Apple has released iOS 17.3, the latest software update for iPhones, bringing several new features and enhancements focused on security, privacy, and convenience. The key highlight is a new anti-theft capability called Stolen Device Protection, which allows users to remotely lock and track lost or stolen devices even when they are offline.
Overview of iOS 17.3
iOS 17.3 arrives about two months after the launch of iOS 17.2 in November 2023. It is compatible with all devices running iOS 17, namely the iPhone 8 and newer models.
Some of the main additions in iOS 17.3 include:
- Stolen Device Protection – Allows tracking and locking lost iPhones even when they are offline
- New Unity wallpaper – Celebrates Black history and culture
- Collaborative playlists – Shared playlists that friends can add songs to
- Security updates – Fixes vulnerabilities in WebKit engine used by Safari
The software update is available starting January 22, 2024 as an over-the-air (OTA) download. Users can install it by going to Settings > General > Software Update.
iOS 17 has seen rapidly growth since its September 2023 launch. Over 65% of active devices now run it. (Source)
Stolen Device Protection Aims to Thwart iPhone Theft
The most notable new capability in iOS 17.3 is Stolen Device Protection, which leverages Find My integration to help users track and secure iPhones even when they are offline.
Once enabled, the iPhone will enter a special Activation Lock mode if it is ever remotely locked by its owner after being stolen. This will prevent anyone else from reactivating it.
Some key capabilities offered by Stolen Device Protection:
- Remotely lock and track device even when offline
- Enable Lost Mode to display custom message with contact info
- Prevent reactivation on lost device to protect data
- Locate device position history for past 5 days if Find My recovers it
The new functionality aims to curb lucrative black markets for stolen iPhones. It builds on existing Activation Lock feature which was introduced years ago but had limitations if the lost device was offline.
Stolen Device Protection coupled with Find My network integration closes this gap considerably. It increases the chances lost devices can be retrieved by law enforcement before being shipped abroad.
Other Notable Improvements in iOS 17.3
In addition to the main Stolen Device Protection capability, iOS 17.3 includes other useful additions:
Black Unity Wallpaper
A new dynamic wallpaper is available called Black Unity. It shifts between various colorful patterns and images highlighting Black history and culture.
The wallpaper has been launched in time for Black History Month in February 2024. It can be enabled via Settings > Wallpaper > Choose New Wallpaper.
The Music app now supports shared playlists that friends can collaborate on. Multiple people can add or remove songs on the playlist.
This brings Apple Music closer to Spotify in supporting social components. However, collaborative playlists are limited to Apple Music subscribers.
Apple has fixed multiple WebKit vulnerabilities that could have been exploited to run malicious code remotely. These were apparently being actively exploited in the wild.
All users are advised to install the iOS 17.3 update as soon as possible to ensure their devices have the latest security fixes.
What’s Next After iOS 17.3
iOS 17.3 is likely the final major point update to iOS 17, which originally launched in September 2023.
Apple typically introduces one major new iOS version per year at its annual WWDC conference. iOS 18 is expected to be announced in June 2024. It will bring more substantial changes across the board.
In the meantime, iOS 17 adoption has grown quickly, with over 65% of active devices now running it as of January 2024. The software update focuses on refinement rather than sweeping change.
iOS 17.4 with additional bug fixes could still arrive before iOS 18. But no major new features are likely until the next major version later this year.
The Stolen Device Protection capability in iOS 17.3 brings Apple’s strong focus on privacy and security up another notch. It aims to combat lucrative black markets for stolen iPhones.
Coupled with deep Find My network integration, users now have unparalleled ability to track and lock lost devices even when offline. This closes a longstanding gap that made stolen iPhones difficult to recover once out of reach.
iOS 17 adoption continues growing rapidly months after its launch. The latest update brings useful new features for music, personalization, and collaboration as well. For optimal device security and access to all the newest capabilities, iPhone owners are advised to update to iOS 17.3 soon.
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