The December 25 update is below, along with updated release date predictions. This post was first published on December 23, 2023.
The next version of iPhone software will include something all owners will welcome: an extra layer of security to protect you if your phone is stolen by a thief with your passcode. It can't come too soon.
The release will be iOS 17.3, unless there is another surprise release to fix bugs beforehand. Things could change but my latest thoughts are that it is expected to land after the holidays, most likely in mid-January, around Tuesday, January 16th or Tuesday, January 23rd. This could be delayed until the following week or things could move if the holidays slow down. Below beta testing, perhaps until early February, although I think this is less likely. It is currently in public beta. Among the new features is the so-called stolen device protection.
It's bad enough having your iPhone stolen, but thieves who get your passcode, say by reading it over your shoulder at a bar, can do more. They can reset your passcode so only they can access it, swap their faces with Face ID and then proceed to drain their bank accounts.
I wrote about how to make your iPhone less vulnerable earlier in the year, but this new update will make things much better.
It's a topic covered in depth by Joanna Stern and Nicole Nguyen The Wall Street Journalincluding talking to a convicted iPhone thief about how he acted quickly to turn off Find My iPhone, so the owner couldn't find or erase the phone.
Now, in a feature that came as a surprise when it was spotted in the first developer beta and public betas of iOS 17.3, there's a new level of security that will help thwart thieves, even with access to your passcode.
Stolen device protection means that when activated, Face ID or Touch ID authentication is required for actions like viewing passkeys, erasing content, and more. Unlike today, neither you nor your thief will be able to go back to entering the passcode to make these changes.
As for the very important procedure for these thefts, which is changing your Apple ID password, the new system cleverly adds a security delay on top. If the phone is in an unfamiliar location, biometric authentication (Face ID or Touch ID) is followed by a one-hour wait, after which you must authenticate with biometrics again. The same delay is also needed to add a new Face ID or to turn off Find My iPhone.
The 1-hour delay will not apply if the phone is in a familiar location such as your home or at work.
A thief who knows your passcode can still buy things with Apple Pay using the passcode, or look up passwords for other apps that don't have separate protection. But it is a big step in security.
Note that this feature is opt-in, and if you don't opt in, you're no better off than you are now.
Right now, you can create a passcode that's difficult for someone over your shoulder to figure out, like one that combines letters and numbers, and never give out your passcode. Oh, and make sure there are no clues to passwords in any of your apps. Remember that you can lock individual items in the Notes app, and obviously make sure you have a separate password for that.
Thieves will still try to steal your iPhone, but this new addition should mean it's harder for them to steal your digital life, too.
Updated December 24. Stolen device protection is a notable new feature, not least because it came as a surprise. With it, you can't take some Apple Cash and Savings actions in Wallet, use saved payment methods in Safari, use your iPhone to set up a new device or apply for a new Apple Card — in addition to the reassuring restrictions mentioned above.
It will be available for all iPhones from iPhone XS onwards, provided that they are updated to iOS 17, and provided that the user activates it, of course.
The new software will also include other features such as collaborative Apple Music playlists. This looked like it would appear on iOS 17.2, but was removed before the betas became public release software. With this feature, you can invite friends to add songs to specific playlists or listen to songs you've chosen. It's not yet clear whether there will be a limit to the number of people who can participate, so it could be a very innovative way to share music. It's easy to set up by going to your Apple Music playlist and clicking the person icon to create a link you can send to others. Contributors can then react using emojis. More features will likely be added before the January release date.
Updated December 25. It looks like the iOS 17.3 update will bring good news beyond the much-coveted stolen device protection. According to the YouTuber Brandon ButchSomething that wasn't mentioned in the notes for the first public beta is better battery life.
Well, an increase in lifespan between charges is always welcome but the first review is very positive. “I was blown away by how good the performance and battery life were,” he says. This is believed to be in conjunction with the fact that there was no noticeable drop in performance. He goes on to say that he thinks there may be another beta this week, which is Christmas week. He claims that this could be an update to watchOS to solve the issue that led to Apple removing the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 from shelves. I'd be happy if this happened, if it meant Apple could start selling its smartwatches again, but it seems a bit too early for me.
For iOS, the next release is believed to be the week of January 8. This is consistent with what Aaron Zollo said. Zulu Tech He says. This YouTuber says that the expected timing for the next betas could be as late as January 9th or 10th, which leads me to believe that the public release will happen later in the month or even in February – I'll keep you posted if that changes.
Back to Brandon Butsch: His release date prediction is similar to mine, i.e. the week of January 23rd or even the week before. Unlike Zulu, Butch thinks this won't last until February. I think this is true, but as always, things can change.
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