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watchOS 8 adds multiple timer support but Apple Watch still needs iPhone for offline Siri

Apple’s offline Siri support won’t be offered as a standalone ability on the Apple Watch, it appears, though watchOS 8 is shaping up to include much-requested features like multiple timers. Siri’s ability to work even when you don’t have a network connection was one of the highlights of iOS 15 and iPadOS 15, the new software coming to iPhone and iPad, at WWDC 2021 today.

Currently, Siri requires a data connection in order for cloud-based processing to take place. That’s the case even for the most basic functionality, such as setting a reminder, but with the newest software Apple is making that more flexible.

You won’t be able to access online information, or streaming media, while without a data connection, of course, but it does mean that basic functionality will be more accessible. Even if you do have data, Apple points out, the ability to process voice data locally on your iPhone or iPad should make Siri more responsive and immediate. Not every device will get that ability, though.

iPhone and iPad models with the A12 Bionic chipset and later will offer offline Siri support, Apple has confirmed. That means iPhone XS and XR onwards, the iPad mini (5th gen), iPad Air 2019 and onward, and the iPad 2020 and onward, and the iPad Pro 3rd Gen (2018) and newer. You’ll need to download language packs first, unsurprisingly.

Absent from the list is any generation of Apple Watch, which suggests there’ll be no standalone support for offline Siri in the smartwatch. If it’s connected to a nearby iPhone you should still be able to use Siri even without a data connection – since that will be processed on the smartphone not the wearable.

It’s a shame, as watchOS 8 is gaining more usable features that lend themselves to Siri control. One of the most requested has been multiple timers support, with the ability to use Siri to give them different labels as well. Until now, you’ve been limited to a single timer, and setting a new one will automatically reset any existing timer; with watchOS 8 you’ll be able to set multiple timers with different names, like “laundry timer” and “cooking timer.”

That’s one of a number of new Apple Watch features unlocked with the update. A new Find Items app, for example, brings the Find My Network to your wrist, while more apps will support the always-on display on more recent versions of the wearable. Third-party apps will be able to tap that talent, too, with a new Always-On API.

Developers can try watchOS 8 today, and there’ll be a public beta next month. The full watchOS 8 release is coming this fall, for Apple Watch Series 3 or newer paired with iPhone 6s or later; your iPhone will need to be running iOS 15, too.

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Tech News

Apple releases iOS 14.4.2 and watchOS 7.3.3 – You should install them ASAP

Apple has released new versions of iOS, iPadOS, and watchOS, and if you have an iPhone, iPad, or Apple Watch the official advice is that you should update them sooner rather than later. iOS 14.4.2, iPadOS 14.42, and watchOS 7.3.3 all fix an active vulnerability, Apple says, which it believes has already been exploited.

“Processing maliciously crafted web content may lead to universal cross site scripting,” the company says in its security report about the new software. “Apple is aware of a report that this issue may have been actively exploited.”

The fix, Apple says, was “improved management of object lifetimes.” The company had been notified of the security loophole by two members of the Google Threat Analysis Group, Clement Lecigne and Billy Leonard. That team works to identify potential security issues in popular software, and has been responsible for identifying several such problems in iOS and iPadOS before now.

Indeed, one of those researchers – along with a counterpart at Microsoft’s Browser Vulnerability Research team – was responsible for discovering the problem that led to Apple pushing out iOS 14.4.1, iPadOS 14.4.1, and macOS 11.2.3 earlier this month. That was designed to patch a WebKit vulnerability in Apple’s Safari browser engine. At the time, however, Apple did not report any known issues where the exploit had been taken advantage of in the wild.

The recommendation today is that anybody with a potentially impacted device update their software as soon as possible. For iOS and iPadOS, that means the iPhone 6s and later, iPad Air 2 and later, iPad mini 4 and later, and iPod touch (7th generation). It also includes the latest generations of Apple Watch.

You can download the new software on an iPhone or iPad by heading into the settings, selecting “General” and then choosing “Software Update”. The update is approximately 204 MB in size. To update an Apple Watch, you can use the Watch app on your iPhone. By default, Apple attempts to install new watchOS versions – when set to do so automatically – overnight, though you can nudge it to start that process manually, too.

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