5 super-useful features coming to your iPhone in iOS 16.4

Two iPhones showing new iOS 16.4 features
(Image credit: Apple)

If you've just installed iOS 16.3.1 and were disappointed to find only basic bug fixes for iCloud and Siri issues, fear not – a far more interesting iOS 16.4 update is en route, and the release of its developer version has revealed what's inside.

Naturally, the changes are a little more incremental than the bigger changes we saw in iOS 16, which arrived back in September 2022 and delivered an overhauled Home app, new lock screen features, and some fresh fonts and themes to choose from.

But there are some notable improvements in iOS 16.4, particularly if you're a fan of Apple's Podcasts or Shortcuts apps, new emojis, or keeping up with the latest news. There are also some HomeKit tweaks that should make it a little more reliable when controlling your compatible smart home tech.

Unfortunately, there's still no sign of a full launch for Apple Music Classical, which there were hints of in iOS 16.3, but the new software still has some significant new treats. So, in rough order of importance, here are all the features coming to iOS 16.4 – after a quick update on its availability.

iOS 16.4 release date: when will it be available?

If you're an Apple developer you can install the iOS 16.4 beta right now, by going to Apple's Developer website on your iPhone and heading to 'Software Downloads'.

This isn't recommended for casual users, though, as beta can bring bugs and performance issues. For most of us, Apple says the full release of iOS 16.4 will be released "later this Spring" (in other words, sometime between March and June).

5 new features coming to your iPhone in iOS 16.4

1. Push notifications from web apps

An iPhone on an orange background showing a web app push notification

(Image credit: Apple)

If you like to keep up with the latest news from your favorite web apps – which live in your browser, rather than the homescreen – then iOS 16.4 could be a handy update for you.

You can already add web app shortcuts to your homescreen (when on the website, just tap the arrow button in the top right, then choose 'Add to Home Screen'). But unlike native apps, these shortcuts haven't been able to send your push notifications – this will change in iOS 16.4.

If you choose to allow notifications, they'll appear just like the ones for apps you've installed, including on your lock screen, in notification center and on a paired Apple Watch, if you have one. Interestingly, you'll also be able to add web apps to your homescreen from third-party browsers (rather than just Safari).

It's a feature that could get overwhelming if you grant too many permissions, but you'll be able to manage them in them in the Notifications settings menu.

2. A ton of new emojis

Four emojis from iOS 16.4

(Image credit: Apple)

You can never have too many emojis to choose from – and fortunately iOS 16.4 is adding 21 new options to our messaging arsenals.

Fittingly for our troubled times, we're getting a shaking face emoji, which looks handy for expressing shock or confusion at troubling news. Fans of animal emojis are also well catered for in iOS 16.4, with a donkey, moose, goose and jellyfish all joining the fray.

A slightly antagonistic 'pushing hand' emoji will also arrive to help you swiftly reject suggestions, while an array of new hearts (including pink, grey and light blue) will be on hand to help you patch up any offense you've just caused.

3. An improved Podcasts app

Two iPhone showing the new Podcasts app in iOS 16.4

(Image credit: Apple)

If you mainly feed your podcast habit in Apple's default Podcasts app rather than third-party ones, you'll see several small improvements to the overall experience in iOS 16.4.

Firstly, it'll become easier to find shows that are part of wider channels or networks. When you follow a show that's part of a channel (for example, a network that produces multiple shows, like Bloomberg or the BBC), you'll be able to see it in a new dedicated Channels section in your podcast Library.

This is handy, given that many podcasts are now part of wider networks that produce several shows around similar themes. When you tap on a channel, you'll see the shows you follow at the top, plus any subscription options that are available for that network.

An in-car screen showing Podcasts on Apple CarPlay

(Image credit: Apple)

Elsewhere, the app's 'Up Next' queue will include more options to help you manage it. These will include the option of rejecting an episode from Up Next, or touching and holding to show its artwork.

If you listen to the Podcasts app while commuting in your car, you'll also finally be able to access your Up Next and Recently Played queues in the CarPlay's 'Listen Now' section. An overhauled Browse tab will also show you hand-picked podcast recommendations to help you find your next podcast addiction.

4. A boost for Apple HomeKit

Two iPhones showing Apple HomeKit settings

(Image credit: Apple)

If you've found Apple HomeKit to be a little buggy and consistent with certain devices, iOS 16.4 could deliver some improved performance.

According to MacRumors, the software includes a HomeKit architecture update that was removed from iOS 16.2 due to some additional bugs that it unfortunately introduced. 

But the HomeKit update, which apple first announced during the launch of iOS 16, will seemingly return in iOS 16.4, and promises to bring more reliable communication between your Apple devices and your smart home kit.

The release also includes both manual and automatic software update support for Matter accessories, which are starting to arrive from the likes of IKEA. This means you should be able to update these accessories from within Apple's Home app.

5. New options for Shortcuts

Two iPhones showing new options in Apple's Shortcuts app

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple's Shortcuts app lets you combine multiple actions from different apps with one tap. For example, you could make one that turns on your iPhone's 'Do Not Disturb' function, then automatically switches it off when you leave a particular location.

In iOS 16.4, Apple is adding a lot more options to these Shortcuts to help you cook up some new automation recipes. Some of the new 'actions' include locking your device's screen, shutting it down, setting a VPN, silencing unknown callers or automatically triggering Night Shift, which automatically pushes the colors of your screen to the warmer end of the spectrum to make it easier on your eyes.

These features can also be useful if your favorite app lacks a particular option in its settings menu, as it lets you automate an action (for example, 'set True Tone') when opening the app.

Mark Wilson
Senior news editor

Mark is TechRadar's Senior news editor. Having worked in tech journalism for a ludicrous 17 years, Mark is now attempting to break the world record for the number of camera bags hoarded by one person. He was previously Cameras Editor at both TechRadar and Trusted Reviews, Acting editor on Stuff.tv, as well as Features editor and Reviews editor on Stuff magazine. As a freelancer, he's contributed to titles including The Sunday Times, FourFourTwo and Arena. And in a former life, he also won The Daily Telegraph's Young Sportswriter of the Year. But that was before he discovered the strange joys of getting up at 4am for a photo shoot in London's Square Mile.