As expected, Apple has followed the release of iOS 15.3 with the beta-testing releases for iOS 15.4 (and associated operating systems like iPadOS, watchOS, and tvOS). We’re still waiting on a couple of significant iOS 15 features that are supposed to be released this spring, and this beta finally brings the first look at Universal Control (together with the macOS 12.3 beta). It’s hoped that, over the course of the beta testing releases, these features will show up in iOS 15.4, but Apple may still delay them further.
Update 03/01/22: The fifth beta release is now available to developers. The public beta typically is released within a day. We haven’t found any new features in this beta version yet, but will update this article when we do.
iOS 15.4: New features
The iPadOS 15.4 beta finally brings Universal Control, which was supposed to release last fall but was delayed until spring 2022. The feature, which lets you drag and drop files between the iPad and Mac (or different Macs) as well as share keyboard and mouse wirelessly between them, can be found in the AirPlay & Handoff tab in the General Settings. There, you’ll see a new Cursor and Keyboard (Beta) option.
Face ID with Mask
Better late than never, right? While iOS 14.5 let you unlock your iPhone with your Apple Watch when Face ID doesn’t work, that’s not a lot of use for those who don’t have a watch but are trying to reduce the spread of a deadly pandemic by wearing a mask in public spaces.
Inside the Face ID & Passcode settings, you’ll find a new toggle to Use Face ID with a Mask. When turned on, Face ID will “use the unique features around the eye area to authenticate” rather than full facial recognition, which includes unlocking, payments, and password/login authentication. There’s also a new “Add Glasses” setting so the system can properly identify your facial features. Apple warns that Face ID is more accurate with the settings turned off.
Apple has announced several AirTag changes that will arrive this year, the first of will arrive in iOS 15.4. Apple has added a new message during setup that states AirTag is “designed to be detected by victims and to enable law enforcement to request identifying information about the owner.” It also warns that using an AirTag to track people without their consent is a crime.
There are several dozen new emojis as part of the Unicode Consortium’s Emoji 14 release. They include melting face, saluting face, biting lip, jar, beans, x-ray, bubbles, and more.
New Siri Voice
The fourth beta of iOS 15.4 brings a new American Siri Voice 5 that can be applied to all interactions. The new voice isn’t explicitly male or female and was recorded by a member of the LBGTQ+ community, according to Apple. It’s another step in Apple’s push for diversity, which began in iOS 14.5 last April when the default female voice was removed and two black actors recorded voices.
DualSense adaptive triggers
This release enables developers to support the adaptive triggers function of the PlayStation 5 DualSense controller.
iCloud Keychain notes
You can add notes to a password entry in Keychain. Head to Settings > Passwords to see your Keychain entries.
Safari password management
Staring with iOS 15.4 beta 3, Safari will no longer silently save passwords for websites when it doesn’t have a login name. Instead, it will prompt you to enter your login, so it has a more complete password entry. The change was acknowledged by Apple developer Ricky Mondello on Twitter.
There’s a new Apple Card widget that can be added to your home screen or Today view. It shows your current balance and spending activity.
Vaccination records in the EU
The Health app now supports the EU Digital COVID Certificate format, so you can add your vaccine record to the Health and Wallet apps in supported regions.
Tap to Pay
As announced earlier in the day, Apple has added the framework for Tap to Pay in iOS 15.4. The new payment processing feature lets iPhones accept Apple Pay payments without needing a credit card terminal or extra hardware. While the framework has been discovered, it is not yet active–you won’t be able to use it as a beta tester, just yet.
The iPhone 13 Pro brought 120Hz ProMotion to the iPhone, but support in apps was somewhat limited thanks to a Core Animation bug that limited most third-party app animations to 60Hz. With iOS 15.4, that bug in Core Animation is fixed, and third-party apps that use the framework will automatically get up to 120Hz animations.
iOS 15.4: How to get it
If you’re interested in beta-testing iOS 15.4 (or iPadOS 15.4), you should do so on a device that is not your primary everyday iPhone or iPad.
Registered developers can go to developer.apple.com/download using the device upon which they wish to run the beta. From there, you can download a developer beta profile. Head to Settings > General > VPN & Device Management to enable the beta profile. Then your iPhone or iPad will restart, and you can go to Settings > General > Software Update to download the latest version.
To participate in the public beta test (which usually gets beta builds between a few hours and a day after the developers do), head to beta.apple.com using the device upon which you wish to run the beta. From there, you can download a developer beta profile. Head to Settings > General > VPN & Device Management to enable the beta profile. Then your iPhone or iPad will restart, and you can go to Settings > General > Software Update to download the latest version.
I have written professionally about technology for my entire adult professional life – over 20 years. I like to figure out how complicated technology works and explain it in a way anyone can understand.