Just ahead of its annual Worldwide Developers Conference next week, Apple is today releasing iOS 11.4, the latest version of its mobile operating system for iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches. The release comes nearly two months after Apple released the first beta versions of iOS 11.4, macOS 10.13.5, tvOS 11.4, and watchOS 4.3.1.
Most notable in the new iOS release is long-awaited support for AirPlay 2, Apple’s proprietary streaming protocol, which is expected to enable synchronized audio playback through multiple HomePod speakers. AirPlay 2 support was originally expected to launch alongside the HomePod in February but apparently wasn’t ready for prime time, so the speaker had been restricted to single-unit performance until today.
Though HomePod’s sales have reportedly been underwhelming, Apple is looking to change that by expanding the speaker’s capabilities and availability outside of its initial territories. A press release says that a two-HomePod pair will actually offer left and right stereo sound — a feature that became ambiguous during the speaker’s launch period — or multi-room support. Apple will offer the $349 speakers in Canada, France, and Germany starting on June 18. Additional AirPlay 2 speakers are apparently coming from Bang & Olufsen, Bluesound, Bose, Bowers & Wilkins, Denon, Libratone, Marantz, Marshall, Naim, Pioneer and Sonos, as well.
Apple is also expected to include support in iOS for Messages in iCloud, an optional feature that can synchronize and store all of your Messages app history across all of your iOS and macOS devices. Like AirPlay 2, this feature has bounced in and out of iOS betas, having originally been announced at WWDC last year.
Approximately 2GB in size, iOS 11.4 supports all iPhone models from the iPhone 5s through iPhone X, all iPads from the iPad Air and iPad mini 2 through the iPad Pro 10.5-inch, and the sixth-generation iPod touch. It will be available for download directly from the Software Update feature of supported devices this afternoon.
Apple will also likely release macOS High Sierra 10.13.5, tvOS 11.4, and watchOS 4.3.1 in short order. macOS 10.13.5 is expected to include the option of iCloud synchronization for Messages, while tvOS 11.4 should add AirPlay 2 support to the latest Apple TVs, and watchOS 4.3.1 will tag watchOS 1 apps with a warning that they must be updated for future OS compatibility. The operating systems are not expected to debut other major features until WWDC in early June.