Tip: bookmark this page because I will keep it up-to-date if/when new problems are found. I will deliver my final verdict in a week.
Who Is It For?
Apple iOS 16.3 is available for all iOS 16-compatible devices, this means the iPhone 8/iPhone X and newer. iOS 16 dropped support for the iPhone 6S and 7 ranges as well as the iPod Touch. But critical fixes have also been released for these older models. please read my new iOS 15.7.3 and iOS 12.5.7 guides for more on this.
Apple confirmed auto-update delays last year, but keen upgraders can trigger the update manually via Settings > General > Software Update. If you are running newer beta software (see ‘The Road Ahead’ section at the end), you must unenroll your device before the update appears.
Note: this guide is not focused on older iOS updates, iPadOS or macOS, but I will touch upon pertinent issues in these guides.
The Deal Breakers
The first 24 hours for iOS 16.3 are promising, with minimal reports of issues from upgraders across tech forums and social media. I have found isolated incidents of lost carrier signal and a bug caused in the Twitter app when sending to tweet (likely fixable via an app update). There are also complaints about battery life, but the latter is common after installing an update due to reindexing, which can last a few days.
iOS 16.3 also contains some off-the-record fixes (increasingly common with Apple’s software updates) for alarms and the AirPods battery widget, which could wrongly show 0% charge.
It is worth noting that despite this largely healthy picture, there are still a lot of bugs in iOS 16 that users confirm iOS 16.3 does not address. These include phone glitches, apple music bugstouchscreen issues and a system data bug that has plagued a subset of users for the last two iOS generations.
So What Do You Get?
Apple’s iOS 16.3 release notes list the following new features, fixes and patches:
• New Unity wallpaper honors Black history and culture in celebration of Black History Month
• Security Keys for Apple ID allow users to strengthen the security of their account by requiring a physical security key as part of the two factor authentication sign in process on new devices
• Support for HomePod (2nd generation)
• Emergency SOS calls now require holding the side button with the up or down volume button and then releasing in order to prevent inadvertent emergency calls
• Fixes an issue in Freeform where some drawing strokes created with Apple Pencil or your finger may not appear on shared boards
• Addresses an issue where the wallpaper may appear black on the Lock Screen
• Fixes an issue where horizontal lines may temporarily appear while waking up iPhone 14 Pro Max Fixes an issue where the Home Lock Screen widget does not accurately display Home app status
• Addresses an issue where Siri may not respond properly to music requests
• Resolves issues where Siri requests in CarPlay may not be understood correctly
Support for security keys has been requested for years and is the highlight here. It is also an important catch-up to Android, which has supported this functionality for some time. Note the Apple Music Classical app has not arrived, despite references to the upcoming app leaking in iOS 16.3 beta code.
As for fixes, the two standouts are the change to making Emergency SOS calls, following numerous accidental calls to emergency services, and addressing the bizarre horizontal lines bug. The latter had picked up considerable momentum in recent weeks, but the fix dispels fears that it was a hardware flaw.
iOS 16.3 Security
Apple’s iOS 16.3 security page discloses that the update contains 13 security patches. These are spread across multiple areas, including the kernel, Mail, Maps, Safari, Screen Time and Weather apps.
Apple has patched a zero-day vulnerability for older devices via iOS 15.7.3 and iOS 12.5.7, the latter going all the back to the iPhone 5S released in 2013. That fix is not in iOS 16.3 because it was already patched in iOS 16.1.2. The lessons learned from this are twofold. First, Apple really does support older devices for far longer than rivals. Second, if you want priority patching, you will need a device running the latest version of iOS.
Apple iOS 16.3 Verdict: Upgrade
Apple iOS 16.3 is a useful update in terms of features, fixes and patches and early reports indicate it is stable. The caveat is iOS 16.2 painted a similar picture, and serious bugs were spotted much later.
My advice for keen upgraders is to update because there are no obvious red flags out the gate. For more cautious iPhone and iPad owners, I will deliver my final verdict in a week, so bookmark this page.
The Road Ahead
Expect Apple to announce iOS 16.3.1 soon since Apple still has plenty of iOS 16 bugs to squash. I would also expect iOS 16.4 to begin beta testing within days.
If you want to try iOS updates before they are released to the general public, you can join the Apple Beta Software Program. But remember beta releases will always come with more bugs and incomplete features, so I wouldn’t advise running it on a primary device.
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