Apple Releases iOS 11.4 Update With Messages in iCloud and AirPlay 2 Support

Apple today released iOS 11.4, the fourth major update to iOS 11 and the fourteenth update following iOS 11’s release. Apple’s newest software arrives one month after iOS 11.3.1, which tackled issues related to third-party display repairs.

Users can now enable Messages in iCloud, a long-awaited iOS 11 feature. Those running iOS 11.4 can also enjoy exciting new AirPlay 2 functions. Devices can be updated over the air by tapping Settings > General > Software Update. Users can also use iTunes to update their devices via lightning cable.

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As with all major releases, Apple has squashed many remaining bugs and added further performance improvements with iOS 11.4. Users can expect refinements which improve daily usage, such as greater fluidity and better memory management.

Quick note: Upon updating, your device begins a process called “indexing.” That means iOS is reorganizing your device’s files and data, while performing some general cleanup. This can take anywhere from 30-60 minutes to complete, during which users may see decreased performance and reduced battery life. Your device may also become noticeably warm, but this is completely normal.

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Messages in iCloud: Preserve Your Conversations

A tentpole iOS 11 feature has arrived: Messages in iCloud. Though making an appearance in early iOS 11.3 betas, Apple later removed Messages on iCloud entirely. With iOS 11.4, Apple has finally delivered a feature on many iUsers’ wish lists. This is important for some key reasons:

Say you purchase a new device or lose your existing device. Previously, Messages conversations were tied to ONLY one specific iDevice – if that device was misplaced, those threads were gone for good. With Messages in iCloud, you can now sync your conversations over iCloud for safe keeping. Logging into your iCloud account on any device ensures those messages and attachments are now readily available at your fingertips.

Those who choose to wipe their devices for fresh installs will no longer lose conversations, either. This is great news for users experiencing iOS problems, or those setting up their devices as new.

Another major benefit involves free space. Though iDevice storage has recently increased, owners of 32GB devices may need to be especially┬ámindful of what they keep. With storage optimizations baked in, users can offload older conversations to iCloud and keep newer messages at hand – freeing up storage space.

One of Apple’s greatest advantages is its ecosystem, which ensures a seamless experience across devices. However, Messages has not completely lived up to that promise. If you’ve owned multiple Apple devices and deleted a conversation, that thread had to be manually deleted on each device. Thanks to Messages on iCloud, deleted conversations are now automatically erased across the board.

Messages in iCloud is an optional feature, and can be enabled by going to Settings > Apple ID > iCloud, and tapping the toggle.

AirPlay 2: Audiophiles and HomePod Owners Rejoice

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AirPlay 2’s multi-room audio controls. Photo: VentureBeat.

iOS 11.4 also brings AirPlay 2 into the mix. Much like Messages on iCloud, AirPlay 2 made multiple appearances during iOS beta cycles, but was ultimately scrapped at the last minute. Apple seems to have committed to pushing the feature out this time around, meaning users can now enjoy audio like never before.

While the original AirPlay laid the groundwork, AirPlay 2 aims to improve on some of its predecessor’s shortcomings. Area number one is latency. Some of the past criticisms of AirPlay centered on response time – though users could easily switch between songs and sync content between devices, these actions were subject to noticeable delays. From a usability standpoint, AirPlay 2 hopes to solve much of that response lag by streamlining the connection process and making inputs lightning fast.

Another major AirPlay 2 feature pertains to multi-room audio. For those who own an AirPlay-compatible speaker, streaming music from your device to an individual speaker is very familiar. However, this connection has been single-threaded, meaning your device could only communicate with one AirPlay device at a time. With AirPlay 2, you can use your phone to simultaneously control multiple speakers throughout your home, individually tuning song selection and volume. This offers a much greater degree of flexibility than in years past. Owners of the Apple TV 4 can also use Siri to control playback.

HomePod owners also have reason to celebrate, as iOS 11.4 brings stereo-pairing support for Apple’s smart speakers.

Some Important Extras…

Beyond the major feature updates detailed above, iOS 11.4 also fixes the “black-dot-of-death” bug present in 11.3.1. Receiving the black dot character in a message could potentially freeze the Messages app, or cause it to crash completely. That has since been patched in the latest iOS version.

Furthermore, iOS 11.4 includes new security features in response to the GrayKey unlocking saga. If an iPhone is not unlocked with a passcode for seven days, its lightning port will no longer transmit data. The device will still charge as expected. This measure was implemented to combat user-privacy breaches from law enforcement agencies.

As always, let us know in the comments if you have any iOS 11.4 experiences to share. Happy updating!

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