This week we got our first look at Apple’s next updates for iPhone, iPad and Mac. iOS 15.4, iPadOS 15.4, and macOS 12.3 bring a slew of new features and changes to their respective platforms, including Universal Control, new emojis, and support for unlocking your iPhone while wearing a mask. However, you won’t see these features on your device for a while unless you jump into Apple’s beta program.
As is customary, Apple released the iOS 15.4, iPadOS 15.4, and macOS 12.3 betas to software developers first on Thursday, January 27th. You’re probably not an Apple developer, and if you are, you probably already know how to install the developer beta on your device through Apple’s developer portal. Instead, we’ll cover how to download and install the public versions of these new betas that Apple made available to everyone for free on Friday, January 28th.
All iPhones, iPads and Macs compatible with iOS 15, iPadOS 15 and macOS 12 are compatible with these latest beta updates. If your device can run the latest version of Apple software, you’re good to go.
Enroll your device in Apple’s beta program
Before you can begin running these betas, you must enroll your device or devices in Apple’s beta program. Begin, Visit this site on the device in question. Select “Sign Up,” then sign in with the Apple ID associated with your Apple device.
Once you’ve signed in, the website should automatically select the software for the device you’re using. If not, be sure to do it yourself. Below Getting started, click the link to register your device.
Apple recommends backing up your device first before proceeding. That’s great advice. Remember: Betas are unstable, unfinished software. If something goes wrong or you want to downgrade to a previous software version, you will lose any data that was not properly backed up. To make matters worse, if you create an iCloud backup while using the beta, you can only access that backup if you’re running iOS/iPadOS 15.4 or macOS 12.3. So make sure that all important data is either linked to your account or stored in a separate place.
Apple recommends archiving your iPhone or iPad with your Mac and recommends making a Time Machine backup for your Mac yourself. If you have alternative backup methods, you can use those as well. Of course not have secure if you agree to the data risks.
The instructions are now slightly different depending on the device. Luckily, Apple has a pretty good guide showing you how to download and install the beta for your particular device.
How to install iOS 15.4 and iPadOS 15.4 beta versions
From Apple’s beta site on your iPhone or iPad, tap Download Profile. Your device will notify you when the profile has been installed. Now go to Settings > General > Profiles, tap the profile, and follow the onscreen instructions to install the profile on your device. Then go to Settings > General > Software update and install the update.
How to install the beta version of macOS 12.3
Things are a bit different on the Mac side. First click on “Download the macOS Public Beta Access Utility”, click on the dmg file in your Downloads folder and then double click on the .pkg file that appears. From here, follow the on-screen instructions to set it up. Once done, open System Settings > Software Updates, where you should find a new update for macOS 12.3.
What’s new in Apple’s latest beta updates?
In my opinion, the biggest new feature of the update is Universal Control, which lets you work seamlessly between multiple Macs and iPads using a keyboard, mouse, or trackpad. The feature requires no setup – just place your devices next to each other and move your cursor between displays to switch devices. It is Yes, really cool.
Universal Control was promised as part of iOS 15’s general release last fall, but has since been delayed. I don’t usually install betas on my Mac, but Universal Control is too good a feature to wait.
Another great feature is the mask support for Face ID on the iPhone. Previously, Apple implemented a feature that allows you to unlock your Face ID iPhone while wearing a mask if you have an Apple Watch. That was a welcome addition for many of us, but for those without an Apple Watch, unlocking an iPhone with a mask was still a hassle. iOS 15.4 lets you unlock your iPhone while wearing a mask without a watch that offers this support to all iPhone owners, as long as you have an iPhone 12 or newer (which sucks for those of us with an 11 or older).
There are also more than 30 new emojis in this update, including Melting Face, Face with Open Eyes and Hand over Mouth, Face Saluting, Face with Dotted Line and more. Check out this Emojipedia post to see all new icons coming with 15.4 and 12.3.
If you’re using an iPad with the Magic Keyboard, there’s now a new keyboard brightness option in Control Center. That is genial, since the brightness control has been buried in the Settings app forever. Unlike a Mac, there hasn’t previously been a way to quickly increase or decrease the brightness of your keyboard, so this is it such a welcome relief.
Here’s a quick rundown of other fun new features in these beta updates:
- You can add notes to your iCloud Keychain passwords.
- You can use your iPhone to log into websites on Mac and iPad.
- There is no support for the DualSense controller’s adaptive triggers.
- You can access SharePlay from the share sheet when available.
- AirPods firmware can now be updated from your Mac.
- A new “Trade-In Tool” looks for cosmetic issues with your devices so you know what your device is really worth.
- There’s now an easier way to join Wi-Fi networks on Apple TV with your iPhone or iPad.