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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

Apple rolls out Big Sur 11.2, unmasks new iOS betas

Note: This story has not been updated since 2021.

On Monday Apple released macOS Big Sur 11.2, featuring improvements to Bluetooth reliability, some assorted bug fixes, and a bunch of stealth feature changes, like closing the hole in the wall that allowed Apple software to bypass macOS security limits.

Apple also began its next software-update cycle Monday, with the release of the first developer betas of iOS 14.5. New features include a more compact “type to Siri” interface, support for Xbox Series and PS5 controllers, sortable Reminders lists, worldwide dual-SIM 5G support, and a horizontal boot screen (!) for iPadOS.

Perhaps most intriguing, however, is a feature enabled by iOS 14.5 and watchOS 7.4 which will allow you to unlock your iPhone when wearing a mask by having a password-protected and unlocked Apple Watch in proximity to the iPhone. This is quite similar to the existing feature that lets Apple Watch unlock Macs that are nearby.

I just tried this feature and it worked flawlessly, unlocking my iPhone while wearing a mask, with an accompanying tap on my wrist to indicate that the Apple Watch had done the job. It’s my understanding that some authentications on iOS will still require a password or Face ID, such as Apple Pay and buying apps. But if you just want to check your shopping list while wearing a mask at the grocery store, things are looking good.

Keep in mind that these are currently only developer betas; eventually subscribers to Apple’s Public Beta stream will get them, and then in a few weeks they’ll appear for everyone through the normal software-update mechanism.

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