Originally Published by: Daniel Howley·Technology Editor
Next week, your iPhone will get a massive update. Called iOS 14.5, it brings improvements for Apple’s (AAPL) smartphone including its controversial App Tracking Transparency, which will let you choose whether apps track your activity across the web. It will also feature support for Apple’s AirTags, new tracking devices that keep you from losing your stuff.
The update even includes crowd-sourced traffic warnings for Apple Maps, making it even more of a Google (GOOG, GOOGL) Maps competitor, and the ability to change your default music app. With so much packed in, this is one of the largest-ever mid-cycle updates for the iPhone’s operating system.
Here’s what else you can expect out of iOS 14.5.
App Tracking Transparency
This will be the most noticeable change. Apple Tracking Transparency lets users deny an app’s ability to track your IDFA, or identification for advertisers, a piece of Apple code that lets advertisers understand your browsing habits to target you with ads.
When you download an app, or fire one up after installing iOS 14.5, App Tracking Transparency will ask if you’d like the app to track your web activity. If you choose to be tracked, the app will see your online habits and send you targeted ads. If you don’t, you’ll see general ads.
Apple says the feature improves consumers’ privacy, while Facebook contends the feature will hurt small businesses because many people will opt out of being tracked — making it harder for companies to target ads. Of course, the Apple Tracking Transparency feature could also hurt Facebook’s bottom line, since it relies on those advertising dollars.
What does it mean for you? If you opt out of being tracked, you’ll probably stop seeing 8,000 ads for bagels after you ship a dozen of them to your sister for her birthday.
AirTags are coming
Apple’s new AirTag tracking devices were released last week, and iOS 14.5 is bringing you all the capabilities you’ll need to use the gadgets with your new iPhone.
AirTags help you keep track of real-world items you can’t afford to lose. Think your keys, wallet, purse, even your TV remote. The AirTags use two types of technology to help you track them from your iPhone: Bluetooth and Ultra-Wide Band.
You know what Bluetooth is already, the technology that lets your devices communicate with each other, but Ultra-Wide Band might be new. Essentially, it’s a form of connectivity that enables incredibly precise tracking. We’re talking so precise, your iPhone will tell you which direction to turn and how many feet away your keys are in your house. Bluetooth can’t do that. And GPS isn’t accurate enough.
You’ll be able to track your AirTags via the FindMy app on your iPhone, and we’ll have a full deep dive into what they’re like to use next week.
New Siri voices
IOS 14.5 is also bringing big changes to Siri’s voice options, for the first time offering up Black American voices — one female and one male.
Changing the voice option just requires you to go into the iOS settings menu and navigate to Siri & Search. From there you’ll be able to choose from four American Siri voices. That’s not all, though. Siri will also stop using a female voice by default, instead letting you choose a digital assistant as you set up your phone.
Siri is also letting users change their default music option. Now, instead of your iPhone starting up Apple Music when you ask Siri to play a song, you’ll be able to listen through Spotify or any other app. The feature works the first time you request a song from Siri after upgrading to iOS 14.5. You’ll then get a prompt asking what music service you’d like to make your default.
Unlocking your phone with Face ID while wearing a mask
We’ve all been wearing masks for about a year now, and outside of foggy glasses, one of the downsides is that you can’t unlock your iPhone using Face ID.
Apple has added a workaround to iOS 14.5, though you’ll need an Apple Watch to use it. The feature works if you’ve got your Apple Watch on and unlocked. When you have a mask on and go to unlock your phone with Face ID, your phone will get a signal from your watch that it’s safe to unlock.
It’s helpful for sure, but you’ll also need an accessory that costs at least $199, so it might not be worth it for non-Apple Watch users.
Apple Maps gets crowdsourced traffic events
Apple Maps is catching up with the likes of Waze and Google Maps by adding crowdsourced traffic events. The feature will let users report things like accidents, speed traps, and more via Apple Maps so their fellow drivers can know what’s on the road ahead.
It’s certainly a helpful feature that makes Apple Maps even more appealing, but I’m not too certain it will draw users away from Google Maps. Either way, it should be fun to check out.
Your phone should start downloading the update automatically as soon as it’s available next week, or you can manually download it via the Settings app.