iOS and iPadOS 13.4: New features Apple users need to know

The new features in iOS/iPadOS 13.4 include iCloud Drive folder sharing, Apple Mail updates, changes to Siri, universal app support, and more.

iOS and iPadOS 13.4: New features Apple users need to know

The release of iOS 13 has not been without challenges. The fork of iPadOS into its own operating system to be used only on iPads made sense because iPads are capable of extra features given the additional, faster hardware they possess, so it makes sense to keep them separate.

But iOS 13 has also been arguably the buggiest release in Apple's usually stellar history. It has been a growing concern since the initial release of version 13, and while Apple has done much to stem this in subsequent updates, it is telling that the company has adopted a performance-based approach to these newer updates, choosing to focus primarily on quality instead of pushing out as many new features as possible.

SEE: Apple iPad Pro 2020: Cheat sheet (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

iOS 13.4 and iPadOS 13.4 are both prime examples of this mindset. There were six beta testing waves and a final gold master (GM) release before making the update available to everyone on March 24, 2020. This version of 13.4 has been vetted extensively, and as someone who's been using it since about beta 4, it does seem to run more smoothly, no doubt due to the careful testing cycles.

Version 13.4 also includes more than 30 bug fixes like invalid permissions, network traffic interception, and improved memory management, among other usability issues.

iOS 13.4: iPhone

VPN disabled notification

On iPhones with all-screen displays, a VPN indicator has been added to the status bar, informing users that the VPN connection has been disconnected.

iOS 13.4 and iPadOS 13.4: iPhone, iPod, and iPad

iCloud Drive folder sharing

Sharing an entire folder within the Files app has been made available. Additionally, granular controls limiting access to those invited or possessing the link, as well as permissions to modify, upload, and download files has been added.

Apple Mail updates

The toolbar has been redesigned to include an always-visible set of controls when working with emails, such as reply, delete, movie, etc. Also, messages received that are encrypted with S/MIME will automatically be encrypted when responding instead of having to manually choose to encrypt prior to replying.

CarPlay third-party controls

Added support for third-party navigation apps has been added to the CarPlay Dashboard, as well as in-call information.

Siri options

While not much has changed with Siri, two notable changes have been made. Users can now override the default setting that permits Siri to function even when the screen is face down or otherwise covered. Second, the Siri command, "go to home screen," has been added. 

Universal app support

Apple has implemented a Universal Purchase system within the App Store that allows for supported apps to be purchased once but enables use across any platform Apple supports: iPhone, iPad, macOS, and Apple TV. 

Augmented reality audio support

USDZ audio playback support has been added when using AR Quick Look.

New Memoji stickers

Apple's popular Memoji stickers have been updated with nine new stickers: smiling face with hearts, hands pressed together, party face, steam coming from nose, surprised face, peeking out behind a MacBook, eye roll, hands crossed into an X, and a shocked face.

Family sharing in TV app

Similar to how sharing video and audio content was enabled previously in their respective apps, the native TV app now supports Family Sharing as well by selecting that entry under the Library tab.

iPadOS 13.4: iPad

Keyboard shortcuts and remapping

There is now full keyboard access when using an external keyboard with your iPad. This will allow the full set of keys to be used, such as keyboard shortcuts, toggling between entries, or scrolling through webpages using the arrow keys. Another boon for keyboard users is the ability to remap modifier keys, such as Command, Option, and the Globe keys, for example, to change their default behavior to something that more suits your needs. Lastly, new shortcuts have been made available for some apps, such as Photos, for faster navigation and editing of photos.

Mice and trackpad support

Among the bigger features in this update is support for Bluetooth mice and trackpads, turning the iPad more into a productivity tool (akin to a laptop) than ever before. No driver installation necessary.

Cursor inclusion

Another big feature for iPad users is the inclusion of a cursor, which is slimmed down and easier to maneuver when working with a mouse or trackpad and keyboard. 

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By Jesus Vigo

Jesus Vigo is a Network Administrator by day and owner of Mac|Jesus, LLC, specializing in Mac and Windows integration and providing solutions to small- and medium-size businesses. He brings 19 years of experience and multiple certifications from seve...