It’s another manic Monday, with Apple releasing iOS 15.2, iPadOS 15.2, macOS 12.1 Monterey, watchOS 8.3, tvOS 15.2, and HomePod Software 15.2. While watchOS 8.3, tvOS 15.2, and HomePod Software 15.2 are minor updates, iOS 15.2, iPadOS 15.2, and macOS 12.1 Monterey bring major new features, some of which were delayed from their initial releases. These are sufficiently significant updates that we strongly recommend waiting for at least a week to see if major problems crop up.
As has become standard practice for Apple, these updates generally provide the same features throughout. In fact, the most significant change in macOS 12.1 Monterey is the delayed support for SharePlay, which appeared in the previous set of updates for the rest of the operating systems. We’ll focus on the shared features first, and then touch on more focused changes and bug fixes.
You can install iOS 15.2 (899.1 MB on an iPhone 13 Pro) and iPadOS 15.2 (588 MB on a 10.5-inch iPad Pro) in Settings > General > Software Update. macOS 12.1 Monterey is advertised in System Preferences > Software Update as a 2.36 GB update (on an M1-based MacBook Air that proceeded to download 3.17 GB—why the discrepancy?).
App Privacy Report
iOS 15.2 and iPadOS 15.2 introduce the long-promised App Privacy Report, which helps you keep tabs on apps that are keeping tabs on you, itemizing which domains those apps contact and what device data they access. You must turn it on manually in Settings > Privacy > App Privacy Report. My guess is that logging all of this data might impact battery life, which is why it’s not on by default.
App Privacy Report has four main sections: Data & Sensor Access, App Network Activity, Website Network Activity, and Most Contacted Domains, and all of them let you drill in to see details. It’ll be interesting to see if the data revealed by the report helps users understand what’s happening and change their behavior or lobby for less intrusive tracking with developers.
Another long-promised feature that has arrived in iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS 12.1 Monterey is Digital Legacy, which enables you to designate someone to have access to your Apple data in the event of your death, including photos, emails, and notes.
To set it up on an iPhone or iPad, go to Settings > Your Name > Password & Security > Legacy Contact, and tap Add Digital Contact to get started. In Monterey, we would expect that you’d go to System Preferences > Apple ID > Password & Security, but there’s nothing about Legacy Contact there. Follow the instructions to add a legacy contact, which will involve notifying them via Messages and sharing an access key that will automatically be stored in their Apple ID settings, assuming they accept. You can also print the access key in the form of a QR code, which enables you to share with someone who’s not using Apple’s latest operating systems and to keep a copy for your executor, just in case. Store it in a safe place alongside your will and other important papers! Upon your death, your legacy contact will have to provide Apple with that key and a copy of your death certificate to access your accounts and retrieve your data from Apple.
Hide My Email in Mail
The Hide My Email feature lets you generate alternate email addresses that forward mail to your real address and that you can delete at any time (see “Cut Down on Junk Mail with iCloud+’s Hide My Email,” 21 October 2021). You can now generate those addresses on your iPhone or iPad when composing a message in Mail by tapping the “Cc/Bcc, From:” field once to reveal the From field and then tapping the From field. Choose Hide My Email from the list. Hide My Email is also now available in Mail on the Mac.
iPad: Customize or Disable Quick Note
iPadOS 15 added the Quick Note feature, which lets you swipe from the lower-right corner of the screen to bring up a window that lets you quickly draft a note. I’ve recently been tracking complaints that the gesture is an annoyance, especially for those who don’t use Notes or in games where you’re often swiping wildly at the screen. I hadn’t written anything yet because I was hoping Apple would let us disable it in the next major update. (In macOS 12 Monterey, Quick Note is a hot-corner action and is thus easy to configure or disable.)
Not only has Apple provided an option to disable the Quick Note gesture, it has also made it completely customizable. Go to Settings > General > Gestures, where you can customize both the Left Corner Swipe and the Right Corner Swipe, with options to take a screenshot, bring up Quick Note, or disable the swipe entirely.
If the screenshot gesture doesn’t work at first with your finger, try turning Allow Finger to Swipe From Corner off and back on—that fixed it for us.
Child Safety Features
Back in August, Apple created an uproar when it announced features that would use on-device processing to detect CSAM uploaded to iCloud and to detect what it called “sensitive” material being sent or received using Messages on children’s devices (see “FAQ about Apple’s Expanded Protections for Children,” 7 August 2021). After copious backlash, Apple delayed those features (see “Apple Delays CSAM Detection Launch,” 3 September 2021).
Apple has now implemented a reconceived version of the Messages feature, known as Communication Safety. You can enable it in Settings > Screen Time > Child’s Name > Communication Safety.
Originally, Apple planned the feature to have two aspects:
- If enabled by a parent, for any child 17 and under, Messages would warn the kid about sending or receiving sexual or sensitive images and offer them an opportunity to back out.
- Parents could choose to receive an alert that kids 12 and under had sent or viewed such images.
Apple has now dropped the parental notification part of Communication Safety entirely due to concerns about it exacerbating abusive situations.
In the release version, Apple changed the language to use “naked” and “nude” everywhere, explaining that those terms refer to body parts typically covered by swimsuits. This seemed to be an attempt to turn down the temperature in case pictures were identified incorrectly as sexual or “sensitive,” and potentially to match more photos so that kids will need to think more broadly about the images they send. It’s also far easier to use machine learning to recognize nudity accurately than images that might be “sexual” in nature.
iOS 15.2 and iPadOS 15.2 also feature what Apple calls “expanded guidance” in Siri, Spotlight, and Safari search. We figure this means Apple will present children with a warning if they search for naughty things.
Redesigned Notification Summaries
Not mentioned in the release notes are redesigned notification summaries. We haven’t covered notification summaries in TidBITS yet, but I describe them in Take Control of iOS 15 and iPadOS 15. Basically, you can bundle unimportant notifications together so that you receive them only a few times a day instead of being barraged by a constant stream of alerts.
Apple has now redesigned those summaries. Previously, they were smaller and arranged in a grid. Now they’re presented on larger, more colorful cards that overlap.
Parts and Service History
Also not mentioned in the release notes is a new Parts and Service History section in Settings, discovered by MacRumors. If you have had any parts replaced on your iPhone, you can view that in Settings > General > About. Under Parts and Service History, it will list any replaced parts and whether or not they’re genuine Apple parts.
This feature is most useful if you’re buying a used device. You can now easily tell if someone bought a broken iPhone and fixed it up with cheap parts.
Apple Music Voice Plan
With this round of operating system updates, Apple has launched the Apple Music Voice Plan, which may be Apple’s strangest service offering. Here’s the pitch: for $4.99 per month, you get complete access to the Apple Music library, with one major caveat: you must access all of it through Siri with no visual browsing allowed. There’s also no spatial or lossless audio.
This is a perfect Apple Music tier for those who want a cheap music service on their HomePods but don’t care otherwise. It has a place and is a welcome benefit for those HomePod owners, but the lack of a visual interface is an odd restriction.
You can sign up either through the Music app or by asking Siri to start your Apple Music Voice trial.
Other Changes in iOS 15.2 and iPadOS 15.2
Smaller feature changes in these releases include:
- Better macro photo controls on the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max
- A new Store tab in the TV app makes it easier to buy and rent content
- The new enhanced city view for Maps is now available in CarPlay
- Find My can now locate an iPhone for up to 5 hours when it’s in Power Reserve
- The Stocks app lets you see a ticker’s currency and track year-to-date performance
- You can now delete and rename tags in Reminders and Notes
Apple also calls out a handful of bugs that it fixed:
- Siri not responding when VoiceOver is enabled and the iPhone or iPad is locked
- ProRAW photos appearing overexposed in third-party apps
- HomeKit scenes with a garage door not running from CarPlay when the iPhone is locked
- CarPlay not updating Now Playing for certain apps
- Video streaming apps not loading content on the iPhone 13
- Calendar events showing the wrong day for Microsoft Exchange users
iOS 15.2 and iPadOS 15.2 have 38 security updates.
macOS 12.1 Monterey
The big news in macOS 12.1 Monterey is the addition of FaceTime screen sharing and SharePlay. We still need to test these in Monterey, but in the meantime, you can read our existing coverage in “How to Use FaceTime Screen Sharing and SharePlay” (8 November 2021). We expect Monterey’s version to be very similar.
Photos in macOS 12.1 also adds the new Memories design that debuted in iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 and that Apple added in tvOS 15.2 (see below for details), but unfortunately with generic music instead of tracks from Apple Music.
Most of the other features match those in the iOS 15.2 and iPadOS 15.2 updates. Those include:
- Support for the Apple Music Voice Plan
- Communications Safety features, accessible in System Preferences > Screen Time. Choose a child from the drop-down menu, Communications Safety from the sidebar, and then select Check for Sensitive Photos.
- Digital Legacy support, though there doesn’t seem to be a setting in System Preferences
- A Store tab in the TV app
- Hide My Email support in Mail: click the From field when composing a message and choose Hide My Email
- Ticker currency and year-over-year performance in Stocks
- The capability to rename and delete tags in Reminders and Notes
macOS 12.1 also fixes a few bugs:
- The Desktop and Screen Saver preference pane going blank after picking custom photos
- Unresponsive trackpads
- External displays not charging Apple notebooks through Thunderbolt or USB-C
- YouTube HDR videos causing kernel panics on 2021 MacBook Pro models
- Menu bar items being obscured by the notch on 2021 MacBook Pro computers
- MagSafe failing to charge 2021 16-inch MacBook Pro models when the lid is closed and the computer shut down
macOS 12.1 includes 42 security fixes.
The watchOS 8.3 update is pretty minor, with support for the Apple Music Voice Plan and recording app data and sensor access for the App Privacy Report. You must enable the App Privacy Report on the Apple Watch itself, in Settings > Privacy > App Privacy Report, after which you can see which apps have accessed your data or sensors in the past week and save the report to your iPhone, where it will be in the Watch app, in My Watch > General > Diagnostic Logs. watchOS 8.3 also prevents notifications from interrupting Mindfulness sessions, which seems only polite.
But wait a minute! The last update was watchOS 8.1, wasn’t it? Yes, it was—see “macOS 12 Monterey, iOS 15.1, iPadOS 15.1, watchOS 8.1, and tvOS 15.1 Arriving Next Week” (18 October 2021). It seems that Apple skipped version 8.2 entirely.
The watchOS 8.3 update weighs in at 327 MB on an Apple Watch Series 4. You can find it in the Watch app in Settings > General > Software Update. To install the update, your Apple Watch must be on a charger and have at least a 50% charge.
watchOS 8.3 has 25 security updates.
tvOS 15.2 is surprisingly substantial. Along with support for the Apple Music Voice Plan and new Aerial screensavers of Iceland and Scotland, the redesigned Memories feature from iOS 15 has arrived in the tvOS Photos app.
In short, the original Memories created an album based around a certain day or theme, generating a pre-rendered video of the photos in that album. The new Memories simplifies this, so it’s just a slideshow with music, without the clunky and enormous video as well. Another nice touch is that instead of generic music, it pulls potentially relevant tracks from Apple Music. It can work pretty well. For me, it created a Memory of a 2014 Paul McCartney concert, selecting as the music Band on the Run from his band Wings. I’m not yet sure if tvOS Memories are as customizable as the ones in iOS 15, which I cover in Take Control of iOS 15 and iPadOS 15.
The Store tab is also in the tvOS Apple TV app, which seems more relevant than having it in the iOS Apple TV app.
tvOS 15.2 has 22 security updates.
HomePod Software 15.2
Last and least is HomePod Software 15.2, which adds support for the Apple Music Voice Plan and adds more languages to Siri. The 467.7 MB update will eventually install on its own, but you can force it to install right away by opening the Home app, tapping the Update button at the top of the screen, and then tapping Update or Update All.