Apple's iOS 14.5 update lands next week — including new emojis, big privacy changes

AirTag is Apple's latest new product: a small tracking device that helps you find non-connected things like your wallet or keys.

Posted: Apr 21, 2021 3:31 AM
Updated: Apr 21, 2021 3:31 AM

Apple unveiled a slew of new products at its annual Spring launch on Tuesday, but waited until after the event to announce big changes coming to software for iPhones and iPads "next week."

The company said in a press release that it will roll out its much-anticipated iOS 14.5 software but didn't specify which day. It'll feature the the ability to unlock your device without taking off a mask when using an Apple Watch, a major data privacy change and new emoji, including a less graphic syringe amid the global Covid-19 vaccine rollout. It'll also include support for its new AirTag Bluetooth trackers.

As expected, Apple is introducing a new requirement for users to give explicit permission for apps to track them across the internet, a move that has roiled Facebook, which relies on data collection to target ads.

The company said the requirement could harm its ad revenue, but has framed its objections around potential harm to small businesses. In December, Facebook took out ads in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post, saying the requirement could be "devastating" to millions of small businesses that advertise on its platform. It also held a press event to trot out small businesses opposed to the change and debuted a new hashtag to discuss it.

In addition, iPhone users will soon be able to unlock their smartphones without needing to remove their face masks, but first they'll need an Apple Watch. Face ID typically recognizes when someone is wearing a mask and triggers the passcode entry screen to appear.

Now, an iPhone will be able to communicate with a synced Apple Watch when the phone is raised to use Face ID. The devices must be in close proximity, and when authentication is completed the iPhone will automatically unlock and the Apple Watch will vibrate. Apple quietly tested this feature in February.

And it wouldn't be a significant software update without the inclusion of more emoji. Among the new additions: a heart on fire, a face with swirly eyes, the ability for both women and men to have beards, and a syringe without drops of blood.

iOS 14.5 will also allow users to report traffic accidents directly within Apple Maps, a crowdsourcing tool similar to Google's popular Waze app. Users will also be able to select from additional voice options for Siri, which will no longer default to a female voice.

The company also announced on Tuesday a new iPad Pro, AirTag, a revamped Apple TV, a purple iPhone and more.

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