It's been a year of rapid-fire iOS 14 releases, and now after barely a month in beta, Apple has just released iOS 14.3 and the accompanying watchOS 7.2 update, the third major update in the iOS 14 family, bringing with it support for Apple Fitness+, Apple's new ProRAW format for iPhone 12 owners, and more.
In fact, this year's iOS 14 cycle has almost broken the record set by last year's iOS 13 point releases, but that's even more significant since iOS 13.0 was a train wreck of a release that already had an iOS 13.1 update waiting in the wings before it even debuted. By contrast, iOS 14 has been considerably more stable, and the various point releases have really been about introducing new features rather than cleaning up previous messes.
As with most point releases, iOS 14.3 and watchOS 7.2 don't introduce a whole lot of new features, but they still pack in some interesting and significant changes. Read on to browse 10 new features and changes in iOS 14.3.
By now it's no surprise that iOS 14.3 and watchOS 7.2 are bringing Apple Fitness+ support. Apple basically gave it away in the early betas of watchOS 7.2, which showed a rare "What's New" screen — something almost never seen on the Apple Watch — that highlighted the arrival of the new fitness service.
Of course, that wasn't a big secret either — Apple said that Fitness+ would be coming by the end of the year, and recently gave it an official launch date of December 14th.
While the support for Apple Fitness+ is clearly already baked into iOS 14.3 and watchOS 7.2, it's one of these features that won't be unlocked until Apple Fitness+ actually launches, at which point you should see a new "Fitness+" option in the middle of the bottom tab bar of the Fitness app (nee "Activity"), tucked right in between "Summary" and "Sharing."
For Apple TV and iPad users, the iPadOS and tvOS 14.3 updates will include a Fitness app on the home screen for the first time, although unlike the corresponding iPhone app, this will only offer access to Apple Fitness+, as opposed to showing activity rings and workout history.
In all of these cases, however, these will be your gateways into Apple Fitness+, offering up access to the various training videos, playlists, and other features. Since Apple Fitness+ is only available in six countries at launch, however, we're suspecting that users outside of the U.S., Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, and the U.K. won't see the option at all.
AirPods Max Support
If you plan on buying Apple's new AirPods Max over-ear headphones (assuming you can get your hands on them), you'll need iOS 14.3 in order to pair them up with your iPhone (and by extension, iPadOS 14.3 for your iPad, watchOS 7.2 for your Apple Watch, tvOS 14.3 for your Apple TV, and Big Sur 11.1 for your Mac).
It doesn't seem that iOS 14.3 brings anything particularly unique for the AirPods Max that we haven't already seen with the AirPods Pro, just the same features like Audio Sharing, Announce Messages with Siri, Adaptive EQ, Active Noise Cancellation, and Spatial Audio, but the key is that you'll need iOS 14.3 to make these things work with the new full-sized AirPods.
iPhone 12 Pro photographers can rejoice as iOS 14.3 finally delivers the ProRAW format that Apple promised during its Hi, Speed iPhone 12 launch event back in October.
This includes the ability to not only capture ProRAW photos, but also to edit them in the Photos app, and while you'll need an iPhone 12 Pro or iPhone 12 Pro Max to take ProRAW photos, it looks like you'll be able to edit them on other devices.
Mirrored Selfies on Older iPhones
With iOS 14, Apple added the option for users to take mirror-image selfies, but for whatever reason, this was limited to recent iPhone models — the 2018 iPhone XS/XR and later.
iOS 14.3 adds this to the rest of the iPhone models that support iOS 14, going back to the iPhone 6s and original iPhone SE. While this doesn't change the default behaviour — selfie previews will still be shown mirrored on the screen, but actually captured in a normal orientation — users who prefer to get an exact copy of what they see in the preview can now toggle on the alternate behaviour in the Camera app settings.
TV App Improvements
Most users agree that Apple's TV app has generally been a hot mess, making it difficult to find and follow shows, and perhaps even more oddly, providing no dedicated listing for what's available on Apple's own TV+ service.
We've suspected that there's been a method to Apple's madness in that one area, at least, since it probably didn't want to advertise how little was available on Apple TV+ when it first debuted, but now that the catalogue has expanded and matured, it's ready to change that, and iOS 14.3 (and tvOS 14.3) now add a new and improved Apple TV+ section where you can find all of Apple's original content, all in one place.
That's not all, however, as Apple has also added a much-needed enhanced search feature that will let you browse and filter by categories like genre, as well as seeing recent searches and relevant suggestions as you type, and it should also produce better results across a wider collection of content, including not only movies and TV shows but also cast members, Apple TV Channels, and sports programming.
Better Cycle Tracking
For women, Apple has added some useful new categories to the Cycle Tracking section of Apple Health, allowing users to enter pregnancy information as well as lactation and contraceptive use.
Apple expects that this will allow users to better manage period and fertility predictions.
Apple Health on iOS 14.3 and watchOS 7.2 now deliver on the improved VO2 Max level measurements for cardiovascular fitness that Apple promised back in September, with better algorithms for analyzing the existing sensor data that should provide users with a clearer picture of their heart health.
Specifically, with watchOS 7.2 users can now choose to be notified whenever their cardio fitness drops below a certain level, and review these levels in the iOS Health app according to age and sex.
The ECG app will also now offer the ability to detect and classify atrial fibrillation at higher heart rates — above 100 BPM — which wasn't previously possible.
Air Quality Data
The Weather app got some notable improvements in iOS 14 thanks to Apple's acquisition of Dark Sky earlier this year, and with iOS 14.3 Apple is beefing up the air quality information, expanding and updating it for mainland China, Germany and Mexico while adding some health recommendations in both the Weather app and via Siri for users in the U.S., the U.K., Germany, India, and Mexico.
Ecosia Search Engine
For the first time since DuckDuckGo was added back in 2014, another new default search engine has now joined the party for Safari users, with Apple adding Ecosia, an environmentally focused option that helps users plant trees every time they conduct a search.
According to Ecosia's website, it's already planted over 113 million trees, and users who want to contribute can help out by heading into Settings->Safari after updating to iOS 14.3 and selecting it as their default search engine.
Family Setup Expansion
Along with iOS 14.3 and watchOS 7.2 comes the expansion of Family Setup into four new countries, and while there don't appear to be any new features coming to Family Setup, users in Canada, Bahrain, Spain, and Norway will need to make sure they're running iOS 14.3 and watchOS 7.2 if they want to take advantage of the feature.