Apple releases iPadOS/iOS 15.4 with mask-enabled Face ID and Universal Control support

Apple’s iOS 15.4 has been released in the wild. The update is important for one main reason: it lets you use Face ID with a mask.

It lets you do just about everything Apple ID does and works alongside the Apple Watch-dependent unlock feature that Apple previously introduced.

We’ve been using the developer beta version of the software for a while now (here’s how to participate in future betas) and we’re happy to report that the mask-enabled Face ID is working well. It’s not foolproof, but it works a good chunk of the time. You’ll need to use an iPhone 12 or 13 series phone to take advantage of the new technology – there’s no iPad support.

This version of iPadOS software also includes support for Universal Control, the software that lets you control an iPad wirelessly from your Mac (running macOS Monterey 12.3 or later), including the ability to drag and drop files and other elements between operating systems.

The new software also includes new emojis (which always seem to be the case these days) as well as the long-talked-about anti-harassment features for Apple’s AirTag trackers.

There’s also a new voice for Siri, plus the intriguing Tap-to-Pay feature which means people will be able to pay you just by tapping your iPhone. However, this will not just be ready by default as it needs third party payment providers to enable it for their apps.

iOS 15.4/iPadOS 15.4 full preview of new features

Face identification with a mask

  • The iPhone will now include an option for users to unlock Face ID while wearing a mask.
  • Once enrolled, the iPhone can recognize unique features around the eye area to authenticate itself.
  • Face ID while wearing a mask can be used as authentication to unlock iPhone, transact with Apple Pay, and autofill passwords in apps and Safari.
  • The new feature works with iPhone 12 and later.

A new way to start SharePlay

  • SharePlay is a powerful set of features for sharing experiences during a FaceTime call.
  • Today, users can start SharePlay from FaceTime, and with the release of iOS 15.4, SharePlay sessions can be launched directly from supported apps.

Siri Voice

  • Siri now has a new voice for English speakers, giving users more options to choose a voice that speaks to them.
  • The new Siri voice uses Neural Text to Speech technology for incredibly natural sound.

Apple Wallet and Health Support for EU COVID Digital Certificate

  • Now users in the European Union can securely upload and store verifiable COVID-19 vaccinations, lab results, and recovery records in the Health app.
  • Additionally, COVID-19 vaccination cards in Apple Wallet now support the EU COVID digital certificate format. Once added to the Wallet app, users can view and present their vaccination record at any time.

New emoji

  • iOS 15.4 features over 37 new emoji, including faces, hand gestures, and household objects.
  • Users can now choose separate skin tones for each hand in the handshake emoji.

Additional Features

  • Safari Web page translation adds support for Italian and Traditional Chinese.
  • Visual search recognizes art, world landmarks, plants and flowers, books, and dog and cat breeds in a user’s photos so they can learn more about them, and now with a expanded language and geographic availability, more users around the world will be able to experience Visual Search. With iOS 15.4, Visual Look Up is available in English (Australia, Canada, India, Singapore, United Kingdom, United States), French (France), German (Germany), Italian (Italy) and Spanish (Mexico, Spain, United States).
  • Podcasts The app adds episode filters for seasons, played, unplayed, saved or downloaded episodes.
  • News provides improved discovery of audio content in the Today feed and the Audio tab.
  • Live Text can be added to Notes and Reminders apps using the camera.
  • Camera in the keyboard can be used in the Notes and Reminders apps to copy and paste text.
  • Shortcuts now supports adding, removing, or querying tags with callbacks.
  • Emergency SOS settings changed to use call waiting for all users.
  • Audio guidance in Fitness+ provide audio cues of visually demonstrated movements during workouts to better support blind or visually impaired users.

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