Apple held a virtual event overnight to spruik the company’s new products, quietly slipping in a notice about a software update due to roll out next week.
The mention was in a footnote in a media release about a new product called AirTags — more on that below.
Apple had previously been vague on the update date, only hinting that it would be available in the US spring.
The iOS 14.5 update includes a range of software tweaks, but the biggest change is a new privacy feature that could cost companies like Facebook.
Apps forced to ask for data
The App Tracking Transparency feature will force apps to ask permission before tracking users across apps and websites with their unique advertising ID.
To date, apps have been free to track iPhone users automatically and build up hefty advertising profiles based on what apps they use or websites they visit unless people go to the effort of opting out to keep their data and behaviours walled off and separate inside each app.
Users will now be prompted to opt in or opt out of tracking when they first open an app.
Apple originally planned to release the feature last September, but delayed it to give ad-dependent “free” apps time to adjust to the changes.
Facebook spent part of the delay blasting Apple for a change that it says could make it difficult for smaller apps to survive without charging consumers.
But Facebook has acknowledged to investors that its own ad revenue could also be hurt.
There’ll be bunch of new emojis
iOS 14.5 update will also see a few new additions and tweaks to the array of emoji.
According to Emojipedia, there will be 217 new emoji.
Three new smilies are being added to the mix: a face with spiral eyes, an exhaling face and something called “face in clouds” — which we anticipate will be adapted to a smoking-related context.
Expect more diversity on your emoji keyboard, with more options for a mix of skin tones for couples, as well an option to specify whether the bearded face you’re using is a man or a woman.
There’ll be a burning heart as well as a “mending heart” wrapped in bandages).
One of the more interesting adjustments will be removing the blood from the syringe emoji.
This will make it a bit more versatile — namely, that it’ll look more like the COVID-19 vaccine.
You’ll be able to unlock your phone with a masked face… but you’ll need a watch
Another feature of the updated software is the ability to unlock an iPhone with Face ID while wearing a mask.
It sounds like a handy feature given how commonplace face masks are now, but you need to have an Apple Watch connected to your phone if you want to pull off this manoeuvre.
Apple’s making tracking dots
The long-rumoured AirTags are coming, and they’ll help users track and locate everything from keys to bags and jackets.
The small, circular tracking device is water and dust-resistant, with a built-in speaker.
Apple teamed up with luxury brand Hermès to embed the dots in leather accessories like bag charms and keyrings.
When attached to keys and other items, the tags communicate with Apple devices to help users locate the items — but it’s not a new idea.
They compete with Tile, a company that has sold a similar device for more than a decade.
Tile’s chief executive CJ Prober called for politicians to examine Apple’s entry to the tracker tag product category at a US Senate committee hearing where Tile will testify.
“We welcome competition, as long as it is fair competition,” Mr Prober said.
“Unfortunately, given Apple’s well-documented history of using its platform advantage to unfairly limit competition for its products, we’re sceptical.”
And colourful Macs are back
Those funky-coloured computers that popular girls had in their bedrooms in American teen movies are no longer a thing of early 2000s.
Apple will soon be selling its desktop computers in seven “vibrant” colours.
Oh, and the iPhone will also be sold in purple too. Youtube Colourful Mac launched by Apple