in Password settings.
120Hz Animations in Third-Party Apps on iPhone 13 Pro
After the iPhone 13 Pro models came out, users noticed that third-party apps were not displaying all animations at the full 120Hz ProMotion refresh rate. Apple said there was a Core Animation bug that would be fixed in a future update, and it appears that iOS 15.4 is that update..
With iOS 15.4, all animations in an app will display at 120Hz for a much smoother and more streamlined app usage experience.
Custom Email Domains
iOS 15.4 expands support for the custom email domain feature available for paid iCloud+ plans, adding an option to set up a custom domain with iCloud Mail directly on the iPhone.
If you go to Settings > Apple ID > iCloud, “iCloud Mail” is now a tappable option and it includes a section for setting up a Custom Email Domain.
In apps that support SharePlay, there’s now an option to activate it directly from the share sheet.
TV App Customization
In the TV section of the Settings app under “Preferences,” you can now choose “Still Frame” or “Poster Art” options for the Up Next Display in the app. Still Frame shows still frames from what you’re watching, while Poster Art shows the main title images for shows or movies.
Passkey Website Sign-in
Apple says that the iOS 15.4 and iPadOS 15.4 updates add a new passkey feature that allows users to sign into passkey-compatible websites and apps on Mac and iPad using an iPhone with a saved passkey.
That means that on websites that allow for authentication via Face ID or Touch ID, you can authenticate with an iPhone instead of having to enter a password.
By default, Emergency SOS now uses the Call with Hold feature to place an emergency call. To initiate an emergency call, press and hold the side and volume buttons until a countdown begins. After that point, the iPhone will call emergency services.
The prior press five times to initiate a call feature is still available as well, but will need to be toggled on in the Emergency SOS section of the Settings app.
Vaccination Records in the Health App
Verifiable health records now support adding vaccination records in the EU Digital COVID Certificate format to the Health and Wallet apps, so those in the EU can add their vaccine cards to the Wallet app for easy access.
Tap to Pay on iPhone
iOS 15.4 adds support for the “Tap to Pay on iPhone” feature that is designed to allow NFC-compatible iPhones to accept payments through Apple Pay, contactless credit and debit cards, and other digital wallets, without requiring additional hardware.
Tap to Pay on iPhone is enabled in iOS 15.4, but it does require third-party providers to add support. Stripe has announced that it will be the first payment platform to offer Tap to Pay on iPhone to business customers, including Shopify users. Apple Stores in the US will also roll out support for the feature later this year.
The Tap to Pay feature works with the iPhone XS or later, and will allow supported iOS apps to accept iPhone to iPhone payments. At checkout, a merchant is able to prompt a customer to hold their iPhone, Apple Watch, contactless credit or debit card, or other digital wallet close to the merchant’s iPhone to complete a payment over NFC. As with Apple Pay, the feature supports rewards cards and refunds.
The translation feature in Safari now supports Italian and Chinese (Traditional).
The Apple News app provides enhanced discovery of audio content in both the Today feed and the Audio tab.
When viewing a show in your library, you can filter episodes by played, unplayed, downloaded or saved. There’s also an option to go to any show and filter for a specific season.
Offline Siri Updates
Apple says that Siri is able to provide time and date information while offline on iPhone XS, iPhone XR, iPhone 11 or newer.
New Siri Voice
iOS 15.4 adds a new Siri voice for American users, which can be elected from the Settings app by going to Siri & Search and then selecting Siri Voice.
Apple in iOS 15.4 is adding anti-stalking AirTag changes that were announced in February. When setting up an AirTag or a Find My accessory, there is now a warning that the device is locked to an Apple ID and that using it to track someone without consent is a crime.
“You can locate this item using the Find My network,” reads the setup screen. “Using this item to track people without their consent is a crime in many regions around the world. This item is designed to be detected by victims and to enable law enforcement to request identifying information about the owner.”
With this warning, Apple wants to make it clear to those who would use AirTags and Find My-compatible devices from third-party companies as stalking tools that such a use case is illegal and has criminal repercussions.
Apple is also fixing a bug that was causing confusion around unwanted tracking. AirPods can cause an “Unknown Accessory Alert” warning that some people were interpreting as a notice from an AirTag. AirTags are not able to display the “Unknown Accessory Detected” messaging, which is caused by AirPods Pro, AirPods Max, third-generation AirPods, and in some cases, a Find My network accessory.
Trade-In Cosmetic Scan
Code in iOS 15.4 suggests that Apple is working on a “Cosmetic Scan” feature that will be used when trading in an iPhone. Cosmetic Scan will likely be used to check an iPhone for damage like scratches and dings to provide a more accurate trade-in value estimate.
According to Apple, the close-up in Magnifier can now use the ultra-wide camera on iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max to better highlight small objects.
There are also several bug fixes included in this update, as outlined below.
- Keyboard may insert period between typed numbers
- News widgets in Today View may not open articles when tapped
- Photos and videos may not sync to iCloud Photo Library
- Speak Screen Accessibility feature may quit unexpectedly within the Books app
- Live Listen may not turn off when switched off in Control Center
iPadOS 15.4 and macOS Monterey 12.3 enable the long-awaited Universal Control feature, which is designed to allow you use a single cursor and keyboard to control the iPads and Macs that are signed into your iCloud account.
Universal Control is super easy to use and enabled by default once you upgrade to iPadOS 15.4 and macOS Monterey 12.3. If you have a MacBook and an iPad, for example, the MacBook’s trackpad and keyboard can also be used right on the iPad’s display.
There are new settings for Universal Control on the iPad and the Mac, and on the iPad, the option to toggle it on or off is listed under Handoff & AirPlay. Universal Control is Mac/iPad only, and it is not compatible with the iPhone.
iPadOS Notes App Corner Gestures
In the Notes section of the Settings app on iPad, there’s a new “Corner Gestures” section under “Quick Notes.” In this section, you can select functions for the left corner swipe and the right corner swipe.
Options include Quick Note or Screenshot, and there’s also an option to turn corner swipes off.
In iPadOS 15.4, there’s a new Keyboard Brightness option that can be added to the Control Center to allow you to adjust the brightness of a connected keyboard with backlighting.
It works for Apple’s Magic Keyboard, but it does need to be added to Control Center by going to Settings > Control Center and tapping the “+” button next to Keyboard Brightness.
Know of an iOS 15.4 feature we left out or want to offer feedback on this guide? Send us an email here.