Apple rolls out iOS 15.4 and iPadOS 15.4 with Face ID update, Universal Control

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Apple’s iOS 15.4 and iPadOS 15.4 updates are now available for all supported devices, bringing new features, bug fixes, and performance improvements to iPad and iPhone.

The long-awaited Universal Control and Face ID mask compatibility features, among other quality of life updates, are finally made official with the public release of iOS 15.4 and iPadOS 15.4 today. Here are all the details.

Use Face ID with a mask

After masks made Face ID unavailable during the pandemic, Apple introduced an option in iOS 15.4 to use Face ID with a mask. Only available on iPhone, the new Face ID configuration will allow users to choose between two versions of Face ID authentication. The new Face ID with a Mask option appears next to the standard option which was the default since iOS 11.1 with iPhone X.

The new interface will prompt the user to put on their glasses during setup to improve accuracy. Apple is also clear that Face ID With a Mask will not work with sunglasses.

As this variant of Face ID authentication only scans facial features around the eyes, Apple warns that this method will be less accurate as fewer facial features are used for biometric identification. This differs from the standard scanning method which examines the user’s entire face. And, Apple also said that the user’s attention to unlocking is required, where full face scanning is not.

This feature is only available for iOS 15.4. Only iPhone models with TrueDepth cameras can benefit from this feature.

Universal control

The highly anticipated Universal Control is finally coming to iPad. Universal Control lets you share a single keyboard and mouse input across multiple iPads and Macs.

With iOS 15.4, iPad and Mac devices set up next to each other can all share a single set of input devices. When you move past a device’s border, it automatically follows the direction of the screen it’s heading towards. When the cursor enters the Next Device view, the input devices will automatically switch to control that other Mac or iPad instead, regardless of what device those input forms are physically connected to.

This provides the convenience of only requiring one mouse and one keyboard to simultaneously control all iPad and Mac devices in your setup. Universal Control differs from Sidecar in that it does not require these other devices to be connected as external displays. Pre-existing workflows on those other devices remain uninterrupted, yet controllable.

Universal Control also inherits the convenience of multi-device Universal Clipboard, where a file dragged across devices will automatically be sent to the destination device that input devices are now targeting. This is however still subject to the limitations of the current state of the device interface, so an image cannot be dragged onto an iPad home screen, for example.

Universal Control requires all participating iPad and Mac devices to be running iPadOS 15.4 and macOS Monterey 12.3 or later respectively. It also requires all devices to have Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and Handoff enabled and be placed within 30 feet of each other, or connected via USB if a wired connection is preferred.

Tap to pay on iPhone

Also new to iOS 15.4 is a feature that allows merchants to accept Apple Pay and other contactless payments with an iPhone configured as a point-of-sale terminal, using the receiving iPhone’s NFC sensor to accept these payments with no additional hardware required.

Compatible with iPhone XS or later, Apple will offer merchants on select payment platforms using their iPhone devices the ability to accept contactless transactions. Apple has already announced Stripe as the first platform to offer Tap to Pay, with other payment platforms and apps “to follow later this year”.

Other Features and Improvements

  • 37 new emoji added to Emoji Keyboard as part of Unicode 14.0
  • New push notification API for Safari
  • WebXR support for better mixed reality headset compatibility – New notes field for iCloud Keychain passwords
  • Ability to disable iCloud data access
  • New Apple Card widget available on home screen
  • Vaccination passport support for health and wallet apps (European Union)
  • Adaptive trigger support for the DualSense wireless controller
  • Fixed an issue where Siri recordings were mistakenly stored on iPhone

iOS and iPadOS 15.4 are compatible with all devices currently compatible with iOS 15.