Apple has today released iOS 15.4 and iPadOS 15.4, bringing a slew of new features and enhancements.
Our experience is that the following bugs specific to VoiceOver and braille users have been resolved or significantly addressed in these releases:
- When speaking a notification on the Lock Screen or Notification Center, VoiceOver will no longer speak most of the notification twice.
- Braille users now receive full feedback when QuickNav automatically turns on or off.
- The VoiceOver quick settings toggle for Image Descriptions now works on iPad.
- There is a marginal improvement while panning through text using a braille display related to the commands to pan braille forward and backward.
At the time of writing, we are aware of one new bug in these releases for braille users:
- When alert display messages are enabled, they often do not go away even though VoiceOver focus is set to a specific item.
As we always stress, we can make no claims on the completeness or accuracy of our testing. We are only a small team, and it is simply impossible for us to test all devices, configurations, applications, and use cases. Accordingly, to help us ensure that the information on this page is as complete and accurate as possible, please let us know in the comments of any additional fixes; enhancements; or regressions that you find in your own use of iOS 15.4 and iPadOS 15.4.
New Features and Enhancements
iOS 15.4 and iPadOS 15.4 add a number of new features and enhancements, including new emoji, the ability to use Face ID while wearing a mask, Universal Control, improvements to iCloud Keychain, and a new US Siri voice.
As is common for Apple's major Spring releases, iOS 15.4 and iPadOS 15.4 bring new emoji characters - 37 emoji and 75 skin tone additions for a total of 112 new characters.
According to MacRumors,“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.
For those with an iPhone 12 or newer, you now have the option to unlock your device while wearing a mask. This uses the area around your eyes for authentication purposes. It works with glasses, but not sunglasses. Significantly for members of our community, it also requires that you are looking at your device. This does not require that ‘Require Attention for Face ID’ is enabled, but Apple does state that “Face ID will always require attention when you’re wearing a mask.”
iPadOS 15.4 and macOS Monterey 12.3 bring support for Universal Control, which allows you to use a single cursor and keyboard to control the Macs and iPads that are signed into your iCloud account. This means that if you have a MacBook and an iPad, for example, the MacBook's trackpad and keyboard can be used to navigate and control the iPad.
We've not had an opportunity to test the operation of Universal Control with VoiceOver, so please share your own experience below of this feature. Is it compatible with VoiceOver? Does it allow for seamless transition between devices as it does for sighted users? We look forward to hearing your experiences.
There are a number of enhancements to iCloud Keychain. The first of these is that you can now add a note to password entries in Keychain, which brings iCloud Keychain a step closer to being a fully fledged password manager.
Next up is the ability to hide alerts about potentially weak or compromised passwords. This may be helpful for passwords which you aren't able to change, such as those provided to you by a company or agency. Previously dismissed alerts can be viewed under ‘Hidden Security Recommendations’ in Password settings.
The final enhancement to iCloud Keychain, is that you will be prompted to provide a username when saving a password in Safari and a username has not automatically been detected.
Prior to these releases, it was possible to use your own email domains with Apple Mail, but the initial setup had to be done on the iCloud website. It is now possible to do this directly on your device by navigating to Settings > Apple ID > iCloud > iCloud Mail. Note that custom email domains require a paid iCloud+ storage plan.
The final new feature we will mention here, is a new US Siri voice, simply labeled “America (Voice 5).” This voice is available to be used with VoiceOver, and is less explicitly male or female, with Apple telling Axios that it hired “a member of the LGBTQ+ community” to record it.
Apple's release notes below set out what else is new and changed in iOS 15.4 and iPadOS 15.4.
iOS 15.4 Release Notes
iOS 15.4 adds the ability to unlock with Face ID while wearing a mask on iPhone 12 and newer. This update also includes new emoji, a new voice option for Siri, and other features and bug fixes for your iPhone.
- Face ID while wearing a mask option on iPhone 12 and newer
- Apple Pay and password autofill in apps and Safari can be used with Face ID while wearing a mask
- New emoji including faces, hand gestures, and household objects are now available in emoji keyboard
- Handshake emoji allows you to choose separate skin tones for each hand
- SharePlay sessions can be initiated directly from supported apps
- Siri can provide time and date information while offline on iPhone XS, iPhone XR, iPhone 11 or newer
- Siri now includes an additional voice, expanding the diversity of options
- EU Digital COVID Certificate support in Health enables you to download and store verifiable versions of COVID-19 vaccination, lab results, and recovery records
- COVID-19 vaccination cards in Apple Wallet now support the EU Digital COVID Certificate format
This release also includes the following enhancements for your iPhone:
- Safari webpage translation adds support for Italian and Chinese (Traditional)
- Podcasts app adds episode filters for seasons, played, unplayed, saved, or downloaded episodes
- iCloud custom email domains can be managed from Settings
- News offers enhanced discovery of audio content in the Today feed and Audio tab
- Camera in keyboard can be used to add text to Notes and Reminders
- Shortcuts now supports adding, removing, or querying tags with Reminders
- Emergency SOS settings have changed to use Call with Hold for all users. Call with 5 Presses is still available as an option in Emergency SOS settings
- Close-up in Magnifier uses the ultra-wide camera on iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max to help you see small objects
- Saved passwords can now include your own notes in Settings
This release also includes bug fixes for your iPhone:
- 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
How to Update
iOS 15.4 and iPadOS 15.4 are available via Over-the-Air Update (Settings > General > Software Update) via Finder on a Mac with macOS Catalina or later, or via iTunes on a PC or Mac with macOS Mojave or earlier.
Before updating, we strongly recommend making a full and complete backup of your device (either locally or in iCloud, depending on personal preference). This will ensure that, in the unlikely event that something goes wrong during the update process, you will have a current backup on hand in case a device restore becomes necessary. Also, if using OTA update, we recommend plugging your device into a power source for the duration of the download/installation process, so as to prevent the unlikely event of your battery going dead during the update.
More information on how to update the software on your device is available on this Apple Support page.
As always, we look forward to hearing your thoughts and experiences of the new features and enhancements in these releases, so please let us know by posting a comment below.