Apple’s operating systems are receiving what will likely be their last updates ahead of the holiday season, as the company is currently pushing out point releases for iOS, iPadOS, and tvOS, plus smaller point-point releases for macOS and watchOS. While the iPhone and iPad updates include one major addition for parents, the Apple TV, Apple Watch, and Mac releases appear to be focused substantially on bug fixes and small quality-of-life improvements.
Versions 13.3 of iOS and iPadOS are top-lined by a new feature, Communication Limits, which was promised some time ago to augment the operating systems’ parental controls. Communication Limits enables a parent to choose which of a device’s stored contacts will be allowed to communicate with users during “screen time” and “downtime,” establishing separate lists of permitted contacts for each time period. The limits apply to phone and FaceTime calls, use of the Messages app, and iCloud contacts, but do not block access to “known emergency numbers identified by your carrier.”
The new iOS and iPadOS releases also allow Safari to recognize Lightning, NFC, or USB FIDO2 security keys, and permit disabling of Memoji Stickers in the Messages app. By comparison, tvOS 13.3 adds a setting that re-enables Apple TV users to see their prior, personalized “Up Next” queue of shows rather than Apple’s broadly marketed “What to Watch” list. watchOS 6.1.1 fixes a bug relating to the display of secure rather than insecure web content.
Apple’s macOS Catalina 10.15.2 includes the same secure web content bug fix as watchOS, as well as a variety of layout and column tweaks to News, Stocks, and Music, plus bug fixes across other apps. While the company added Screen Time to macOS in September, the point-point update for Macs is not expected to include iOS 13.3’s Communication Limits.
The smart speaker HomePod is also being updated to iOS 13.3 today, promising three key tweaks: an improved ability to “recognize the voice profile[s] of family members,” allowing family members to enable/disable personal requests, and fixing a bug that stopped music from resuming automatically on paired HomePods after phone calls. HomePod added multi-user recognition in early November, but the feature launched as a mess.
Arriving after just over one month of beta testing, the new operating systems are currently propagating through Apple’s servers. They should be available through their respective devices’ Software Update mechanisms, found within their Settings menus — apart from the Mac release, which is available from the Software Update menu under macOS Catalina’s System Preferences.