Five things to know about Apple’s iOS update

Apple has announced its new iOS 14.5 update for the iPhone and iPad.

The most newsy feature is its new App Tracking Transparency function – which means users will have to “opt in” if they want their online activity tracked by companies. Here are the things that caught our eye.

Unlocking an iPhone wearing a mask

Apple’s new operating system will allow you to unlock your phone whilst wearing a mask – with a gigantic catch.

Apple’s facial recognition doesn’t generally work when users are wearing a mask. Apple’s work-around involves you also owning an Apple Watch.

An iPhone next to an Apple Watch
The Apple Watch can be used to unlock the iPhone.

Apple said: “With Apple Watch on the wrist, unlocked, and in close proximity to iPhone, users can simply glance at their iPhone and they will receive haptic feedback from Apple Watch, indicating their iPhone has been unlocked.”

For anyone who doesn’t own an Apple Watch, as well as an iPhone, this feature won’t work.

App Tracking Transparency

The new update will mean a prompt will flash up when you want to download an app – asking for your permission for the app to track your online activity.

An App Tracking Transparency pop up asking for tracking permissions
App Tracking Transparency requires permission to track

That data is currently used to create highly targeted ads based on your online behaviour by companies like Facebook.

Facebook has publically lobbied against the new change. The less Facebook knows about you, the less money it can charge for adverts.

Apple’s motives for the move have been questioned. If app developers can’t make as much through advertising, they might be more inclined to charge for services – and Apple makes money from these payments.

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Like millions of iPhone users I downloaded iOS 14.5 last night and waited to find out what Apple’s brave new world of freedom from tracking looked like.

But nothing happened. There were no alerts from the hundreds of apps I have installed, asking me to agree to tracking. I tried downloading some new apps, but again: nothing, nada, zilch.

Buried in the privacy section of the phone’s settings is a switch labelled “Allow Apps to Request to Track” which was toggled on. Underneath, just one app was listed – a streaming service which I think I updated last night.

It seems that even if that is switched on, tracking stays off until the apps themselves push out a request screen inviting you to accept it.

Facebook says it is in the process of pushing out its screen – preceded by another one, explaining why tracking is a good thing and has helped to keep many small businesses afloat.

But a huge system of data collection, which sees app users tracked wherever they go, has been switched off for all who download the update.

What’s not clear is how much of it will be switched on again – by users, or even by the developers themselves. Many may decide that this kind of tracking has had its day, and they need to find a new model for advertising.

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New Emojis

Apple has introduced several new emojis in its latest update.

For example, people will be able to select different skin tones for the “couple kissing” emoji and “couple with heart” emoji.

Emoji couples with different skin tones
Users can pick individual skin tones in the couple kissing and couple with heart emojis

Apple said that “Additional emoji include characters for face exhaling, face with spiral eyes, face in clouds, hearts on fire, mending heart, and woman with a beard, among others.”

Six new emojis including a face exhaling, woman with beard and heart on fire
Apple is adding new emojis, including a face exhaling, woman with beard and heart on fire

Siri

Apple says Siri, its voice-controlled assistant, is becoming more diverse.

“Siri no longer has a default voice, allowing users to choose the voice that speaks to them when they first set up their device,” says Apple.

“In English, users can now select more diverse voice options. These new Siri voices use Neural Text to Speech technology for an incredibly natural sound,” says Apple.

Apple says these updates represent longstanding commitments to diversity and inclusion.

However many of Apple’s devices are made in China, where Apple has received criticism for not being more vocal about the government’s treatment of Uyghurs.

Apple’s critics say that the company should be consistent in its messaging on diversity – both at home and abroad.

AirTags

Apple’s new operating system will work with the newly launched “AirTags”.

The small disc can be attached to things like your keys or wallet. If you lose them, you’ll be able to track them with the Find My app.

Apple AirTag
Apple AirTag

This looks very similar to another product on the market: “Tile”.

Last week Apple was criticised during a Senate hearing for copying Tile’s idea.

Tile’s General Counsel Kirsten Daru said “We welcome competition but it has to be fair competition and Apple’s idea of competing is patently unfair.”

She also accused Apple of preventing Tile from using the technology behind Apple’s Find My function, giving AirTags an unfair advantage.

Apple said the product was different. “We didn’t copy Tile’s product… It’s extremely different to anything else on the market,” said Apple’s Chief Compliance Officer, Kyle Andeer.

Source: BBC