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Apple Releases macOS 14.4, watchOS 10.4, tvOS 17.4, HomePod Software 17.4, and visionOS 1.1

Apple’s remaining operating system shoes have now dropped, with seven more updates joining the recent substantial iOS and iPadOS updates from earlier this week (see “iOS 17.4 and iPadOS 17.4 Add Podcast Transcripts, Fix Zero-Day Vulnerabilities,” 6 March 2024). You can now download macOS 14.4 Sonoma, watchOS 10.4, tvOS 17.4, HomePod Software 17.4, and visionOS 1.1 with varying levels of new features, bug fixes, and essential security updates.

Before I look at the current updates, note that Apple also released macOS 13.6.5 Ventura and macOS 12.7.4 Monterey with 25 security fixes, one of which addresses a recent zero-day vulnerability that allows attackers to bypass kernel memory protections. If you’re still using one of these older versions of macOS, I recommend installing its update right away. While you’re updating, don’t miss Safari 17.4, which has 6 security fixes.

macOS 14.4

All the improvements in macOS 14.4 Sonoma match up with those in iPadOS 17.4:

  • New emoji
  • Transcripts in the Podcasts app
  • Business Updates in Messages for Business
  • An option to show only icons for websites in the Safari Favorites bar

The release notes don’t mention any bug fixes, but the update addresses a whopping 64 security vulnerabilities, including the two zero-days addressed in iOS 17.4 and iPadOS 17.4. Because of those vulnerabilities, you’ll want to install macOS 14.4 very soon.

Apple also made some enterprise-focused changes, including allowing mobile device management software to enforce FileVault for standard users at Setup Assistant and report on the battery health of Macs with Apple silicon.

watchOS 10.4

Apple release notes for watchOS 10.4 are refreshingly different. The update:

  • Allows you to delete system apps from the Home View
  • Lets you tweak the Tap to Show Full Notification setting to allow double-tapping to expand notifications
  • Requires a passcode for additional security when using Apple Pay with Confirm with AssistiveTouch; you won’t be able to double-click the side button to authenticate
  • Addresses a bug that caused some users to experience false touches on the display
  • Fixed another bug that could prevent contacts from syncing to the Apple Watch

Unmentioned in the release notes (really, Apple?) is a significant change in how the Timers app displays times, reverting from “01:00” (watchOS 10.3.1, below left) to “1 min” (watchOS 10.4, below right), much as developer Craig Hockenberry suggested in his criticism of the Timers app redesign in watchOS 10.

watchOS 10.4 timer interface changes

watchOS 10.4 also fixes 24 security vulnerabilities, including the two recent zero-days.

I can’t get excited about the need to block security vulnerabilities for the Apple Watch quickly, and I doubt many people care much about the feature changes, so schedule this update for whenever you get around to it unless you’ve been plagued by false touches.

tvOS 17.4

“This update includes performance and stability improvements.” Nothing to see here, folks. Move along. It will install on its own eventually.

HomePod Software 17.4

Almost shockingly, HomePod Software 17.4 does include more than “performance and stability improvements.” It enables Siri to learn your preferred media service, so you no longer need to include the name of the media app in your request. If you care, install the update manually in the Home app; if not, let your HomePod update on its own.

It’s nice to see Siri improving in small ways, though our experience with Siri on HomePods has been steadily degrading. Now, whenever I say, “Hey Siri, I love this song,” Siri inexplicably responds, “Sure, here’s some music picked just for you,” and starts playing something else rather than marking the song as a favorite and adding it to my library. In addition, one of our HomePods got stuck at HomePod Software 17.1.1, and Siri regularly failed to understand basic HomeKit commands. I think I eventually solved that by resetting the HomePod and configuring it again from scratch, after which it managed to update. It’s now running HomePod Software 17.4.

Siri desperately needs a full AI-based brain transplant, and I hope we’ll see some movement on that front at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference in June.

visionOS 1.1

Although Apple has released three quick bug fix updates to visionOS, versions 1.0.1, 1.0.2, and 1.0.3, visionOS 1.1 is the first update to merit release note descriptions of what changed:

  • Mobile device management (MDM) support allows enterprises to manage Vision Pros like other Apple devices, with account-driven device and user enrollment, device configuration, app deployment, and remote erase.
  • Messages gains support for iMessage Contact Key Verification (see“Upcoming Contact Key Verification Feature Promises Secure Identity Verification for iMessage,” 8 November 2023).
  • Closed captions can be anchored to the playback control while viewing Apple Immersive Video.
  • You can now enroll Personas hands-free, and Apple is trying to climb out of the uncanny valley by improving the appearance of hair and makeup and how necks and mouths are represented. The company also says it has improved the rendering of the user’s eyes for the EyeSight feature that displays them on the outside of the Vision Pro.
  • The virtual keyboard receives a handful of bug fixes, although most users have said a real keyboard will still be necessary for anything more than a few words.
  • Apple put some work into the connectivity aspects of the Mac Virtual Display, improving reliability, fixing a bug with Universal Control, and addressing a problem with previously paired Bluetooth devices disappearing.
  • You can now set up a Vision Pro using a captive Wi-Fi network, such as those at hotels, cafes, and airports.

Given how few Vision Pros there are, it’s hard to imagine attackers targeting the platform right now, but because visionOS shares so much code with the rest of Apple’s operating systems, it still received fixes for 16 security vulnerabilities, including the two zero-days.

I can’t provide update advice for visionOS based on personal experience, but the entire platform is so new that I suspect most users will be happy to update right away to take advantage of the changes. Perhaps delay the update if you’re getting on a plane in an hour, but otherwise, I can’t see any reason to wait.

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Comments About Apple Releases macOS 14.4, watchOS 10.4, tvOS 17.4, HomePod Software 17.4, and visionOS 1.1

Notable Replies

  1. I encountered an issue on my MacBookPro after upgrading to 14.4.I discovered that the TripMode app (used to monitor and restrict WifFi connections) tripped up AppleID services, email, and Safari but not other web browsers. So, if you run TripMode (it’s now an App Store app), disable it until it is updated for MacOS 14.4.

    Note: I worked with Apple Support to diagnose the issue.

  2. I’m bemused by Apple’s description of the update.

    The first ‘feature’ mentioned is new emojis whilst Security updates are the last thing mentioned (with no clarifications). Great to know we now have shaking emojis and 18 emojis which can look opposite directions. Good grief.

  3. Icons only in Safari’s bookmarks bar? I used to send feedback regularly asking for this, and it was the main reason why Firefox became my default browser. You can fit more in and recognise and click on the desired favicon much more quickly than you can by reading a text name.
    Now if only they would bring extensions back I might try going back to Safari, but not otherwise.

  4. I am always cautious about Homepod updates as I have some OG Homepods and Apple’s record is not great for trouble-free updates. So I like to update them one (pair) at a time.
    I therefore find it irritating that choosing to update one causes them all to update. I am currently waiting for them all to download, which has slowed my internet connection.
    It looks like the only way to stop these simultaneous updates is to unplug some of the Homepods!

  5. There is a little update that improves the TV+ experience. It is now possible to turn off autoplay of next episodes or trailers. This can be found in the app settings in the new releases of tvOS, iOS and iPadOS. (I haven’t upgraded macOS yet.)

  6. Something odd happened to me today - it’s never happened before so I’m beginning to suspect the various OS updates.

    My phone (14 pro) rang and by extension my watch also rang. I answered the phone and started chatting to the caller. 10 or 15 seconds later and my watch is still ‘ringing’ on the same call. Even the caller said to me “do you have another call coming in?”.

    I “answered” the call on the watch (it’s from the same caller I’m already talking to) as it was the only way to stop it ringing. Very weird and something I’ve never experienced before.

    Has anyone else seen odd behaviour with their phone/watch calls since updating?

  7. Ken

    On my Intel iMac, I no longer have sound in Safari, but works in other apps. Makes YouTube rather boring.

  8. Ken

    Found it. Seems to have randomly muted that tab. If I had less tabs then it would have appeared in the tab bar as muted.

  9. I’ve noticed that watchOS 10.4 has changed the appearance of the timer app. Since 10.0 through 10.3, timers were listed like this: 1:00, 2:00, 3:00, 1:00:00, etc. Now they are listed a little more explicitly: 1 minute, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, 1 hour.

  10. Thanks for posting this. I updated tvOS last night after reading this just to be able to turn autoplay off.

  11. Not a biggie, but I preferred the all numeric timer display.

    Also, if you display your apps in a list, single tapping the crown now remembers your last position in the list rather than always displaying the top of the list. This is convenient if you commonly access apps that start with letters other than ‘a’ and ‘b’.

  12. I haven’t updated, but I experience this with an Intel iMac and and an iPhone in one location and an M1 Mac, an iPhone, and an iPad (in varying combinations of what rings at all and what keeps ringing) in another location.

  13. After updating to macOS 14.4 it seems the background color of the Weather app (and its associated widget) is a much paler blue than before. The lack of contrast between background and text colors is making it a lot harder to read.

  14. Weather’s background color is determined by the weather. And time of day. Mine is black right now because it’s 9pm here and sunset was 7:13pm.

  15. Wow. How did I not notice that before? Apparently we were having a particularly hazy shade of winter at the moment I noticed what I thought was an update-related anomaly. Today we’re back to deep blues skies, and the Weather widget background color is similarly colored.

  16. A few strange things have happened to an Intel MBP 15" after installing Sonoma 14.4:

    1. Printer sharing was turned off, but File Sharing remained on.
    2. The screensaver was changed to a blank light green colour. I changed it back to ‘California Dolphin pod’ which duly downloaded, but even after I still get a blank green screen on activation. Tried the ‘Alaskan Jellies’ instead and I get the same. If I switch to "Flurries’ it works. Restarted it and the dolphins are back!
    3. After each restart, the open tab in Vivaldi shows in my dock on my M2 MBA as an extra Firefox icon. If I click on it the site opens in Firefox, and on closing it the extra dock icon goes away.
  17. Not quite sure what you mean here. Safari supports extensions and I have several running.

    Am I misunderstanding your comment?

  18. I’m referring to the old style extensions that did not require a background app from the app store. The wonderful and useful additions like uBlock Origin that make the web usable. I have installed 1Blocker, Wipr, KaBlock! and ABP into Safari as is, and don’t achieve the same effect as uBO alone in Safari or Vivaldi.

  19. Using open core legacy patcher with my 2012 Retina MB Pro I upgraded from 14.3 to 14.4, no problems. BUT anyone wanting to do the same with an open core supported computer needs to be sure to update open core to version 1.4.2 and install it first, then run the root patches, then do the update to 14.4, then re-run the root patches. I’m amazed at how well open core legacy patcher works on that computer. Anyone else keeping the oldies alive this way?

  20. I have OCLP allowing me to run Ventura on an old Mac mini that I use as a media server in the summer house - all it does basically is provide a media source for Sonos (though it also syncs some local folders using Syncthing that I’d prefer to keep off any cloud service, and that allows my MacBooks to sync those folders mostly within the LAN rather than over the internet to my computers here at home.) I really don’t need to go beyond the version of Ventura that it’s running right now.

    I was running it stock on Big Sur but had to upgrade to Ventura when I upgraded iCloud on my AppleID to Advanced Data Protection.

    At some future point I’ll replace it with an Apple Silicon version, but for now I’m fine with it this way.

  21. Thanks for the reply. I intend to use OCLP on a 2013 Mac Pro in a few months. Hoping it will go smoothly. Incidentally when I updated my MB Pro 2012 using OCLP to Ventura, shortly thereafter software update automatically updated it to Sonoma – before I was ready to go there. This is kind of a bug and to avoid it some auto update switches need to be turned off, but I didn’t know that then. Luckily Sonoma works fine also… but again, OCLP 1.4.2 needs to be installed before updating to Sonoma 17.4.

  22. Apparently there are reports about problems with USB hubs and printers after installing macOS 14.4

  23. I appear to be unaffected. I use my (Dell) monitor as a hub (USB-C charging, usb mouse and keyboard) and they’re all working fine. Printing is fine on multiple printers.

    A suggestion I read earlier is the update removes CUPS but it must only be under certain circumstances/configurations. I’m pleased to be OK, it would definitely be a nuisance.

  24. SMB file sharing seems improved for me in 14.4. I used to have to do daily disable, restart, enable to get it to work. But right now it’s just working as intended.

  25. So far all good here. No problems with hubs or printing. :crossed_fingers:

  26. Can others confirm that watchOS 10.4 remembers where you are in the scrolling list of apps that appears when you press the Digital Crown?

    Previously, I’d press the Digital Crown and then scroll and scroll and scroll because the three apps I found myself wanting to use all started with the letter S.

    Now when I press the Digital Crown, I’m right where I left off with Strava and Stopwatch.

  27. It looks like those people who lost access to printers when they installed Sonoma 14.4 have Microsoft Bitdefender installed and also are under Jamf Apple Device Management, probably through their employer. The solution I found on Reddit is to give Bitdefender ( full disk access: System Settings > Privacy & Security > Full Disk Access.

  28. watchOS 10.4 seems to remember one’s place in the scrolling list of apps, as did watchOS 9. Previous versions of watchOS 10 took you to the beginning of the list, which was very annoying.

  29. One more thing I noticed on watchOS 10.4 that may be new. Before watchOS 10, double-clicking the crown while you were in an app let you switch back to the last app you were running. This was switched with watchOS 10 to bring you to the multitask screen - thumbnail views of your most recent apps, with the ability to scroll and tap to switch, or swipe and tap an “x” to force-quit an app.

    I noticed today that if you double-click the crown and wait for a second or two it will, in fact, switch back to your last running app. I’m pretty sure that this wasn’t happening when watchOS 10 was first released.

  30. Did 14.4 change Mail’s toolbar for composing email or am I just imagining things? My send button has become very wide and now has a caret next to it for choosing send later options. Actually, it’s more like the single send area consists of two widgets: the actual send and the caret for send later. I checked toolbar config options, but unfortunately, there appears to be no simple just send button. And I can’t leave only send up there and toss the later caret. I’ve never used send later in my life. Now I have one wide button taking up about a third of the available toolbar space up there.

  31. I still have a Mac on 14.3.1 and the send button is the same as on 14.4 - the send later caret is there.

  32. When I look at the ‘Customize Tollbar’ menu item, it shows the carat as part of the Sent Icon. The resulting item uses more space than an icon alone, but no more than two icons would. How wide is your typical window for sending messages?

    The image below captures that Toolbar with the Icon text added. Even then, there is plenty of extra space.

  33. :laughing: I’m a student of Knuth. 72 characters per line — anything more is hard to follow. :wink: My compose window is way narrower than yours and I throw out all the non-essential widgets, but send is, well, fairly essential. :laughing: All I’d need is just a simple send button.

  34. For months now, Reminders on the Mac wasn’t working. Not only did stuff not synch with the phone, the display of the Mac application was hosed. This got magically fixed in the latest Mac OS update.

    But I still have to enter my password each time I plug the phone into the Mac to get the local backup to happen. I still classify that as a significant bug.

  35. Agreed. I frequently print text files with the printer’s default font sizes, which tends to limit you to about 80 characters per line before text gets cut off or wrapped in ugly ways.

    Composing content at 72 columns means you can e-mail it and people can quote it a few times without pushing it beyond 80 columns. (Yes, this is very old school and assumes e-mail clients quote text with prefix characters, which is not frequently done anymore).

    But 72 also means you can block-quote it in the middle of a word processing document (at about 9 or 10pt fixed-width fonts) and the block will be comfortably sized for the main text to wrap around it.

    Or I could just be making excuses for the fact that when I’m working, I open up many (5-10) console windows at 80 columns each and I want my work to look good in those windows.

  36. After some spelunking of settings I found that this is now in the settings. On the watch, Settings app; or on the phone, Watch app. Tap Accessibility. It’s a new setting under “App Switcher” - “Auto-Select Focused App” with the explanation text saying, “After 1 second of inactivity the App Switcher can automatically open the focused app”.

    And now I know that the screen that opens when you double-click the crown is called the App Switcher.

  37. In case it hasn’t been mentioned already, my the two displays on my iMac no longer go to sleep after 15 minutes of no usage. This only started after updating to Sonoma 14.4.

  38. Looks now like Photoshop was what was waking up the computer. I use it so much I normally keep it running all the time. After I shut it down, the random wake-ups stopped. I do seem to recall a recent Photoshop update.

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