iPhone Update With Crucial New Features Is Nearly Here

Apple usually keeps the release dates for its software under wraps, not least so it can change its mind and go earlier or later as it needs. But today, buried in a press release for quite another product, Apple has told us when we should expect iOS 16.3.

January 20 update below. This post was first published on January 18, 2023.
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January 20 update. More details of the upcoming release of iOS 16.3 are becoming clear. For a start, Apple has corroborated its own subtle revelation that the update is coming much sooner than expected, and now an important new feature has become apparent that will be especially welcome news for Apple users outside the US

First, the new feature. Advanced Data Protection will be available much more widely with iOS 16.3, Apple has revealed. This was part of iOS 16.2 for users in the United States, with Apple promising a global release early in 2023. Well, January is pretty early, we can agree. Advanced Data Protection is a significant update to how your data is encrypted. Although many data categories are already covered, 14 in fact, including passwords in iCloud Keychain, Health data, Apple card transactions and others, the new system does much more.

It means that when you opt in, Apple no longer has the key to decrypt the data, so even if Apple’s servers were hacked, your data would be impenetrable to the hackers. Of course, you really do need to remember your password.

Secondly, in a Newsroom release about the new second-generation HomePod, sent out just after the one that revealed the imminent arrival of iOS 16.3, Apple confirmed that to use the new HomePod you’d need to be running iOS 16.3 or using an iPad with iPadOS 16.3. It confirmed that the new speaker will be available by Friday, February 3. That’s not quite as early as the other confirmation, but doubles down on an early release of the software. Not long to wait now—my belief is still that next Tuesday, January 24 is the most likely release date, though a release later in the week is still possible.

Today, just before 9AM Eastern, Apple revealed new content to celebrate Black History Month. This includes new iPhone wallpaper, a new Watch face and a Black Unity Sport Loop for Apple Watch.

In itself, the announcement was welcome but unsurprising. Apple usually celebrates Black History Month and a new Watch strap has debuted at this time of year before.

The Watch Strap is particularly attractive, with the word Unity woven into the band “abstractly”, Apple says.

Also of interest is a new Time to Walk, released on Monday, January 30 and featuring singer Patti LaBelle. There’ll also be a new Time to Run with Fitness+ trainer Cory Wharton-Malcolm, celebrating Black History Month with a run through South LA. There’s plenty more on offer and the Apple release is well worth a look.

Read down to the footnotes of it, though, and there’s a reveal of when iOS 16.3 will be coming. It says, “The Unity 2023 watch face will be available next week, and requires Apple Watch Series 4 or later running watchOS 9.3, and iPhone 8 or later and iPhone SE (2nd generation) or later running iOS 16.3.

“The new Unity iPhone wallpaper for the Lock Screen will also be available next week and requires iPhone 8 or later running iOS 16.3.”

Next week starts on Monday, January 23. Since Apple’s favorite day of the week for software updates is Tuesday, I’d expect that to be the day the next iPhone software update is released, January 24. That’s way sooner than even the most seasoned of analysts had been predicting.

It’s an interesting release, with support for security keys for Apple IDs. You can read more about this in Kate O’Flaherty’s post here, but it means you can use a hardware accessory to confirm who you are rather than inputting passwords for two-factor authentication.

Other features revealed so far more minor, including new information on how to use Handoff between the iPhone and HomePod.

Emergency SOS calls, that all-new feature, may also have upgraded wording. Of course, there will be plenty of bug squishes, including perhaps a horizontal line screen issue some users have been experiencing. Some had thought we might see iOS 16.2. 1 to address this sooner, but the new understanding that 16.3 is just days away may mean there’s no small update coming in between. But you never know.


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