15 new iOS 13.4 features that you should care about

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The beta version of iOS 13.4 has been out for a little while now, and it’s given us an insight into what features we can expect from Apple’s next iOS update, such as CarKey, over-air recovery, and new Memoji stickers.

We’ve detailed all the most exciting changes coming to iOS 13.4 that you should care about below.


1. CarKey lets you use your iPhone to unlock your car

Code in the iOS 13.4 beta releases hints toward an exciting new CarKey feature coming to your iPhone and Apple Watch. It looks like iOS 13.4 will let you use the NFC capabilities of your iPhone to unlock, lock, and even start the engine for NFC-compatible cars.

All you need to do is add your CarKey to the Wallet app on your iPhone, then hold the iPhone near the NFC receiver on your car. You don’t even need to activate it using Face ID or a passcode.

Car key next to start button
It’s only a matter of time until you can use your iPhone to start your car. Image Credit: Obi Onyeador/Unsplash

Before you start worrying about the security of this, remember that most car keys don’t use any passcodes or Face ID activation either. And at least you can track your iPhone if it goes missing.

That said, it does also look like you might be able to enable Face ID for CarKey in the Settings.

You can also share your CarKey with other people through the Wallet or Messages apps. This essentially provides a second car key to friends or family members, which you can revoke at any time.

2. CarPlay Improvements

Apple introduced a new CarPlay dashboard with iOS 13, but we’re still seeing minor tweaks to the interface in the latest iOS 13.4 updates. Some of these new improvements include:

  • Responsive formatting for wider CarPlay displays
  • Resizable panels that adapt to the apps your using
  • Fullscreen splash screen for ETA splash screen
  • Third-party navigation panels in multi-pane view
  • New call controls for third-party calling apps

Alongside the CarKey feature we touched on above, iOS 13.4 is shaping up to be a great update for smart-car owners!

3. Internet recovery for iOS devices

In the past, if you ever came across serious software problems on your iPhone, you had to connect to a computer to overcome them. To do this, you needed to put your iPhone into Recovery Mode and restore iOS through iTunes or Finder.

But for users without easy access to a computer, this process is getting far more convenient with one of the latest iOS 13.4 features: over-air recovery.

This looks like it’s going to work similarly to Internet recovery on macOS, which lets you boot up your device in a special mode that downloads and reinstalls the operating system directly from Apple’s servers.

If this is the case, all you’ll need to reinstall the software on your iPhone is a Wi-Fi connection. It could open the door to iPhones without Lightning or USB-C ports in future hardware releases.

OS Recovery in iOS 13.4 from 9to5Mac
Here’s what OS Recovery might look like on your iPhone. Image Credit: 9to5Mac

It should also make it easier to troubleshoot devices such as an Apple Watch or HomePod that offer no way to reinstall the software yourself.

Of course, we don’t know for certain that this feature will ship with iOS 13.4 since it isn’t even fully-functional in the beta. But code suggests Apple is certainly experimenting with this exciting new functionality.

4. Joint iOS and macOS purchases

With the release of Apple’s Mac Catalyst software, it became easier for developers to port their iPad apps to the Mac. As a result, we’re likely to see a lot of similar apps across both platforms, which is great for continuity but no so great for your wallet if you need to buy them twice.

That’s why iOS 13.4 makes it possible for developers to allow joint purchases for iOS and macOS apps. That would mean you get both versions of an app when you buy any one of them. Apple even encourages this behavior by making it the default for certain kinds of apps.

We should also see in-app purchases shared across platforms as well. Although it’s left at the developer’s discretion whether they think that’s a suitable feature for their particular app.

5. Apple’s Mail app adds more actions to the toolbar

iOS 13 upset a lot of users by removing most of the quick actions from the toolbar in Apple’s native Mail app. The new design left a lot of unused white space and needlessly put most actions into a sub-menu under the Reply button.

With iOS 13.4, Apple seems to be undoing this questionable design decision by returning a selection of quick actions to the bottom of the Mail app.

The exact quick actions have changed a couple of times with different beta releases, but the latest update includes the following buttons, from left to right:

  • Trash
  • Move Folder
  • Reply
  • Compose New Message
Mail app quickaction icons in iOS 13.4
Revised actions make it quicker to manage your email in the Mail app.

The end result is a Mail toolbar that is far closer to iOS 12 than iOS 13. Although there are still a lot of options that you need to open the Reply menu to access.

6. iCloud folder sharing options

Apple revealed this feature a while back, but we never saw it shipped with any public releases. Now, the iCloud folder sharing feature seems to be on its way as the feature has made its way back into the iOS 13.4 beta releases.

iCloud folder sharing makes it possible to share entire folders from your iCloud Drive storage with other people. You can choose who gets access to the folder along with whether they can make edits or not. And they should be able to see any new content you add to the folder over time.

To share your iCloud folders, simply open the share sheet from the Files app and choose to Add People. You can select which contacts you want to share the folder with, then return to this screen at any time to revoke access in the future.

7. Brand new Memoji stickers

With iOS 13, you can send people Memoji stickers even without a Face ID sensor on your iPhone. With iOS 13.4, you get even more sticker options to send as Apple adds nine new stickers to the collection.

The new Memoji stickers include the following faces:

  • Steam coming out of nose
  • Hearts around face
  • Party blower and confetti
  • Hands on cheeks in shock (like Home Alone)
  • Peering over a MacBook
  • Palm up gesture while speaking
  • Hands together in thanks or prayer
  • Arms crossed in an X shape
  • Fed up eye roll
New Memoji stickers in iOS 13.4
Access your Memoji stickers from the Messages app.

This brings us to a total of 33 Memoji stickers now, which is a huge amount to play with!

8. Always-on Hey Siri and a Home screen command

By default, “Hey Siri” doesn’t activate if your iPhone is facedown on a table or otherwise has the screen covered. For the most part, this is a useful feature to avoid accidentally activating the personal assistant in meetings or at other times you don’t want it.

But for people who rely on “Hey Siri,” you can now enable Always On in the Accessibility Settings so you can still access Siri at these times without touching your iPhone.

It even makes “Hey Siri” work while you’re in Low Power Mode!

Another useful addition to Siri in iOS 13.4 is the ability to return to the Home screen with a command. Simply say “Hey Siri, go to the Home screen” to exit your current app and go Home.

In all honesty, it’s surprising this command wasn’t already included in iOS.

9. Older iPhones get a status bar in Control Center

Users with older iPhones might have noticed they can’t see any status bar icons when they open the Control Center. This is something that changes with iOS 13.4 as Apple adds the following icons to the top of the Control Center:

  • Signal strength
  • Cell provider
  • Wi-Fi and VPN icons
  • Battery indicators
  • And more
Status icons in Control Center on older iPhone
Older iPhones never used to show status icons in the Control Center.

If you have an iPhone X or later, you should already have these icons in Control Center, but this subtle improvement brings older iPhone and newer iPhones more in line with one another.

10. VPN disabled icon in the status bar

If you use a VPN on your iPhone, you should appreciate this small feature in iOS 13.4. When you disable your VPN, a VPN disabled icon temporarily appears in the status bar to confirm you turned it off.

It looks like a standard VPN icon with a line crossed through it. It’s crystal clear, so there’s no mistaking the meaning behind this icon. It appears to briefly cover the battery in the top-right corner, then vanishes again a moment later.

11. Data and Family Sharing options for the TV app

Apple’s TV app aims to be a universal home for all your video subscriptions and TV channels. It’s far from perfect, due to a lack of integration with Netflix, Amazon Prime, and various other video services, but it’s getting a little better with the new iOS 13.4 features.

You can now customize how Apple TV downloads or streams video content over cellular data, choosing to optimize for speed or higher quality video. You get separate controls for downloading and streaming content allowing you to choose the perfect settings for your cellular data allowance.

Apple has also added a Family Sharing section to the Apple TV app. This is where you’ll find all the TV shows and movies other people in your Family Sharing group have purchased, allowing you to watch them as well.

Apple TV app iOS 13.4 settings
A lot more Apple TV settings are available in iOS 13.4.

12. Musical introductions in Apple Music lyrics

Live lyrics in Apple Music make it easy to follow the lyrics of a song in time with the music. With the update to iOS 13.4, musical introductions are now annotated in these lyrics by an ellipses (…) that lights up as the introduction comes to a close.

If you like to sing along to your favorite songs, this simple addition might just keep you from belting out the first verse before the introduction has finished playing out!

13. Shazam comes to the Shortcuts app

The Shortcuts app might be one of the most under-utilized apps in iOS. You can use it to automate processes for almost anything you use your iPhone to do, whether that be getting directions to the next calendar event or making GIFs from videos in your library.

With iOS 13.4, Apple has added a Shazam it action to the Shortcuts app, allowing you to generate the artist and song name for whatever music is playing around you.

Shazam it action in Shortcuts app
The Shazam it action outputs the song and artist of any music playing.

This opens the door for all kinds of new shortcuts, such as tweeting out the music you’re listening to, generating a music list in Notes, or creating a journal entry with your favorite new tunes.

14. Keyboard mapping comes to iPadOS

If you use a physical keyboard with your iPad, you might be excited to learn you can now customize the key mapping for that keyboard in iPadOS 13.4.

What we mean by this is changing the function of physical modifier keys on the keyboard. For example, you could change the Control key to act like the Option key instead.

This is particularly useful for Windows users who constantly need to jump between Windows and iPadOS keyboard commands. Now you can change the keyboard mapping in iPadOS to match what you’re used to using in Windows.

iPadOS 13.4 lets you change the mapping of the following keys:

  • Control
  • Option
  • Command
  • Caps Lock
  • Escape
  • Globe

15. New keyboard shortcuts for the Photos app in iPadOS

One of the great improvements with iPadOS over the last few years has been the ability to use shortcuts with a physical keyboard on your iPad. This feature gets even better with iPadOS 13.4 as Apple adds new shortcuts to the Photos app as well.

You can now use a range of keyboard shortcuts to search albums, create albums, or switch between different tabs (go from Photos to For You, for example). In fullscreen view, you can even use shortcuts to delete, duplicate, or start editing a photo.

iPad Keyboard Shortcuts in Photos app from 9to5 Mac
A lot of new keyboard shortcuts are available in the Photos app. Image Credit: 9to5Mac

Apple made smaller changes to iOS 13.4 as well

These are all the major changes to iOS 13.4 you need to know about. But there are lots of smaller tweaks Apple is making to iOS as well. We didn’t bother writing each of these because they don’t change the user experience all that much.

Most of the smaller changes include new text in the Settings or slightly different alert messages.

If you discover any other new iOS 13.4 features you think we should mention here, please share them in the comments. We’d love to hear what new iOS features you’re most excited about!

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