iOS 11.4 brings AirPlay2, Messages in iCloud and more

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Apple has released iOS 11.4 bringing AirPlay 2, Messages in iCloud, stereo pairing for HomePod and more. iOS 11.4 brings a multitude of feature so lets take a look at what’s new.

Message in iCloud

Message in iCloud securely stores your Messages, be they iMessages or standard SMS texts, in iCloud, preserving and syncing your Messages history between your iOS and macOS devices.

In addition to keeping everything in sync, Messages in iCloud has a couple of other benefits. First, you only have to delete a message thread once. No more deleting on every individual device you have. Also, when setting up a new device, all of your messages will be there for you, whether or not you want to restore from a backup.

Message in iCloud allows you to:

  • Store all your messages – whether iMessage or SMS — from all your devices in iCloud, which allows for better syncing between devices
  • Sync deleted messages and threads across all your iCloud devices, so when you delete a conversation or message, it will get deleted everywhere instead of requiring you to delete it over and over again on each device
  • Allow smaller backups of your local messages as part of your regular iCloud backup of your individual devices, since only your newest messages are stored locally (as opposed to the old system, which stored everything locally on all devices and would back up each bundled collection of messages and attachments multiple times as part of each device’s backup)

To enable Message in iCloud, users will have to opt in by going to Settings —> Apple ID —> iCloud, and then toggle on Messages. As a security measure, users must have two-factor authentication turned on — if you don’t, enabling Messages on iCloud will automatically bring up a walkthrough to help you set it up.

On a Mac, head over to the Message app, go to Preferences, and check the “Messages in iCloud” box to enable it. You’ll need to turn this on manually on a device-by-device basis for all your devices that you want to use Message in iCloud with.

Messages in iCloud may take up a bit more space on your iCloud storage. In theory, each device’s backup will be smaller since they’ll no longer include most of your locally stored messages and attachments, saving you some space, but those messages will still take up space in iCloud, and it’s still unclear how the net balance of storage will shake out. This will depend on how many Apple devices you have and how big your iMessage backup is.

AirPlay 2

AirPlay is Apple’s proprietary standard for streaming audio, video and other content from one device to another — say streaming that video your iPhone is playing to an Apple TV connected to your television set. AirPlay is the promised update to this standard, and it brings multi-room audio support.

Thanks to AirPlay 2, you’ll be able to sync up music playback on multiple AirPlay 2-compatible speakers throughout your home. You’ll also be able to take a call on your iPhone without stopping playback.

This means that as long as you have an AirPlay 2-compatible speaker, it can be added to a multi-room setup to rival the existing one-brand systems out there right now. And this in turn means it may well be possible to cobble together a cheaper multi-room system over your entire house, as well as freeing consumers from having to be brand-loyal and submit to one company’s audio tech throughout the home.

The good news continues as the list of brands already signed up to support AirPlay 2 is impressive: Bang & Olufsen; Bluesound; Bose; Bowers & Wilkins; Definitive Technologies; Denon; Devialet; Dynaudio; Libratone; Marantz; McIntosh; Marshall; Naim; Pioneer; Polk; and Sonos. Yes, Sonos. This could be great news for those who feel locked in to the Boston-based company’s product, which for a good long time was the only quality game in town for affordable multi-room audio. With AirPlay 2, they should be able to add other brand speakers to their existing Sonos devices.

AirPlay 2 multi-room will be operated via the iOS Control Centre. While listening to music, all you need do is select or unselect where the music is playing, or you can ask Siri to play music in a room, a group of rooms, or everywhere in the home, much like Sonos’s existing offering. Apple’s own HomePods will be automatically supported so there will be no need to manually group speakers.

With two HomePod speakers set up as a stereo pair, Apple’s speaker is able to tell where it is placed in a room and adjust the audio profile accordingly, communicating with its twin using a proprietary wireless peer-to-peer link to make sure your music playback is in sync. When two HomePod’s are paired only one will respond to Siri requests, apparently, to avoid both replying at the same time.

Summary:

  • Control your home audio system and AirPlay 2-enabled speakers throughout your house
  • Play music at the same time on multiple AirPlay 2-enabled speakers in your house, all in sync
  • Control AirPlay 2-enabled speakers from Control Center, the Lock screen, or AirPlay controls within apps on your iPhone or iPad
  • Use your voice to control AirPlay 2-enabled speakers with Siri from your iPhone or iPad, HomePod, or Apple TV
  • Take a call or play a game on your iPhone or iPad without interrupting playback on your AirPlay 2-enabled speakers

HomePod stereo pair

  • This update supports setting up your HomePod stereo pair using your iPhone or iPad
  • HomePod pair automatically senses its location in the room and balances the sound based on the speakers’ locations
  • Advanced beamforming provides wider soundstage than traditional stereo pair
  • HomePod will automatically update to support stereo pairs, unless auto updates are disabled in the Home app

Additional iOS 11.4 Features

  • Enables teachers to assign their students reading activities in iBooks using the Schoolwork app
  • Fixes an issue where certain character sequences could cause Messages to crash
  • Addresses a Messages issue that could cause some messages to appear out of order
  • Addresses an issue that could prevent logging in or accessing files on Google Drive, Google Docs and Gmail in Safari
  • Fixes an issue that could prevent data syncing in Health
  • Fixes an issue that could prevent users from changing what apps can access Health data
  • Resolves an issue that could cause an app to appear in an incorrect location on the Home screen
  • Fixes an issue where CarPlay audio could become distorted
  • Fixes an issue where selecting music from your iPhone could fail when playing music over Bluetooth or when connected to USB on some vehicles

 

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