iOS 16.3 launches this week — here are the new features for your iPhoneThank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!
Get ready for an update on iOS 16. iOS 16.3 is coming to your iPhone this week, bringing a few new features, some bug fixes, and some Black History Month tie-ins.
Word of iOS 16.3’s upcoming release comes from Apple itself, which let the launch date slip press release highlighting the company’s efforts on behalf of Black History Month (opens in new tab) in February. In addition to spotlights on selected content in the Music, TV, News and Podcasts apps, Apple is adding a Unity watch face and an iPhone wallpaper that features the colors of the Pan-African flag.
Both Unity 2023 watch face and Unity wallpaper for iPhone will require iOS 16.3. And in the fine print of Apple’s Black History Month announcement yesterday (Jan. 18), the company says the watch face and wallpaper “will be available next week.” This seems to mean that the iOS update is also coming.
Another sign that iOS 16.3 is on the way: a beta version of the release candidate became available to developers this week. Usually that means the full release isn’t that far off.
If you’ve been following the iOS 16.3 beta process, you know there aren’t many big features planned for this release. But Apple has some additions to go live once iOS 16.3 lands on your iPhone. Here’s what you can expect.
iOS 16.3: Security key authentication for Apple ID
Users looking for an extra layer of security between never-wells and their Apple ID data will be able to add security key authentication tanks to iOS 16.3.
Apple announced this (opens in new tab) at the same time revealed the addition of Advanced data protection for iCloud, which arrived for US iPhone owners in iOS 16.2. At the time, Apple said it was targeting an early 2023 launch for security key authentication, which follows the release of iOS 16.3.
The physical security keys are intended to augment Apple’s existing two-factor authentication for Apple ID, especially for iPhone owners whose public profile makes them likely targets for hackers. Think celebrities, politicians and… looks around nervously — journalists.
When this feature is enabled, you’ll need a physical security key as one of two factors to sign in to your Apple ID account.
Improved streaming on HomePod
There’s an improvement to the Handoff feature, which transfers control of music playback from an iPhone to a HomePod speaker, a particularly timely addition given this week’s arrival of Apple HomePod 2. Although Handoff has been around for a while, iOS 16.3 introduces a new guide that more clearly shows HomePod owners how to use the Handoff feature.
The manual tells you to bring your iPhone within range of the HomePod to see your playback controls or to stream the audio playing on your phone to the smart speaker. It also tells you to do this again if you want to see the controls or transfer the audio again later.
New modes for emergency SOS via satellite call
Call with Hold and Release replaces the existing Call with Hold feature, giving you access to Emergency SOS and Alarm after holding down the power button and volume button. The previous call-on-hold feature required you to use a call slider to make an emergency call, something that may not necessarily be feasible depending on your situation.
The other new option is Call Quietly. This allows you to make an emergency call without triggering an alarm in case it would not be helpful or could put you in further danger.
iOS 16.3 Global Advanced Data Protection
As mentioned above, the iOS 16.2 update gave iPhone owners in the US access to Advanced Data Protection. It’s a new security feature that introduces end-to-end encryption to Apple’s iCloud storage service, protecting information that’s stored in the cloud (except for mail, contacts, and calendar data).
Apple had promised to roll out Global Advanced Data Protection to other parts of the world with a future iOS update and based on that comments from people who used the iOS 16.3 beta (opens in new tab), that time has come. As before, to enable Advanced Data Protection, launch Settings, tap your name, followed by iCloud. From there you can turn on the security feature.
iOS 16.3 bug fixes
The iOS 16.3 release notes describe several fixes coming via this software update. The biggest includes a bug where horizontal lines appear on some iPhone 14 Pro Max models while the phones were waking up. Additionally, iOS 16.3 fixes various issues related to Siri, Car Play, and the iPhone’s lock screen.
iOS 16.2 includes a new architecture for Apple’s Home app, but just as quickly as the feature arrived, Apple pulled it from the iPhone software. Users complained that some HomeKit devices were stuck in an “updating” or “configuring” state, while other devices were missing from the Home app entirely, among other errors. The new architecture returns in iOS 16.3, presumably now that Apple has ironed out this issue.
What else is missing?
Although iOS 16 has been around since fall 2022, not all of the features Apple promised are live yet. We are still waiting for the release of a special Apple Music Classical app, although there is reports that the iOS 16.3 release candidate contains code (opens in new tab) hinting at such a favor.
Apple Pay Later, which allows you to split Apple Pay payments into four installments, has also not yet launched. Perhaps this will be part of iOS 16.4, which will likely appear in beta form shortly after the release of iOS 16.3.
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