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Group FaceTime.

Apple Releases iOS 12.1, macOS 10.14.1, watchOS 5.1.1, and tvOS 12.1

Along with the Macs and iPads it unveiled at its special event in Brooklyn, Apple today released a slew of operating system updates: iOS 12.1, macOS 10.14.1 Mojave, watchOS 5.1, tvOS 12.1, and iOS 12.1 for HomePod. Collectively, they add Group FaceTime, more emojis, and other features to the Apple ecosystem.

As always, it’s wise to wait a few days to see what issues might crop up from these updates before installing. Lending credence to our advice is the fact that watchOS 5.1 bricked enough devices that Apple pulled the update temporarily and has now replaced it with watchOS 5.1.1.

iOS 12.1

iOS 12.1 brings the delayed Group FaceTime feature, dual SIM support for the iPhone XS and XR, camera improvements, new emoji, and more. The update weighs in at 438.9 MB on the 10.5-inch iPad Pro and 470.1 MB on the iPhone X, and you can obtain it in Settings > General > Software Update or install it through iTunes.
The iOS 12.1 release notes.

Group FaceTime

The marquee feature of iOS 12.1 is Group FaceTime, which Apple delayed from the initial iOS 12 release (based on our internal testing over the summer, with good reason!). Note that while all iOS 12 devices support Group FaceTime, older devices are limited to audio-only calls. That set includes the iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, and iPhone 6 Plus, along with the iPad mini 2, iPad mini 3, and iPad Air.

To start a Group FaceTime call, tap the + button in the FaceTime app, enter a contact name in the To field, and then, after choosing a contact, simply start adding another. When you’re ready to start the call, tap Audio or Video to kick things off.

You can also start a Group FaceTime call from a group Messages conversation by tapping the group name at the top of the screen and then tapping the revealed FaceTime icon.

Each participant’s picture appears in a tile. Audio-only callers are represented by an icon with their initials. During a call, you can tap the More (•••) button to reveal the Add Person option.

If you’re invited to a Group FaceTime call, you receive a silent notification or message that you can tap at any time to join. If things don’t seem to be working, tap the green camera icon to start the call.

Group FaceTime works on the Mac too, with macOS 10.14.1 Mojave or later. More on that below.

We tried Group FaceTime last week, but we’re sad to report that we can’t recommend it right now—it was confusing to use, worked poorly, and was visually annoying when it did work. Some of the problems may be teething pains, but the usability issues will require software updates. We’ll keep trying it, but Google Hangouts remains our preferred solution for group video calls.

Camera Improvements

On the iPhone XS and XR, you can now adjust the depth control in real time before you take a photo in addition to adjusting it in the captured image. To do so, tap the f-stop control in the top-right corner of the screen, drag the depth control slider to adjust the image, and when you’re satisfied, tap the shutter button to take the picture.

Apple also claims that it has fixed excessive skin smoothing in selfies taken with the iPhone XS and XR, a problem dubbed (sigh) “Beautygate” by the press. Apple says that it was caused by a bug in the software’s Smart HDR processing.

Dual SIM Support

The iPhone XS and XR boast Dual SIM functionality, which lets you have two phone numbers (even with two different carriers) on the same phone. It could be ideal for anyone who has to carry both work and personal phones, or for people who regularly travel to other countries. However, Dual SIM support comes with a number of caveats:

  • You must have an iPhone XS or XR.
  • To use two different carriers, your iPhone must be unlocked.
  • Your carrier must support eSIM. In the United States, that means AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon.
  • If a CDMA carrier (like Verizon) provides your first SIM, your second SIM won’t support CDMA. (You may be able to use Voice Over LTE on the second SIM with Verizon, but your network coverage will be reduced until Verizon goes all-LTE in 2020.)

Dual SIM functionality is a bit finicky and complex, but Apple has a thorough guide on how to use it.

New Emoji

iOS 12.1 adds over 70 new emoji, such as red-haired people, bald people, superheroes, and even bagels. Yay. Emojipedia offers a complete list of every new emoji in iOS 12.1.

And More

iOS 12.1 also sports other changes that:

  • Improve cellular connectivity for the iPhone XS and XR
  • Let you use Face ID or Touch ID to reset a child’s Screen Time passcode
  • Fix a bug that caused messages to be merged into one thread when two users were signed in with the same Apple ID on multiple iPhones
  • Address a bug that prevented some voicemails from appearing
  • Resolve a bug that could cause a phone number to appear in the Phone app without its corresponding contact name
  • Fix a Screen Time bug that prevented reporting on specific Web sites in the Activity report
  • Add a performance management feature to prevent the iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and X from shutting down
  • Tell you if your iPhone XS or XR battery is counterfeit; look in Settings > Battery > Battery Health
  • Improve the reliability of VoiceOver in Camera, Safari, and Siri
  • Fix an issue that could cause MDM Device Enrollment to report an Invalid Profile error for some enterprise users

iOS 12.1 also features 24 security fixes.

macOS 10.14.1

The highlights of the macOS 10.14.1 update are Group FaceTime and the aforementioned new emoji. To install the 3.33 GB update, go to System Preferences > Software Update—you can no longer update from the App Store app.

macOS 10.14.1 release notes.

By the way, if you were running a beta of Mojave, 10.14.1 won’t appear in the Software Update preference pane. Instead, as Dan Moren noted at Six Colors, you need to get Mojave from the App Store app first, which will cause Software Update to install 10.14.1.

The way you initiate Group FaceTime calls in Mojave is nearly identical to iOS 12, except that in Messages, you click Details to reveal the FaceTime buttons.

The macOS 10.14.1 update includes 52 security fixes.

watchOS 5.1.1

Now that Apple has released watchOS 5.1.1 to address the problems suffered by version 5.1, you can once again consider updating, although we still recommend waiting a few more days, just in case.

The key new features of the 133 MB watchOS 5.1.1 update would seem to be support for Group FaceTime audio and the aforementioned new emoji, but Apple’s release notes don’t even mention them.

watchOS 5.1.1 release notes

Instead, Apple says that watchOS 5.1.1:

  • Fixes an issue that could cause an incomplete installation of the Walkie-Talkie app for some users
  • Resolves an issue that prevented some users from being able to send or receive invitations on Walkie-Talkie
  • Addresses an issue where some previously earned Activity awards were not showing in the Awards tab of the Activity app for some users

Oddly, the release notes also say:

Apple Watch Series 4 automatically contacts emergency services if you are immobile for about a minute after detecting a hard fall. The watch will now also play a message that informs the responder that Apple Watch has detected a fall and shares your location coordinates when possible.

As far as we know, fall detection shipped with watchOS 5.0, so we’re not sure why Apple is calling it out now.

The watchOS 5.1 update also included 14 security fixes.

tvOS 12.1

The tvOS 12.1 update “includes general performance and stability improvements” and 11 security fixes. If automatic updates aren’t on, you can update your fourth-generation Apple TV or Apple TV 4K by going to Settings > System > Software Updates.

iOS 12.1 for HomePod

Finally, in an almost entirely silent update that will install itself automatically if you don’t get to it first via the Home app, iOS 12.1 for the HomePod “includes general improvements for stability and quality.” Bet you didn’t see that new wording coming!

iOS 12.1 for HomePod release notes

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Comments About Apple Releases iOS 12.1, macOS 10.14.1, watchOS 5.1.1, and tvOS 12.1

Notable Replies

  1. watchos 5, the continuing disaster: used to be swiping down on the home screen would display notifications. in watchos 5.1, i now get “raise to speak”. only i have siri turned off …

    no idea where the notifications went to.

  2. Not seeing any changes to my iWatch4 in that regard.

  3. 9to5Mac is now reporting that Apple has pulled watchOS 5.1, so if your iPhone has already downloaded it to the Watch app, we recommend NOT installing it. The problems are not universal, but there’s no reason to court danger.

  4. Wow! More emojis! Just what the world wanted.

  5. I was able to successfully complete, install, and use the update on my Series 4 watch. It only took about 15-20 minutes from start to finish. One improvement that I noticed:

    I don’t normally consider my walks in the neighborhood to be workouts. Nevertheless, on some of them, after 10 minutes, the watch will prompt me to capture the walk as a workout. I usually say yes. For those walks, the heart rate graph in the iPhone Activity app had been unavailable. Now it does appear, although with little detail until the 10-minute point. Similarly the distance is accurate, but the map showing the varying pace only starts at the 10 minute point.

  6. That feature was introduced in watchOS 5, not the minor 5.1 update.

  7. Under 5.0, it would not produce a heart rate graph. Now it does. That’s the change.

  8. Of course, the fix may actually in an update to the associated app (Activity) on the iPhone since that is where you view the detailed Workout data.If that is the case, the fix have been part of the IOS update, not the WatchOS update.

  9. Did the update to macOS 10.14.1 this morning. One annoyance—on restarting and logging in, I had to reauthorise Accessibility permissions for a lot of my regularly-used apps.

  10. Spent a week plus looking at my tablet wanting me to update to 12.0.1… but wanted to wait for 12.1. Now it’s here, BUT they want to update my table to 12. Huh? Why not 12.1 if THAT is the current release version…

    Meanwhile, for some reason it keeps switching to my 2.4GHz network even though it SHOULD connect to my 5GHz one. And every other time when I try and switch it back, it says I have the wrong password… even though I have NEVER EVER changed the password. Means I have to manually enter said password. Sorry, I’m an old fuddy duddy, thinking we deserve some quality control…

  11. Yes, I’ve seen some people report that the update says iOS 12, but it really is iOS 12.1.

  12. watchOS 5.1.1 is now out, so if you’ve been waiting to install, you can do so now. Or you could wait a little longer, just in case. :slight_smile:

    I’ve updated the article with these details, and added mention of the fact that iOS 12.1 for the HomePod was released too.

  13. One thing that disappointed me about the 12.0 upgrade - and there were rumors it was fixed in 12.1 but it wasn’t - is the obscure, hard-to-use “camera flipping” UI in FaceTime.

    Before iOS 12 you could flip the camera by touch the camera flip icon, just like you do in Camera.

    But with iOS 12 you have to touch …, then touch flip, but you don’t actually see the camera flip, and then you have to get back to the original viewing screen without accidentally touching the red button to disconnect.

    What were they on when they came up with that?!

  14. Don’t you mean that iOS will detect whether your battery is OEM or third-party, (as opposed to “counterfeit”)? Or are you saying that any third-party part is by definition “counterfeit”?

  15. Honestly, we don’t know—that’s straight from Apple’s release notes. It is an interesting note though.

  16. Apple considers any battery not manufactured with their permission to be counterfeit. Repairman Louis Rossman is fighting customs right now over “counterfeit” batteries manufactured by one of Apple’s plants.

  17. Well, counterfeit memory chips that ran on name-brand production lines, had the name brand holographs, but were made while the plant was closed with poor quality materials flooded the market a number of years ago. They were indistinguishable except by their fail-rate being really high. It was a big mess and they were just mixed in with the real supply.

    So this is a complex topic. However, he’s right. This is not an appropriate action.

  18. Considering that poorly made lithium batteries can be a cause of fires or explosions, I think it may be wise to let people know if the battery is non-standard.

  19. Sure. But non-standard is not the same thing as “poorly made.” Nor is it the same thing as non-OEM. And it certainly isn’t the same thing as counterfeit.

    If I put an Interstate battery in my car, I havent put a non-standard or poorly made or counterfeit battery in my car. I’ve simply put a non-OEM battery in my car. The same goes for phone batteries.

  20. So let’s see what Apple’s release notes actually say:

    • Adds the ability for Battery Health to inform users that it is unable to verify if a genuine Apple battery is in iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR

    It doesn’t say anything about counterfeit or make quality.

  21. Perhaps Apple changed the notes, but this is why the conversation turned from Tidbits coverage to Apple itself:

    I never looked up the notes myself.

  22. My apologies—I thought @jcenters had copied those release notes directly from Apple’s site, but it appears he reworded that one for the article. The word “counterfeit” is not in the original release notes either. @ddmiller’s quote is correct—Apple uses the term “genuine.”

    • Adds the ability for Battery Health to inform users that it is unable to verify if a genuine Apple battery is in iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR

    This doesn’t feel like that big of a deal to me. It’s just notifying the user, who presumably knows that the battery was replaced and might want to know that it wasn’t an Apple part if that’s what was promised.

  23. Very odd the version number didn’t change. Either the version number should’ve changed, or they are literally the same unchanged apps, with new features turned on based on the operating system version.

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