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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

OS Updates arrive with Universal Control, Mask Unlock

On Monday, Apple released macOS 12.3 and iOS/iPadOS 15.4. The two biggest features in these updates are Universal Control and mask support for Face ID. I recommend the excellent MacStories summaries of macOS and iOS.

Universal Control

Universal Control
The pointer goes where no mouse has gone before: from a Mac (left) to an iPad.

Universal Control lets you control different Apple devices—Macs or iPads—without lifting your hand from your keyboard and pointing device. If you’ve got two Macs, or a Mac and an iPad, or two Macs and an iPad, or a Mac and two iPads—look, you get the idea. Universal Control lets you push the pointer off the edge of your screen… and it magically appears on the other device’s screen.

This isn’t Sidecar, which turns an iPad into an external Mac display. When you move the pointer around on an iPad from your Mac, you’re driving the iPad and iPadOS. That’s why it’s best to think of Universal Control as a keyboard-and-pointing-device sharing system, not a display sharing system.

(And yes, there’s more than just display sharing going on—there’s clipboard sharing and the ability to drag-and-drop across devices and other stuff that’s clearly an expansion of the proximity functionality Apple’s been building since the early days of AirDrop.)

What Universal Control has meant for me is that I can plop my iPad Pro down next to my Mac and control it without having to reach over and pick it up. My iPad gets to stay an iPad—I never use Sidecar because if I’m going to display my calendar or Twitter on the iPad screen, why wouldn’t I use the iPad versions of those apps? And I get to type or click without needing to find my Magic Keyboard, attach it to my iPad, and switch back and forth between the two devices. This is better.

Which is not to say that Universal Control is all the way there yet. When it works, it’s like magic, but Apple has labeled it as beta software in macOS 12.3, and that makes sense to me. I frequently found that my keyboard just stopped talking to one of the devices, and the pointer would frequently stutter when I tried to move it on a remote device. Bugs to be worked out. But the promise is real.

To turn on Universal Control, go to the Displays section of System Preferences, click Universal Control, and then check the box “Allow your cursor and keyboard to move between any nearby Mac or iPad.”

Face ID and masks

A few weeks ago I enrolled my iPhone in iOS 15.4 and trained Face ID with me wearing a mask. The training’s a little more extensive since glasses-wearers have to train it on your face while wearing glasses and without. If you wear more than one pair of glasses, you need to train Face ID with additional glasses.

But once all was said and done… it just worked. I repeatedly unlocked my iPhone while wearing an N95 mask on a flight back from a vacation, and it worked like a charm. I’m sure we all wish this feature had existed back in 2020, but at least it’s here now, and everyone who wears a mask in any context will be relieved that they can unlock their iPhone without having to key in a password.

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