Apple brings Walkie Talkie back to the Apple Watch

Apple is today rolling out software updates across iOS, watchOS, and the HomePod as it prepares for much bigger releases with new features coming this fall. The iOS 12.4 release introduces a new “iPhone migration” option that “introduces the ability to wirelessly transfer data and migrate directly from an old iPhone to a new iPhone during setup,” according to the update release notes.

Apple has already offered a wireless transfer option between iOS devices, but it relies on iCloud for just about everything. The new method transfers a lot of content — app data, device settings, photos, etc. — directly from iPhone to iPhone. Apps must still be downloaded from the App Store after the migration step is complete, however.

One significant thing is that passwords are now included in the data transferred from an old iPhone to the new one. Previously, passwords weren’t saved as part of iCloud backups for security and privacy reasons. There was an option to encrypt a device backup with iTunes to store passwords, but Apple likely wanted to come up with another option that didn’t require a computer being involved.

Photo by James Bareham / The Verge

iOS 12.4 also improves Apple News Plus browsing by making it easier to access all participating publications (including newspapers like The Wall Street Journal) at the top of the News Plus section.

Apple says today’s updates include a security fix that reenables the Walkie Talkie feature on the Apple Watch, which was briefly taken offline after a vulnerability was discovered that had the potential to allow someone to secretly listen in on another person’s iPhone without consent; Apple said it hasn’t seen any indication that anyone took advantage of the exploit before it was reported. The latest watchOS update — version 5.3 — also further expands support for the Apple Watch’s EKG feature and irregular heartbeat detection to Canada and Singapore.

And last, Apple says its HomePod smart speaker should now work in Japan and Taiwan.

Beta versions of iOS 12.4 contained underlying support for Apple’s upcoming credit card, the Apple Card, which is due for release sometime over the summer. The Apple Card website still remains unchanged, so Apple isn’t ready to accept applications for the card, which it’s bringing to market as a joint effort with Goldman Sachs. The company has allowed its own employees to apply for and begin testing the card, which includes perks like no fees, daily cash back on Apple and Apple Pay purchases, and a laser-etched physical card made from titanium that can be used wherever contactless payments aren’t yet accepted.