27 Hot New Features iOS 16.4 Has in Store for Your iPhone « iOS & iPhone :: Gadget Hacks

Apple’s iOS 16.3 update for iPhone had impressive new features, but iOS 16.4 might impress you even more.

The latest update for iPhone already has more upgrades than its predecessor, and it’s currently only in its first beta stage. Apple has said that the iOS 16.4 software update will become available for everyone in the spring, so there’s plenty of time to expand the new feature set even more.

To try out all the new features, you can install the iOS 16.4 beta on your iPhone. If not, you can still get a glimpse below of what’s to come when the stable release hits your device. We’ll keep updating this roundup as we find new content worth mentioning, so bookmark it to keep tabs on what’s coming.

1. New Emoji for the Keyboard

We haven’t received new emoji characters for almost a year, and iOS 16.4 finally delivers fresh ones for your iPhone’s keyboard. There are 21 new emoji, but it’s 31 total if you count the various skin tones for the leftward-pushing and rightward-pushing hands. Other highlights include a shaking face, pink heart, jellyfish, hair pick, pea pod, ginseng, hyacinth flower, and wing emoji.

2. Dark Mode Support for Text Files in Safari

Apple switches Safari’s interface to a dark theme when the system-wide Dark Mode is on, but it’s up to web developers to incorporate night mode themes on websites. Still, Apple has found another way to increase Safari’s Dark Mode compatibility by automatically inverting .txt and other plain text documents online from white backgrounds and black text to black backgrounds and white text.

Light Mode (left) vs. Dark Mode on iOS 16.3.1 (middle) and iOS 16.4 (right).

3. Push Notifications from Web Apps

Not all web apps have mobile app counterparts in the App Store, but many of them will still want to send you updates for important information, notifications, and other alerts. On iOS 16.4, whenever you add a web app to your Home Screen using the “Add to Home Screen” feature in Safari, that web app can deliver push alerts to you just like any other app on your iPhone as long as you approve notifications.

That means you could see notifications on your Lock Screen, Notification Center, and paired Apple Watch if you have one. You could even see notification badges for the app’s icon on your Home Screen, just like a regular iOS app. Notifications and badges can be configured at any time in the same menu you do so for standard apps: Settings –> Notifications –> [Web App Name].

Even better, these new notifications for web apps on your Home Screen abide by your Focus configurations. You can even add the same web app on your Home Screen more than once; each one will behave independently as long as you’ve given them unique names. A manifest ID is assigned to the web app, and the name you provide gets tagged to that, creating a unique identifier. Your Focus settings will sync across other devices if you install the same-named web app on all of them.

4. Other Browsers Can Add Home Screen Web Apps

Apple has always prevented WebKit browsers from installing website bookmarks and web apps on your iPhone’s Home Screen, but that changes with iOS 16.4. So third-party web browsers like Chrome, Edge, and Firefox would have “Add to Home Screen” options in their share menu as long as they implement them. Depending on the website, the result may be a web app that can load outside your web browser and show up in the App Switcher or a simple webpage bookmark that opens in your browser directly.

5. Home Screen Bookmarks Open in the Default Browser

Before iOS 16.4, whenever you would open a webpage bookmark added to your Home Screen, it would open up in Safari as a new tab. Now, all your Home Screen webpage bookmarks will open in whatever web browser is set as your default. In the example below, a webpage was bookmarked on the Home Screen via Safari, and it opens in Chrome, the set default browser.

6. Better Home Screen Bookmark Icons

When you add a webpage shortcut to your Home Screen, its icon is automatically assigned using the favicon, or website icon, that the site’s web developers provided. When no icon is available for the URL, Safari would take a snapshot of the webpage itself and use that, which was possibly the ugliest thing you could have on your Home Screen. On iOS 16.2, these webpages will be assigned the first letter of the site’s name with a color that matches the page.

A webpage icon as a snapshot on iOS 16.3.1 (left) vs. a letter on iOS 16.4 (right).

7. New Actions for Shortcuts

The Shortcuts app has at least 12 new actions on iOS 16.4, including ones for shutting down your iPhone, toggling Night Shift or True Tone, locking your screen, and turning the Always-On display on or off on an iPhone 14 Pro or Pro Max. Here’s the complete list with descriptions:

  • Auto-Answer Calls: Toggle whether calls are automatically answered.
  • Intercom: Announces a message passed as input using Intercom. Message: The message to announce using Intercom. Any input exceeding 60 seconds in duration will be trimmed. Note: This action accepts both text and media files as input. Media files will be broadcast as they are. When text is provided, it will be first converted to audio using the current Siri language and voice. You can also use the Make Spoken Audio From Text action to customize the voice parameters. This action can not be run on Mac.
  • Find Books: Searches for the books in your library that match the given criteria. Sort by: Optionally, what to sort the books by. Order: The order to sort the books in. Limit: Whether or not to limit the number of books retrieved. Books: (Books) If provided, the action will search through the books passed as input. (optional) Result: (Books) The books that match the criteria.
  • Lock Screen: Locks the screen of this device. This action can not be run on Apple Watch.
  • Set AirDrop Receiving: Sets AirDrop receiving to Off, Contacts Only, or Everyone for 10 Minutes. This allows you to choose who can see your device and send you content through AirDrop. This action can not be run on Apple Watch.
  • Set Always On Display: Sets the Always On Display setting of your iPhone to on or off. This action can not be run on Apple Watch and Mac.
  • Set Announce Notifications: Sets Announce Notifications to on or off. When on, Siri will announce notifications from new apps that send Time Sensitive notifications or direct messages. This action can not be run on Mac.
  • Set Night Shift: Enables or disables Night Shift. When enabled, the colors of your display will be shifted to the warmer end of the color spectrum after dark. This may help you get a better night’s sleep. This action can not be run on Apple Watch.
  • Set Silence Unknown Callers: Sets Silence Unknown Callers to on or off. When on, calls from unknown numbers will be silenced and sent to voicemail. Calls will still be displayed on the Recents list. Incoming calls will continue to ring from people in your contacts, recent outgoing calls, and Siri Suggestions. This action can not be run on Apple Watch and Mac.
  • Set Stage Manager (iPad-only): Enables or disables Stage Manager on the device. This action can not be run on Apple Watch.
  • Set True Tone: Enables or disables True Tone. When enabled, your device display will automatically adapt based on ambient lighting conditions to make colors appear consistent in different environments. This action can not be run on Apple Watch.
  • Set VPN: Connects, disconnects or changes the On Demand setting for a VPN Configuration on this device. VPN: The VPN that will be configured by running this action. Note: VPN Configurations can be set up in the Settings app. On macOS, you must authenticate as an administrator to change the On Demand setting for a VPN Configuration. This action can not be run on Apple Watch.
  • Shut Down: Shuts down or restarts your device. This action can not be run on Apple Watch.

8. Toggle Icons for the ‘Open App’ Action

Also new to Shortcuts is an update to the icon picker when you have the “Open App” action in your shortcut. Before, it would automatically assign the app’s official icon, but you can change it to one of the available glyphs and colors. Now when you open the icon picker, you can toggle between the official icon and your custom one.

9. Channels Section for Your Podcasts Library

The Podcasts app has another option in the Library tab for “Channels.” This new category shows you all the networks you’re subscribed to and how many of its shows you follow. When you open the channel, you’ll see your shows up top, followed by other shows from the network.

10. Updated Playing Next Queue in Podcasts

Podcasts also has more options in the Playing Next queue. When you swipe up the queue, you can now rearrange the shows and left-swipe on them to remove them from the queue. The updated queue will also display unfinished show episodes, including ones from shows you don’t follow.

11. Home’s Upgraded Architecture Is Back

Apple significantly redesigned the Home app’s underlying architecture on iOS 16.2. However, users were experiencing issues updating and configuring devices, sharing their homes with others, and getting HomeKit Secure Video to record events. Apple quickly pulled the option to update to the new Home architecture, and it’s finally coming back with iOS 16.4.

If you have the Home app set up with accessories, it will prompt you automatically to upgrade to the new architecture. It’s optional, so you can reject it if you’re not ready, then install it later in the in-app Home settings whenever you want. Like other major features, all your Apple devices need to run the latest iOS software to use the new architecture.

12. New Updates for Matter Accessories

Some HomeKit accessories, speakers, and smart TVs need software updates to keep running smoothly, and iOS 16.4 adds “both manual and automatic Software Update support” for Matter Accessories.

13. There’s an Easier Way to Install Beta Software

Apple is simplifying the beta installation process for the iOS developer, public, and customer betas. Starting with iOS 16.4, you can visit Settings –> General –> Software Update and choose the new “Beta Updates” menu to see your options. Here, you can see some or all of these options:

  • Off
  • iOS 16 Public Beta
  • iOS 16 Developer Beta
  • iOS 16 Customer Beta

If you don’t want to update to a beta, keep the setting on “Off.” Otherwise, choose the beta you want, and the next time an update is ready, you’ll be able to download and install it from the main Software Update screen.

Everyone should be able to see the iOS 16 Public Beta option, but only developers will see the iOS 16 Developer Beta. Before, anybody, developer or not, could use a Developer Beta profile on their iPhone to get over-the-air updates, and Apple is cracking down on this practice. Those “configuration profiles will no longer grant access.” Eager non-developers may still install an iOS Developer Beta restore image via their computer to bypass the new restrictions.

If you’re already running the iOS 16 Developer Beta on your iPhone but aren’t logged into the Apple ID tied to your paid developer account, you’ll only see the iOS 16 Public Beta option from now on.

14. Easier Access to Your Apple Music Account Settings

In the Apple Music app, you could previously only access your account via the Listen Now tab. Now there’s a profile image at the top of every tap in the app, so you can more quickly access your account settings when needed.

15. New AppleCare Coverage Section

When you go to Settings –> General –> About, you’ll see a new “Coverage” menu. Before, you would just see your coverage for your iPhone. In the new menu, you’ll see warranty information for your iPhone and all your connected accessories, including AirPods and Apple Watch.

16. More User Guides in the Tips App

For those who use the Tips app, there’s a new “User Guides” section at the bottom that lists all the applicable user guides for your iPhone. So instead of just seeing the iPhone user guide as before, you’ll also see guides for AirPods, Apple Watch, and HomePod if you have those accessories.

17. New Order Tracking Widgets for Wallet

You can now track your orders purchased through Apple Pay via the Wallet app’s new Home Screen widgets. There are three different sizes to choose from.

18. Dim Flashing Lights in Videos

In your iPhone’s Accessibility settings, there’s a new option in the “Motion” submenu to “Dim Flashing Lights” for video content with “repeated flashing or strobing lights.” According to the feature’s description, “the video timeline will display when flashing lights occur in the timeline for supported media.”

19. Emergency SOS via Satellite Upgrades

If you have an iPhone that supports Emergency SOS via Satellite, which is just the iPhone 14 series lineup right now, you may see messages in the interface when contacting emergency services that’ll let you know when the next satellite will be available. This makes the service even more precise in helping you find satellite links.

  • The current satellite is low in the sky. Another satellite will be available in [#] hour(s) [#] minute(s).
  • The current satellite is low in the sky. Another satellite will be available in [#] hour(s).
  • The current satellite is low in the sky. Another satellite will be available in [#] minute(s).
  • Next Satellite Available in [#] Hour(s) [#] Minute(s).
  • Next Satellite Available in [#] Hour(s).
  • Next Satellite Available in [#] Minute(s).

Other New Features

  1. You can toggle an iPhone 14 Pro or Pro Max’s Always On display with a Focus filter.
  2. You can view rich Mastadon link previews in the Messages app.
  3. You can use T-Mobiles 5G Standalone service for faster mobile data speeds.
  4. The Korean keyboard now has autocorrect enabled by default.
  5. The Ukrainian keyboard now supports predictive text.
  6. The Gujarati, Punjabi, and Urdu keyboards add support for transliteration layouts.
  7. There are new keyboard layouts for the Choctaw and Chickasaw languages.
  8. For iPadOS only, the Apple Pencil hover feature provides Tilt and Azimuth support.

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Cover photo and screenshots by Justin Meyers/Gadget Hacks


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