Update: iOS 16.4 is now live as an update for all users with iOS 16-compatible iPhones.
Apple released the iOS 16.4 beta midway through February 2023, and it's an update full of interesting tweaks and new features.
iOS 16 in its vanilla form was already bursting with new things to try, and the last stable iOS 16.3 release was not that spectacular in terms of new capabilities. But with iOS 16.4, people will be able to see changes to apps like Music and Podcasts, new emoji and extra always-on display options.
We've listed and explained all the features found in the iOS 16.4 beta below.
iOS 16.4 beta: New features
Simplified beta opt-in
Installing iOS 16.4 betas in the first place is getting simpler, as you can now enable beta updates in your Settings app rather than having to go through a browser to download the correct device profile first. As we're currently in the developer beta phase, you need a registered dev account to access this, but it's assumed the public beta, expected soon, will also have the option.
Apple is introducing 21 new emoji in the new iOS version, in line with the latest batch developed by Unicode, the organization in charge of emojis. This time users will gain access to new heart colors, a vibrating smiley, new flora and fauna such as a goose and a hyacinth flower and a "pushing hand," which can face either left or right and comes in six different skin tone options.
The Apple Podcasts app has got several iOS 16.4 upgrades (via AppleInsider). There's now a Channels section in the Library tab, which will show you the networks that your podcasts belong to, allowing you to explore others from the same producers.
The Library tab now also shows you how many new episodes of a given series there are, when the last episode was published and indicate which episodes are for subscribers only.
Finally, Up Next will now default to playing saved podcasts even if you're not following them. That should mean fewer confusing moments when the app doesn't play podcasts in the order you expected.
While not something that changes how you use the app, your iCloud user icon now appears in the top corner of the Apple Music Library tab (according to 9to5Mac), allowing you to quickly open your profile page to adjust your settings. You also now get a shrunken notification when you set a song to Play Next, letting you know the action's been registered without taking up as much room as the current one does.
Always-on Display battery consumption stats and Focus changes
If you have an iPhone 14 Pro or iPhone 14 Pro Max with an always-on display, the iOS 16.4 beta adds a heading for it under the Battery Usage heading in the phone's battery settings, according to code found by 9to5Mac. This will make it plain to users how much power the AOD is consuming, similar to other apps or features, and help them figure out if the power drain is worthwhile or if they'd rather turn it off to preserve a bit of juice.
Also, you can now pick whether the AOD is enabled or disabled in each Focus mode, by using the Focus filter settings. Currently, you can only enable/disable the AOD globally, with Focus modes like Do Not Disturb unable to use a separate setting.
Web apps and push notifications
Announced by the WebKit blog, the official source of information on Apple's browser toolkit for developers, Apple's letting web app devs send push notifications to users, (assuming users allow the correct permissions) and display notification badges on your home screen shortcuts. That means if you save a Safari shortcut for a particular service, it'll now behave more like a native iOS app, rather than requiring you to constantly check for updates.
Also, you can now save browser shortcuts to the home screen that aren't in Safari. That's great news for everyone who prefers Chrome, Firefox or others over the iPhone's built-in browser.
New Shortcut settings
Apple's Shortcuts app has added some new options for automation. Here are the new things you can control, via user iBanks3 on Reddit's r/shortcuts who first found them.
- Silence Unkown Callers
- Set Stage Manager
- Set True Tone
- Set Announce Notifications
- Shut Down
- Lock Screen
- Set Always on Display
- Set VPN
- Set Airdrop Receiving
- Set Night Shift
- Auto-Answer Calls
New Home app architecture reintroduced
In iOS 16.2, Apple launched its new Home app overhaul, but it was later removed due to compatibility issues. The option to update your Home app has now returned in the iOS 16.4 beta, though it's Apple will pull it again to continue work on whatever bugs are causing problems.
iOS 16.4 includes some improvements to 5G performance, such as increased support for carrier aggregation, T-Mobile 5G Stand-Alone and mid-band 5G from AT&T (although that last one's only for the iPhone 14).