How iOS 14.5 lets you unlock your iPhone while wearing a face mask

And a bunch of other cool new features

Apple tends to reveal big new features in major iOS updates. However, iOS 14.5 is a big deal too, because it enables you to unlock your iPhone while wearing a face mask. And that’s not all it does.

For a minor operating system bump, iOS 14.5 provides you with plenty of new goodies to play with. Here are our favourites.

Unlock your iPhone while wearing a face mask

We’re kicking off with the face mask thing. You’ll first need your Apple Watch running watchOS 7.4. Next up, head to Settings on your iPhone and go to Face ID & Passcode. Enter your passcode. Under Unlock with Apple Watch, flick the switch next to the Apple Watch you’d like to use. In the subsequent warning dialog, tap Turn On to confirm.

If your Apple Watch is protected by a passcode and has been manually unlocked, you’ll get a haptic alert the next time you unlock your iPhone using Face ID while wearing a mask. If all’s well, ignore your Apple Watch. If not, raise your wrist and tap Lock iPhone to force-lock your phone. It’ll then need a passcode to be unlocked again.

Stop apps from tracking you

Websites and apps have long tracked your online activity, as you’ll be well aware of when checking out a product in an online store and subsequently having adverts for it follow you around the internet. Apple’s had enough of such shenanigans.

In iOS 14.5, apps need to ask your permission to track you across apps and websites. Although on our test device, Privacy > Tracking > Allow Apps to Request to Track was turned off in Settings by default, which is reportedly the nuclear option.

Give Siri a new voice – or no voice

In the US, there have been concerns about voice assistants mostly using female voices. In the UK, such problematic issues were avoided on iPhone – Siri instead defaulted to ‘Daniel’. Apple has nonetheless anonymised Siri voice names during set-up and also in Settings > Siri & Search > Siri Voice. You now choose from the likes of Voice 1 and Voice 2. The updated voices sound more natural too.

Another notable Siri update is Type to Siri, which is found in Accessibility > Siri. When in use, this feature no longer takes over the entire screen. Turn on Only with “Hey Siri” and you can use Siri as normal, but then use the type feature when invoking Siri with the side button – and still see what you were looking at previously when asking Siri a question.

Dig into new Music features

Still on Apple’s voice assistant, you will now be asked which audio app you want to use when you ask Siri to play something – handy. And if you use Apple Music, there are a bunch of other neat updates to explore.

Albums now increasingly show their original release dates, rather than being listed as a semi-random jumble. You can search for labels – although good luck finding your favourite indie. Also, there are now options to swipe left to add a track to your library or right to send it to the Up Next queue. And if you’re a fan of live lyrics, you can tap-hold to share them with friends.

Explore updated iPhone apps

Music isn’t the only app to get some love. Podcasts has been revamped, with flashy new show pages with bold artwork and useful details like show frequency. There are changes in vernacular too, with Apple now saying you follow rather than subscribe to shows.

Reminders can now be sorted by a range of criteria, including name, date and title. Quite why this wasn’t a version 1.0 feature, we’ve no idea, and so we’ll add an obligatory finally for this one. And Find My now supports AirTags, enabling you to attach Apple’s little white discs to all your favourite things, have someone hide them, and then spend a happy few moments making them beep and tracking them down with your iPhone.

Celebrate your COVID jab with new emoji

Rare is the iOS update that doesn’t bring us at least a few new emoji. This time, Apple’s provided a bunch of new options for couples with different skin tones, a smilie with spiral eyes and others that are exhaling.

There are new hearts as well – one that’s on fire and another that’s been mended, seemingly with tape, which we’re pretty sure is not recommended by healthcare practitioners. One thing such folks will like more is the new syringe emoji. Instead of being full of blood, it now displays light blue liquid, making it more appropriate for chatting about COVID 19 vaccines – although possibly terrifying friends when used in a conversation with people still rocking devices running older operating systems.