The latest update to iOS 11 will let you listen to audio across rooms and also take advantage of a feature promised so long ago, you might have forgotten that it was coming to your iPhone.
iOS 11.4, released today (May 29), adds AirPlay 2, giving you the ability to sync up compatible speakers throughout your home when streaming audio. As part of that, you'll be able to pair up HomePod speakers for stereo sound. And you'll finally find support for Messages in iCloud, a syncing feature Apple first touted at last year's Worldwide Developer Conference but had yet to deliver in iOS 11.
Getting the iOS 11.4 update is simple enough. Just launch the Settings app, tap on General and scroll down to Software Update. Tap there, and the iOS 11.4 update should be waiting for you to download just by following the onscreen prompts. As with any iOS update, we recommend backing up your iPhone first. (You'll find step-by-step instructions in our guide on installing iOS 11.)
What can you expect once you upgrade to iOS 11.4? Here's a rundown of the features.
AirPlay 2 support
AirPlay is Apple's proprietary standard for streaming audio, video and other content from one device to another — say streaming that video your iPhone is playing to an Apple TV connected to your television set. AirPlay is the promised update to this standard, and it brings multi-room audio support.
Thanks to AirPlay 2, you'll be able to sync up music playback on multiple AirPlay 2-compatible speakers throughout your home. You'll also be able to take a call on your iPhone without stopping playback.
AirPlay 2-ready devices currently include the Apple TV set-top box and Apple's HomePod speaker, but third-party speaker makers are expected to update their own devices to support AirPlay 2. Check out Apple's list of third-party AirPlay 2-compatible devices (opens in new tab).
HomePod stereo features
If you're among the underwhelming number of people who bought the HomePod, the new iOS brings some welcome functionality to your speaker, especially if you own multiple devices. The update gives you the ability to pair two HomePod units in the same room, allowing them to act as stereo speakers.
Messages in iCloud
If you've got a really good memory, you may recall that one of the promised improvements to the Messages app in iOS 11 was Messages in iCloud, which was going to seamlessly sync messages between your many devices. Deleting a message on one device would remove it from all your devices. Photos and other attachments in messages would now by kept in iCloud, freeing up space on your phone.
But Messages in Cloud didn't make it to the initial release of iOS 11 last September, and while it's shown up in a few betas since then, Apple has never rolled out the feature to the public at large. That now changes with iOS 11.4.
You'll need to be updated to the latest versions of both iOS and macOS to take advantage of the feature, and you'll have to be signed into iCloud with the same Apple ID on each device you want synched. To enable the feature on your iPhone, go to Settings, tap your name at the top of the Settings screen and select iCloud; from there, scroll down to the list of Apps Using iCloud and make sure Messages is toggled on.
For the Mac, go to Preferences within the Messages app and click the checkbox next to Enable Messages in iCloud.
iOS 11.4's other changes listed in Apple's release notes largely deal with bug fixes, notably the Black Dot emoji bug that was bedeviling some Messages users. If you've noticed some messages appearing out of order in Messages, iOS 11.4 promises to fix that, too, and a syncing issue with the Health app appears to be resolved.
Finally, iOS 11.4 also lets teachers who use the Schoolwork app unveiled in March now assign reading activities in iBooks to students.