Fri. Apr 19th, 2024

iOS 17.4 packs quite a few new features and improvements, from podcast transcripts and new emoji options to multilingual message playback, Apple Cash numbers, and beyond. These changes and under-the-hood tweaks can be easy to miss if you don’t know where to look, which is where we come in.

Read Immersive Transcripts of Podcast Episodes

The Apple Podcasts app now automatically transcribes podcasts. Words are highlighted, making it simple to follow along. Now you can read your favorite episodes or even learn new languages! Tap and hold any episode and choose “View Transcript” to activate the feature.

You can touch any section to start playing from there. If you know how to use Apple Music lyrics, you’ll feel right at home.

You can also hit the Transcript icon in the bottom-left corner of the Now Playing screen to show or hide the episode transcript. If the icon is grayed-out, try again later.

Now Playing bar in Apple's Podcasts app on iPhone.

Transcriptions of newly published episodes are available almost immediately but may take time to reach back-catalog episodes.

To search the transcript using keywords, start playing an episode and hit the Now Playing bar at the bottom to make it full screen. Now start scrolling the transcript, which will automatically hide playback controls and reveal the magnifying glass icon at the bottom.

To copy something, hold a paragraph and choose “Select Text” from the menu. You can now refine your selection. When done, choose “Copy” from the bubble menu to paste the selection as raw text into another app.

Apple Podcasts transcripts are available for English, French, Spanish, and German shows on iPhone, iPad, and Mac with iOS 17.4, iPadOS 17.4, and macOS Sonoma 14.4. You can use them with accessibility features such as Text Size, Increase Contrast, and VoiceOver.

Save Recognized Songs to a Custom Playlist

At long last, Apple permits you to add songs recognized by the Music Recognition feature to custom playlists in the Music app. Hit the Shazam icon in your Control Center to start listening, then touch the notification that appears when the song has been identified.

A screen with song details will pop up. To add the track to any playlist in the Music app, touch the ellipsis icon in the top-right corner and choose “Add to a Playlist” from the menu.

To view details for a previously recognized song, access your Music Recognition history by holding the Shazam icon in the Control Center.

Other options on this screen allow you to add the recognized tune to your Music library, open it in the Shazam app or Apple Music, and share it with friends and family.

Multilingual Chats With Siri Message Playback

Do you receive texts in multiple languages? Siri in iOS 17.4 can read incoming messages in specific languages like German and French. Go to Settings > Siri & Search > Messaging with Siri > Add Languages to set multiple languages for message playback without changing your primary Siri language.

Stolen Device Protection While Away From Home

iOS 17.4 boosts the Stolen Device Protection feature that protects you from threats like thieves stealing your saved passwords and money.

Select a new “Always” option in Settings > Face ID & Passcode > Stolen Device Protection to enforce a security delay even when away from your usual locations like home and work.

Detailed Battery Stats for iPhone 15 Owners

iOS 17.4 lets iPhone 15 owners view battery cycle count, manufacture date, and first use in Settings > Battery > Battery Health (it also splits the “Battery Health & Charging” section into two separate menus named “Battery Health” and “Charging Optimization.”)

Online Purchases With Virtual Apple Cash Numbers

Not all websites support Apple Pay. In that case, you can use the old-fashioned method and type in your Apple Cash number. Find it in the Wallet app by selecting your Apple Cash card, touching the ellipsis icon in the top-right, and choosing “Card Number.”

Wallet app on iPhone with the Card Number menu option for Apple Cash highlighted.

For added protection, the security number changes with each use. Should your Apple Cash number get compromised, hit “Request New Card Number” and you’ll be good to go.

Requesting a new Apple Cash card number in the Wallet app on iPhone

Faster Access to Your Purchase History

To view the list of the apps, media, and subscriptions you’ve bought thus far, touch your profile icon in the App Store and choose the “Purchase History” option (for a list of all the free and paid apps tied to your Apple ID, choose “Apps” instead).

This is a much faster way of accessing your purchase history than the “Media & Purchases” section in your Apple ID profile at the top of the Settings app. Like before, you can hold the App Store icon on the Home Screen and choose “Purchased” from the shortcuts menu.

Home Screen on iPhone displaying the App Store shortcuts menu with the Purchased option highlighted.

iOS 17.4 brings a new digital clock widget to check the time at a custom location. To add it to your Home Screen, hold an empty area to activate icon jiggle mode and touch “+” in the top-left corner. You’re now in the widget gallery. Now select “Clock” from the list of apps, swipe to “City Digital,” and touch the “Add Widget” button.

To put this widget on your Lock Screen, wake the device and hold the screen, then select “Customize” and choose “Lock Screen.” Next, hit an empty widget slot below the current time and use the widget gallery below to add “City Digital” to the Lock Screen.

To make it display the local time for a specific city, hold the widget on your Home or Lock Screen, choose “Edit Widget,” hit the location under “City,” and pick a new one.

Many people prefer digital clocks over analog ones. I sometimes struggle with reading analog clocks correctly, like right after waking up early in the morning.

PQ3 Quantum Security for iMessage Chats

After updating your iPhone to iOS 17.4, iMessage encryption will automatically upgrade to the post-quantum cryptographic protocol (PQ3). It protects from so-called “Harvest Now, Decrypt Later” attacks, where a hacker saves stolen data and hopes to eventually decrypt it once quantum computing becomes feasible in the future.

All iPhones participating in the conversation must run iOS 17.4 or later for quantum security to work.

Apple explains that PQ3 uses ongoing rekeying to “rapidly and automatically restore the cryptographic security of a conversation” should the initial key ever get compromised.

New Emoji and Direction Options

iOS 17.4 brings six new emoji characters representing an edible mushroom, a phoenix rising from the ashes, lime, and broken chains. There’s also a pair of shaking heads to express approval or disapproval. To find a specific one, bring up the emoji keyboard and type a shortened character name (i.e., “mushroom” or “chain”) into the emoji search field.

Selecting emoji skin tone on iPhone.

iOS 17.4 also introduced directional variants of six pre-existing people emoji depicting a person walking, running, and kneeling, as well as a person with a white cane, in a manual wheelchair, and a motorized wheelchair. You can find those under the “Smileys & People” section of the Emoji keyboard (hold the emoji to set the skin tone).

Using emoji search on iPhone to find shaking heads characters.

Tidbits: EU Changes, “Listen Now” Renamed “Home,” and More

iOS 17.4 lets people in the European Union install apps from alternative app marketplaces, use web browsers with custom engines, change default browser and email app, and more.

Everyone benefits from quality-of-life improvements in iOS 17.4, such as the “Listen Now” in the Music and Podcasts apps renamed to “Home” (like in the TV app) or the new floating Now Playing bar in the Podcasts app that previously made its debut in the Music app.

iOS 17.4 allows developers of third-party video apps like Zoom to turn off AR hand reactions. There are also eight new CarPlay apps. And last but not least, Apple has removed two features from the final iOS 17.4 release: a live activity for the Clock app’s stopwatch and SharePlay music control for Apple TV and HomePod. They’ll probably return in a future update.

iOS 18 Is Lurking Around the Corner

iOS 17.4 is yet another feature-packed release with more meaningful changes than meets the eye. Apple continues refining the iPhone’s user interface and bringing consistency to its stock apps while ensuring there’s something for everyone to look forward to.

Apple will probably release iOS 17.5 ahead of the summer. Then in June, the company will kick off a whole new beta cycle by releasing the first iOS 18 beta right after the WWDC24 keynote.

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By John P.

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