It looks like iOS 17 is going to be a bigger iPhone update than we first thought, but before that lands we have iOS 16.4 to look forward to – and that update has just started rolling out.
Naturally, iOS 16.4's changes are a little more incremental than the bigger ones 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.
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. The update also brings the promise of clearer phone calls and some HomeKit tweaks that should make it more reliable when controlling your compatible smart home tech.
Combine all of these upgrades with the recent announcement of Apple Music Classical, which lands on March 28, and iPhone fans will see some pretty tasty upgrades over the coming days. Here are the seven biggest upgrades in iOS 16.4 to look out for when it lands this week.
iOS 16.4 release date: when will it be available?
We knew iOS 16.4 would be rolling out this week, as a release candidate version was given to beta testers on March 21. And sure enough, the software update has just started rolling out.
With Apple Music Classical also now appearing on some iPhones as we head into its March 28 release, Apple fans have some new treats to test out.
If you like the sound of the latter and aren't seeing the iOS 16.4 update yet, fear not it only needs iOS 15.4 or later to run.
7 new features coming to your iPhone in iOS 16.4
1. Push notifications from web apps
If you like to keep up with the latest news from your favorite web apps – which live in your browser, rather than the home screen – 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 home screen 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
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. Clearer cellular phone calls
Perhaps the biggest quality-of-life upgrade coming with iOS 16.4 is Voice Isolation for cellular calls, which will help reduce ambient noise during your phone calls.
This feature is already available on apps like WhatsApp or FaceTime, which you've probably noticed tend to sound better than cellular calls. But now it's finally coming to cellular calls – to access it, you'll just need to swipe down the top-right of the screen (to access the Control Center), tapping Mic Mode, then Voice Isolation.
Apple has also confirmed that Voice Isolation will be compatible with every iPhone model released alongside or after the iPhone SE (2020), which means most of the best iPhones will benefit, too.
4. An improved Podcasts app
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.
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.
5. A boost for Apple HomeKit
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.
6. New options for Shortcuts
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.
7. Apple Books animations
This one's strictly for fans of the Apple Books app, so a little niche. But if that's you, Apple is bringing back a strangely satisfying animation to the app with iOS 16.4 – the 'curl' page-turn effect.
For some reason, this animation – which mimics a page being turned over – was removed in iOS 16. But if you've missed seeing your digital pages turning in the Books app, you'll be happy to see that effect return when you upgrade to iOS 16.4.