Tuesday, April 27, 2021

iOS 14.5 and iPadOS 14.5

Apple (MacRumors, ArsTechnica, Hacker News):

iOS 14.5 brings exciting new features to iPhone, including the ability to unlock iPhone with Apple Watch while wearing a face mask, more diverse Siri voices, new privacy controls, skin tone options to better represent couples in emoji, and much more.


App Tracking Transparency requires apps to get the user’s permission before tracking their data across apps or websites owned by other companies for advertising, or sharing their data with data brokers. Apps can prompt users for permission, and in Settings, users will be able to see which apps have requested permission to track so they can make changes to their choice at any time.


This document describes the security content of iOS 14.5 and iPadOS 14.5.

Federico Viticci:

In the following months, I used Siri to play a variety of music and podcast content in Spotify without ever appending the “in Spotify” qualifier to my requests, and Siri never asked me to pick a different audio player again. By all intents and purposes, this option had the effect of setting a default audio player for Siri on my device.

Apple, however, recently stressed how this new Siri feature in iOS 14.5 shouldn’t be seen as “changing a default app”, for a variety of reasons.


Apple is continuing to expand Shortcuts with new actions and system integrations in iOS 14.5.

First, there’s ‘Take Screenshot’. As the name implies, you can use this action to programmatically capture a screenshot of whatever is in the foreground when the shortcut runs without having to press the Power + Volume Up buttons.


You can now also control your device’s orientation lock settings via the ‘Set Orientation Lock’ action. With this action, you can either toggle orientation lock, or you can use parameters to specifically set it to ‘on’ or ‘off’.


Perhaps more importantly though, this action is the perfect candidate for an automation that disables orientation lock whenever you open video apps like YouTube and Netflix.

Nick Heer:

I keep orientation lock on at all times but now, when I launch Halide, orientation lock toggles off, and then switches itself back on when I leave the app. This does seem like something Apple could provide an API to developers for — the Camera app is able to rotate its UI and the photos it takes without toggling orientation lock — but it is an excellent workaround.

I wish this were a standard per-app preference, like with notifications, cellular, and location access.


In regard to unlock w/Apple Watch:

  • This is an issue of Apple’s own artificial creation.
  • This doesn’t even solve the issue.

So this all started because Face Unlock didn’t work with masks, that’s not Apple’s fault. But what is entirely Apple’s fault is that they break an option which resolves this only when Face Unlock is enabled: “Require Passcode.”

When you disable Face Unlock you can set Require Passcode to e.g. 15 minutes/1 hr, and it largely mitigates the aggressiveness by which your iPhone re-locks itself while you’re e.g. out grocery shopping in a mask and trying to use a shopping list. But when you enable Face Unlock this option is removed (forced to “Require Immediately”).

So Apple enforces “Require Immediately” in Require Passcode, it blows up in their face, and then instead of backing down when masks broke Face Unlock, they instead over-engineer a solution where you have to buy an Apple Watch to work around it.

Just letting me set a delay for requiring a passcode would offer a much better user experience. I’ve been using Guided Access, which is a pain to turn on and off, doesn’t work with Apple Pay, and doesn’t let me switch to another app.


Update (2021-05-03): Hartley Charlton:

In spite of redesigning its Podcasts app with iOS 14.5, long-standing bugs within the app persist, and Apple has introduced a range of new crippling usability problems, according to hundreds of reports from users across Twitter and Reddit.

Update (2021-05-07): Dan Frakes:

Phone life changing

Tom Brand:

I still don’t understand why full screen video isn’t locked to the correct orientation.


Update (2021-05-18): Juli Clover:

With Apple now enforcing its App Tracking Transparency rules with the release of iOS 14.5, The Wall Street Journal’s Joanna Stern did an interview with Apple software engineering chief Craig Federighi to talk about Apple’s aim with the feature and how it works.

Ron Gilbert:

If Apple really cared about iOS privacy they would give the user to ability to block any app from reaching the internet. A lot of the iOS apps I used have no need to ping the internet but they all do to gather metrics and do who-knows-what.

Rather than create a complex and unenforceable privacy policy Apple should just let users block the app from using the internet.

Update (2021-05-24): Callum Booth:

Because the Apple Podcast app redesign is a violation of our human rights; a plague upon this fair and pleasant land.

Okay, that’s a bit much. But the redesign is annoying. Anything that gets tweaked should be better to use, right? Well, that hasn’t happened with the new Apple Podcasts app.

Dave Wood:

I filed a bug about the ‘require immediately’ issue even before Face Id. It’s a problem with Touch ID as well…. I was told by an Apple employee at the time who looked at the radar “Don’t hold your breath on that one”.

10 Comments RSS · Twitter

I think the title of this post is a typo. Did you mean iOS 14.5 and iPad OS 14.5?

> Just letting me set a delay for requring[sic] a passcode would offer a much better user experience.

This is somewhat besides the point, but I keep wishing for a return of Location Manager. With all the sensors an iPhone has, this would work far better today. It could figure out whether you're at home, at work, or on the go, and let me set different profiles depending: automatically connect to a certain VPN, change the passcode delay, etc.

As for unlocking with the Watch, I've found it to work ~90% of the time on my Watch SE + iPhone 11. Pretty fast, too; no way I'd be able to enter a non-trivial passcode in that time.

One common scenario where I find myself wearing a mask and wanting to unlock my phone is precisely the scenario where being more lenient on passcode policies probably wouldn't be a good idea: in a grocery store, looking up my shopping list. Before the 14.5 betas, I would hack this using Guided Access (essentially keeping the screen always on and the list always open), but now I don't have to worry about that any more, and still get a decent amount of security.

Now, it is indeed quite an overengineered solution (which, Apple-style, requires you to own two non-cheap devices), but it so happens that I've been happy with AW for activity tracking anyway. For people who don't already have an AW, though, this is obviously an unreasonable approach.

@Simone Thanks.

@Sören Why would it not be good to be more lenient in the grocery store?

Apple had enough time to add TouchID to new iPad Pro, technology exists and is used in iPad Air, multiple unlock methods exist as watch and TouchID in macOS.
I welcome unlock with Apple Watch, but both the return of TouchID and delay of requiring the Passcode would help a lot more.

And @Sören is totally right too, location manager would help a lot.

It’s probably the first time in a very very long time that I actively updated my phone and watch as soon as possible. Works great. It’s a 400 euros solution that saves 3 secs here and there when I am out, but like Søren says, when you already have the watch it’s worth it :)

@Dmitri Zdorov

Few people appreciate just how long a lead time is involved in creating new hardware. All of Apple's hardware decisions are finalized well over a year in advance of release. There is no way Apple could have made changes to Ipad or Iphone hardware to accomodate mask wearing.

And they are, as usual with Apple, Very Proud of their face ID and regard it as Just Better In All Ways to touch ID, and will not be swayed to change their minds without a ton of noisy negative feedback. The only touch ID hardware they've put out in the past few years has been for lower cost products where they can't meet their profit margin targets and still have all the front panel cameras and IR lasers, etc, that FaceID requires.

> Why would it not be good to be more lenient in the grocery store?

Well, not to put too fine a point on it, but it's a situation in the public with plenty of largely anonymous people. It's ripe for the phone getting pickpocketed or falling to the floor.

(Not that this has actually happened to me. Instead, the far less plausible-to-me scenario of someone stealing my laptop from a car's trunk has.)

> Few people appreciate just how long a lead time is involved in creating new hardware. All of Apple's hardware decisions are finalized well over a year in advance of release.

This long hardware pipeline is in part Apple's choice. It comes with benefits (such as being able to make advantageous supply chain deals), but it has drawbacks as well. I think Apple's slow reaction to the butterfly keyboard reliability issues was in large part to blame on this (plus, hubris) — they were literally only able to react within the span of years. And yes, you're right, Face ID is another example: due to their long pipeline, they haven't yet been able to make a product lineup that makes more sense with masks on. But, again, that was their tradeoff to make. It's absolutely possible to do shorter pipelines.

> Few people appreciate just how long a lead time is involved in creating new hardware. All of Apple's hardware decisions are finalized well over a year in advance of release.
This is a fallacy.The long lead time is a vicious cycle caused by Apple's own bad decision making. Apple's drive for secrecy above all else in their product design has created this; there is no reason, at this time (the iPad is over 10 YEARS! old), that such level of secrecy is required, or should be even desirable, nobody is really "surprised" anymore at such basic commodities. We've already seen Touch ID in the power button, so no one would have been "surprised" to see it in the Pro. Heck, nobody should have been surprised to see Touch ID in the power button on the Air, considering the concept had been used by other manufacturers for a few years. Should anyone be surprised by a higher resolution Face ID camera in a new iMac or MacBook Pro? Nope... because Apple has shown that component for several years in the iPhone. The difference is that, DUE to the poor decision making, we're _not_ seeing Apple successfully leverage their component advancements in timely manner. Or they're just not leveraging them due to greed (to drive future sales by intentionally not giving customers today the best product they could, completely contrary to their PR narrative).
Look to auto manufacturing: that segment learned long ago that standardizing on components was necessary to success. Door handles, sun visor assemblies, knobs and buttons... they're all very interchangeable, sometimes even between manufacturers! Yet, somehow, Apple can't seem to figure out how to put the same power button they would have developed 2 years ago into a new "Pro" product, or how to fit the iPad Pro 2018 Face ID front camera assembly into the new iMac 24-inch. And Tim Cook is supposed to have been a supply chain genius? Uh huh.

No… this isn't what you think it is… it is nothing but Apple stupidity and greed.

@Sören OK, I see your point, though I’m personally not worried about that and would really like better unlocking when shopping. And, during COVID, everyone is keeping their distance from me, anyway.

@ Michael: yeah, fair enough. Like I said, one big remaining thing on my iOS wishlist is being able to set location-/context-specific profiles like "have laxer passcode settings while I do xyz". This is, alas, the kind of thing only Apple could do.

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