Tech Support: iOS 14.5 updates explained

AKIKO FUJITA: They are some big changes coming to your iPhone next week with the new iOS upgrades set to take effect. Let’s bring in Dan Howley for this week’s Tech Support. Dan, we’ve heard a lot about this upgrade in the context of the privacy measures that are going to be most visible. But what else are you looking at in terms of user experience?

DAN HOWLEY: Yeah, there’s a whole bunch of new upgrades coming for iOS 14.5. It might be the biggest midcycle refresh of iOS in years. And I think one of the first things to talk about, obviously, is those privacy measures that you mentioned. That’s called App Tracking Transparency. And essentially what’s going to happen is, when you download iOS 14.5, your phone is going to ask you if you want apps to be able to track you across the web and other apps. So right now, your apps, whether you know it or not, are tracking you. They want to see where you go, what you interact with, what ads you click on.

And that’s for advertisers. There’s an advertiser identifier that Apple had actually built for apps called ID For Advertisers. It’s IDAF. And so this feature will be able to limit the ability for apps to track you anywhere. So when you sign in, you’ll get this prompt, do you want XYZ app to track you? Hit no, and it will not be able to track you, period. You will be off the grid for them. The only thing– kind of ads you’re going to get, instead of targeted ads, are just general ads.

Facebook says this is bad because it’ll hurt small businesses. Facebook also gets a cut of that advertising revenue. So obviously, that’s why they would say it’s bad. But they also say that Apple is being unfair in that respect. Apple says it’s a way to protect your privacy. So it’s really kind of six to one, half dozen or the other. And they’re going to probably try to fight this out in the courts or with their own new features through Facebook.

And then another big thing that’s coming to iOS 14.5 is Air Tags. These are the products that we saw announced at Apple’s event, Spring Loaded, last week. Basically, these are little trackers that you’ll be able to put on physical devices. So think your keys, think your remote, think your purse, your wallet. You could slide it into a little part of your wallet. And if that gets lost, you’ll be able to find it using your iPhone in the Find My app.

And what’s more, you don’t have to be in Bluetooth range. They use the Find My network, which is over a billion devices, and encrypt the signal from it. So if another iOS device is nearby, it will be able to pick up the Bluetooth signal of your Air Tag and then send that through the Find My network to yours. So, say, you drop your wallet in the park. Someone walks by with an iPhone. It’s going to ping that iPhone and then send that data to you so you’ll know that your device is sitting there in the park. You can run there and get it just in time.

And then a few other changes, there’s going to be new Siri voices. So Siri is not going to be a woman by default anymore. It’s going to be whatever voice you want as soon as you set up your phone. Apple says this is kind of a way to add inclusivity to it. And then they’re also adding the first Black American voices to Siri. It’s something they never had before, which is surprising. So they want to increase the diversity for Siri overall, so it’s more inviting for more people.

They’re also adding the Unlock Your Phone while you’re wearing a mask feature. That, however, has a huge caveat in that you need an Apple Watch to use it. So it’s $199 essentially to be able to unlock your phone using Face ID with your mask on. Otherwise, if you don’t want to spend that money or you don’t have an Apple Watch already, you can just continue to use your passcode, which is a little annoying, but look, it’ll be a lot easier with the watch if you have one.

And then finally, one of the things I want to point out is Apple is trying to make Apple Maps a bigger competitor to Google Maps and Waze by adding crowdsourced traffic events. So if you’re in your car, hopefully not while you’re driving, you’ll be able to add things like traffic alerts. If you see perhaps a speed trap, an accident, you’ll be able to add that to Apple Maps on your own. And then that will show up on other people’s Apple Maps to make it more of a kind of interactive experience to give you a better heads up of what’s down the road.

So, really, what they’re trying to do is compete directly with Google Maps and Waze. We’ll see. Google Maps obviously has the market cornered as far as navigation goes. I mean, I have an iPhone. I have CarPlay in my car. And I still use Google Maps. So I don’t know if this is going to make me change. It’s just my default nature now. But it’s an interesting new feature. And it could open up more people to Apple Maps. So a lot of big updates coming for iOS 14.5. You’ll be able to download it manually if you want when they release it next week. Or you should get it automatically to your phone as soon as it’s available.