iOS 15.4 is here and we're in emoji heaven

iPhone running iOS 15
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Apple iOS 15.4 has exited beta and started arriving on iPhone users' phones.

The update, which brings new and useful features like the ability to unlock your phone with a masked face, a new assortment of emojis, and important AirTag safety upgrades, arrived without much fanfare on Monday.

The release of the updated iPhone operating system coincided with the retail availability of the new iPhone SE (2022 edition), Apple's retro-looking (relatively) affordable 5G phone.

In release notes on the update, Apple lists the changes to Face ID that allow iPhone 12 and newer phones (which means not all Face ID-supporting iPhones) to unlock your handset even if the device can't see your nose and mouth. The feature even extends to authentication for Apple Pay and password autofill in Safari.

After completing the iOS 15.4 update, we can confirm that the updated Face ID registration verbiage we encountered in the beta remains. Apple reminds users that "Face ID is most accurate when it's set up for full-face recognition only". It adds that the system is using features around the eye area for authentication.

Basically, Apple is asking you to make a choice between allowing Face ID to recognize you with a mask or only with your unadorned face.

The feature arrives just as many in the world are starting to put aside masks, but could come in handy during the next, inevitable Covid variant surge. 

iOS 15.4 updates

The iOS 15.4 update invitation (available for free to all iPhones that support iOS 15). In the middle is the new multi-color handshake option. At right is the new AirTag warning. (Image credit: Future)

Emoji town

There are 37 new emojis in iOS 15.4 including a melting face, a nest, crutches, a lotus flower, and some cool new skin tone options. The highlight here is the ability to change skin tones in a single emoji. Now a handshake can represent two different skin colors in a hearty embrace. To choose the colors, you select and then tap on the emoji, and then select the first hand color and then the second one.

Apple's release notes don't mention it, but the promised AirTag privacy update is part of iOS 15.4, though you'll only see it if you install a new AirTag.

AirTags, which are coin-sized tracking devices that help you find and keep track of your stuff, came under fire after reports appeared of people using them to surreptitiously track or stalk other people.

During installation, a message pops up stating:

"AirTag is intended solely to track items that belong to you. Using AirTag to track people without their consent is a crime in many regions around the world. AirTag is designed to be detected by victims and to enable law enforcement to request identifying information about the owner."

You can't complete the AirTag setup without agreeing to that statement.

Siri's new Fifth American voice option is also here, because everyone needs more intelligent assistant choices. Apple doesn't describe the voice as male or female, but in the release notes says the voice "expands the diversity of options".

There are a handful of other iOS 15.4 enhancements, including support in Apple Wallet for EU Digital Covid-19 vaccination cards, Safari Webpage translation support for Italian and Chinese (Traditional), the ability to use the camera to add scanned text to Note and reminders, and the Magnifier app now uses the iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max's ultra-wide camera to get closer to tiny objects.

Basically, this update has a lot to explore, so check back for more tips and guidance on how to get the most out of iOS 15.4.

Lance Ulanoff
US Editor in Chief

A 35-year industry veteran and award-winning journalist, Lance has covered technology since PCs were the size of suitcases and “on line” meant “waiting.” He’s a former Lifewire Editor-in-Chief, Mashable Editor-in-Chief, and, before that, Editor in Chief of and Senior Vice President of Content for Ziff Davis, Inc. He also wrote a popular, weekly tech column for Medium called The Upgrade.

Lance Ulanoff makes frequent appearances on national, international, and local news programs including Live with Kelly and Ryan, Fox News, Fox Business, the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNBC, CNN, and the BBC.