Apple iOS 13.4 has landed. It arrives almost two months since iOS 13.3.1 which was, by some margin. the most stable iOS 13 release to date. Unfortunately, iOS 13.4 not only arrives on the back of some concerning new iOS behaviour, it is also a far less polished release than its predecessor. Here’s what you need to know.
Tip: bookmark this page because I keep it up to date if new problems are found. (04/31 Update: Final Verdict – Do Not Upgrade – this is why – plus new iOS 13.4.1 and iOS 13.4.5 [that’s not a typo] details below)
Apple iOS 13
Who Is It For?
iOS 13.4 is available for all iOS 13-compatible devices. This means the iPhone 6S and newer and the 7th generation iPod touch. You should receive an automatic update notification but if that hasn’t happened, you can trigger it manually by heading to Settings > General > Software Update. Beta testers, if you are running a later version of iOS when you read this (see the ‘The Road Ahead’ section below), remember to unroll your iPhones or iOS 13.4 will not show up. iPad owners, Apple has moved you to a new dedicated platform: iPadOS, though I will make some comments on iPadOS 13.4 below.
03/31 Update: Apple has suddenly started to beta test iOS 13.4.5 today. It’s not as strange as it sounds because Apple is likely to release iOS 13.4.1 imminently without any beta testing. It also all but confirms Apple recognizes the seriousness of the iOS 13.4 bugs, which is great news – though also that it will take several ‘minor point’ releases to solve them, likely in quick succession ahead of iOS 13.4.5. Hopefully all these updates will be enough to end this most unstable of iOS generations on a sure footing. This is particularly important for the iPhones expected to be excluded from iOS 14. The iPhone 6S and 6S Plus are those models likely to be on the chopping block, though Apple has previously stopped support two generations at once which would also mean the end of the road for the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus.
03/27 Update: a serious new vulnerability has been discovered in both Apple iOS 13.4 and iOS 13.3.1 which allows data to be accessed even if an iPhone user is running a VPN. Given that VPNs are used specifically to shield the most sensitive data from tracking, this is clearly a major issue and Apple has confirmed the problem. Surprisingly, however, Apple was made aware of the issue back in December by ProtonVPN but did not deliver a fix in iOS 13.4. As such, there is currently no timeline for a fix but I expect iOS 13.4.1 will now come sooner rather than later. You can read more about this and additional iOS 13.4 bugs in my new write-up here.
The Deal Breakers
Straight out the gate, I’m sorry to say that iOS 13.4 and iPadOS 13.4 – while feature-packed – are a disappointing return to the buggier early releases of iOS 13. Numerous issues are being reported, including problems with accessories (notably third–party keyboards on iPads), unreliable Bluetooth connectivity, and iOS 13.4 also seems to be only showing one cellular network for dual sim users.
Moreover, there are glitches with some core functionality like Control Center, the virtual keyboard, Assistive Touch and opening and updating apps. Hotspots are also still a hot mess, as is cellular data yet again, but Apple is secretly aware of that.
In short: it’s a worrying sign to see so many bugs within 48 hours of release.
So What Do You Get?
Apple officially lists the main contents of iOS 13.4 as follows:
Mouse and Trackpad Support
- All-new cursor design highlights app icons on the Home Screen and Dock and buttons and controls in apps
- Magic Keyboard for iPad support on iPad Pro 12.9-inch (3rd generation or later) and iPad Pro 11-inch (1st generation or later)
- Magic Mouse, Magic Mouse 2, Magic Trackpad, Magic Trackpad 2, and third-party Bluetooth and USB mouse support
- Multi-Touch gestures on Magic Keyboard for iPad and Magic Trackpad 2 enable you to scroll, swipe between app spaces, go Home, access App Switcher, zoom in or out, tap to click, secondary click (right-click), and swipe between pages
- Multi-Touch gestures on Magic Mouse 2 enable you to scroll, secondary click (right-click), and swipe between pages
- Nine new Memoji stickers, including Smiling Face with Hearts, Hands Pressed Together, and Party Face
- iCloud Drive folder sharing from the Files app
- Controls to limit access only to people you explicitly invite or grant access to anyone with the folder link
- Permissions to choose who can make changes and upload files and who can only view and download files
- Always-visible controls to delete, move, reply to, or compose a message in conversation view
- Responses to encrypted emails are automatically encrypted when you have configured S/MIME
App Store with Apple Arcade
- Universal Purchase support enables the use of a singular purchase of a participating app across iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, Mac, and Apple TV
- Recently played Arcade games appear in the Arcade tab so you can continue playing on iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, Mac, and Apple TV
- List view for See All Games
- Third-party navigation app support for the CarPlay Dashboard
- In-call information appears on the CarPlay Dashboard
- AR Quick Look supports audio playback in USDZ files
- Predictive typing support for Arabic
- On-screen keyboard layout for iPad Pro 12.9-inch now matches Smart Keyboard
Yes, it’s a lot. iOS 13.4 includes some high profile fixes as well, including for Mail (messages appearing out of order), the camera (a black screen in the viewfinder) and notifications (missing reminders). Apple’s official security page counts 37 fixes, including 12 related to Safari and its WebKit core.
Apple iOS 13.4 Verdict: Hold Off
There’s no way of sugar-coating this: iOS 13.4 makes a bad first impression, especially after iOS 13.3.1 suggested Apple was finally getting this iOS 13 on the right track. There are simply too many problems being reported within the first 24 hours of release to be comfortable recommending it.
My hope is that these early issues will turn out to be isolated, but you need to remain vigilant for now. Moreover, a depressing pattern is emerging: when Apple sticks to smaller security-focused updates things tend to run smoothly but with the more feature-rich updates, quality control is clearly falling down the list of company priorities.
iPad owners, I can understand you wanting to jump on iPadOS for all its new functionality but iPhone owners, you should wait. I’ll deliver my final verdict in a week when we have more information.
The Road Ahead
At the time of publishing, Apple has yet to release a new iOS beta, but I expect iOS 13.4.1 is now in the pipeline as a dedicated bug fix. There’s no way Apple jumps straight to iOS 13.5 from this.
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