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iOS 14.5 release date, public beta and top new features for your iPhone

iOS 14.5 new features
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The next iOS 14 update — iOS 14.5 — currently sits in beta form. Apple already seeded this beta to developers, giving them a strict timeline on implementing the new app tracking transparency requirements into their apps. A public beta of iOS 14.5 is out now, too, with Apple already up to beta 3 of the iOS 14.5 update.

Privacy transparency highlights the upcoming release, but we’ve found more iOS 14.5 features worth noting. Among these, Apple added a way to use Face ID to unlock your iPhone while wearing a mask. iOS 14.5 also includes a major update to the Find My app that signals the arrival of the AirTags product finders. 

We expect lots of users will update to iOS 14.5 once it’s final. Apple recently shared that iOS 14 is installed on 80% of all active iPhones and on 86% of iPhones introduced in the last four years.

We’ve dug through the iOS 14.5 beta to find the most important additions, but this isn’t a full, final list. It’s also possible that Apple will continue to add or tweak features before the final iOS 14.5 release in a few weeks.

iOS 14.5 release date

You can now download iOS 14.5 as a public beta, which means that a formal release date should be coming soon. If you want to try the beta out, we would recommend that you do so on a secondary device.  We expect the final version of iOS 14.5 to release sometime in March. 

iOS 14.5 public beta

We have a step-by-step guide for downloading the iOS 14.5 public beta. However, we recommend that you do not use your primary phone; it's best for a secondary device for trying out the new features. Note that you'll need to sign up on the Apple Beta Software Program page to try out the iOS 14.5 public beta.

Unlock with Apple Watch with iOS 14.5

iPhone iOS 14.5 watchOS 7.4 Unlock with Apple Watch

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

We all learned the shortcomings of Face ID when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Face masks befuddled the Face ID sensors, meaning that for the last year or so, we’ve had to manually unlock our iPhones. Thankfully, Apple has found a workaround, though it has one big caveat: you need an Apple Watch.

Unlock with Apple Watch is exactly what it sounds like. Using Apple’s wearable, you can bypass Face ID to unlock your iPhone. It requires that both devices be in very close proximity to each other, otherwise you will need to unlock the phone manually. The Apple Watch must also be unlocked for this to work.

Once you have iOS 14.5 and watchOS 7.4, you can head into Settings under Face ID and passcode. Bear in mind that you cannot use Unlock with Apple Watch to authenticate Apple Pay or App Store purchases. These will still require your face or passcode.

App tracking transparency in iOS 14.5

iOS 14.5 privacy features

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

iOS 14.5 adds new app tracking transparency policies, a major change Apple has been planning to roll out since it first announced iOS last summer. App developers, like Facebook, will need to ask your permission in order to access your advertising ID. That ID allows them to track you across apps and websites. 

Some of these privacy features already exists in iOS 14, but 14.5 serves as the deadline for app developers to implement the new policy before the apps are removed from the App Store.

When everything is live, you’ll get a new pop-up asking if you want to let the app track you. Apple once again aims for pure simplicity. It’s a huge step forward for privacy and one we’re excited to see come to fruition.

Apple Maps crowdsourcing accidents (and speed traps) in iOS 14.5

iphone apple maps

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

In iOS 14.5, Apple Maps is set to copy a popular key feature from Waze. It will use real drivers to crowdsource road accidents, speed traps, and other traffic hazards, just like its main competitors can. There will be a dedicated button in Maps to report something, available both on the phone and in CarPlay — simple, but effective. 

Teach Siri your favorite music app in iOS 14.5

Choosing a preferred music app in iOS 14.5

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

iOS 14 let you choose your own default browser and email apps, a long overdue change. iOS 14.5 sadly won't let you set a default app for music services as well, but you can teach Siri your preferred apps over time.

When you tell Siri to play a song without specifying an app, you'll be prompted with a list of possible apps; simply tap on the one you want to use. Over time, Siri may be able to learn your preferences to the point it will no longer ask, though this may take the final version to iOS 14.5 to work in full. Siri will take to asking again if you suddenly change your app usage habits.

PS5 and Xbox Series X|S controller support in iOS 14.5

PS5 DualSense controller and Xbox Wireless controller

(Image credit: Future)

While both the PS5 and Xbox Series X remain in short supply, you can still get your hands on one of the new controllers easily enough. If you have one, either a PlayStation 5 DualSense or Xbox Series X|S controller, you'll be able to pair it with your iPhone in iOS 14.5.

Apple Fitness Plus AirPlay 2 support in iOS 14.5

Apple Fitness Plus

(Image credit: Future)

iOS 14.5 enables AirPlay 2 support for Apple Fitness Plus, meaning that you can cast your workouts to any AirPlay 2-compatible display. 

Be aware that Apple Watch metrics will not appear on the larger screen. You will need to view these data points on your iPhone or iPad.

Support for Dual-SIM 5G in iOS 14.5

iPhone 12 mini review

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Dual-SIM iPhone users can use 5G globally on iOS 14.5 with the iPhone 12 series. Dual-SIM means that you can have two separate lines of service on one device. This is great for people who keep their work and personal lines separate, or for international travel. 

When iOS 14.5 lands, both SIMs will have access to full 5G speeds.

Find My app in iOS 14.5

airtags

(Image credit: MacRumors)

It looks like Apple could be launching the AirTags soon, which will help you find items like your keys and wallet. Twitter users @IceCoolTech posted a pair of screenshots from iOS 14.5 beta 3 that show the new Apple Find My App. And the app refers to third-party accessories, complete with an items section where you could track various belongings.

iOS 14.5 beta Find May AirTags

(Image credit: @IceCoolTech)

The sceenshot for What's New in Find My says "add non-Apple products to Find My. Locate your backpack, luggage, headphones or other items. That signals that the AirTags should be on the way. 

Starting with iOS 14.5, iPhone users will be also able to located their PowerBeats Pro headphones using Apple's Find My app. The wireless earbuds join several other products that support the Find My app, including the iPhone, MacBooks, Apple Watch and AirPods. Users will be able to trigger a sound to play form the PowerBeats Pro to locate the buds. 

Apple Card Family features

Apple Card

(Image credit: Future)

Currently, there's no way of sharing a single Apple Card between multiple family members, which creates a headache if you like all your spending and balances to be under one roof. That seems to be changing in iOS 14.5, with the latest beta hinting at Apple Card family features.

Specifically, it looks like you'll be able to use iCloud Family sharing to give other people access to your Apple Card. You can give them full account access if you want them to be able to access balances and spending history, or you can just limit that access to letting them use the card for purchases.

iOS 14.5 outlook

There’s a lot more that we didn’t cover here, but this update will include plenty of tweaks and new additions. Apple plans to make this release a big one and we’re excited for it to hit our iPhones and iPads. 

If you don't want to wait for the finished version of iOS 14.5, you can get the public beta right now, provided you sign up for Apple's beta program. It's easy — just head to the Apple beta page in a browser on the device you wish to install the beta on. From there, you enroll your iPhone in the program, using your Apple ID to sign in. Then, you follow the on-screen instructions for downloading a beta profile and installing it on your phone.

One usual word of caution — while the iOS 14.5 beta is fairly stable, it's still a beta, meaning that problems can crop up. If you rely heavily on your phone during the day, you may not want to subject it to the vagaries of beta software. If that's the case, hold out until the finished version of iOS 14.5 comes out.