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Today Apple sent out the final Release Candidate (RC) versions of iOS 15.5 and its related OS updates to developers, signaling the impending public availability of the next big iOS 15 point release.
Specifically, Apple has seeded iOS 15.5 RC (19F77), iPadOS 15.5 RC (19F77), macOS 12.4 RC (21F79), watchOS 8.6 RC (19T572), and tvOS 15.5 RC (19L570). While Apple doesn’t offer an open developer beta of its HomePod Software, a HomePod 15.5 RC has also gone out to its private testing program members.
With each of the releases, Apple notes that “The term “Release Candidate” (RC) replaces “GM seed” and indicates this version is near final.”
Ordinarily, these “near-final” versions are identical to what ultimately gets sent out to the public.
The purpose of the Release Candidates is to make sure there are no show-stopping bugs, but that’s very rarely happened in the history of Apple’s operating system releases. So, it’s a safe bet that the same build numbers will appear within the next week or two for the public releases of iOS 15.5
Although it’s not strictly necessary, Apple likely wants to get iOS 15.5 and the rest put to bed in time for this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), where it’s expected to unveil the first developer previews of iOS 16, iPadOS 16, macOS 13, watchOS 9, and tvOS 16.
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Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean that iOS 15.5 will be the last major point release in the iOS 15 family. At one time, it was quite uncommon to see new iOS releases after WWDC. However, that’s changed in recent years. In 2020 and 2021, iOS 13.6 and iOS 14.7 saw July releases. Apple took that even further with iOS 13.7 and iOS 14.8 arriving in September — only days before the next full iOS version was publicly released.
It’s not even fair to say that this is the end of new features for iOS 15 users. In 2020, iOS 13.6 added Car Key for BMW owners, and the July 2021 release of iOS 14.7 added support for Apple’s MagSafe Battery Pack plus Apple Card Family and new HomePod timer controls in the Home app.
What’s Coming in iOS 15.5?
Compared to previous iOS 15 point releases, most of the changes in iOS 15.5 are expected to be relatively minor and are centered mainly around Apple Wallet and Apple Pay:
- Apple is adding underlying support for its new Tap to Pay on iPhone feature. It’s still not clear if this will launch before iOS 16, but since Apple is already making some pieces of it available to developers, it may undergo a limited rollout sooner, much like Car Key showed up in iOS 13.6.
- In Messages and Apple Wallet, the Apple Pay Cash card has been rebranded as “Apple Cash” throughout. While it’s not specifically connected to iOS 15.5, Apple also recently switched the Apple Cash card from Discover to Visa Debit.
- You can now send and request money from your Apple Cash card in Apple Wallet.
- There’s support for a new Apple Account Card to replace the older “iTunes Pass.” This is expected to be an Apple Pay style payment card that can be used to spend gift cards and Apple ID account balances within Apple’s retail stores. There’s no word yet on whether it will be ready to launch with iOS 15.5, and it’s not mentioned anywhere in the release notes.
- Apple Podcasts offers a new setting to limit how many episodes are stored on your device and automatically delete older ones.
- Apple notes that iOS 15.5 also includes a fix where home automations usually triggered by people arriving or leaving may sometimes fail.
The changes in watchOS 8.6 are a bit more mundane unless you live in Mexico, where Apple is finally adding support for the ECG app and irregular heart rhythm notifications. While it’s surely not Apple’s fault that it took this long, Mexico is still very late to the party on this one.
Lastly, macOS 12.4 adds the same new setting to Apple Podcasts found in iOS 15.5 and iPadOS 15.5, plus a new “iOS” 15.5 update for the Studio Display firmware that “refines camera tuning, including improved noise reduction, contrast, and framing.”
There’s no word on when these iOS, iPadOS, watchOS, and macOS updates will be available to the general public. However, barring any problems, Apple typically pushes out the public release one to two weeks after the Release Candidates go out to developers.