Apple has announced that iOS 17.3, the next major update to the iPhone operating system, will be publicly released next week. The update includes several new features, but the highlight is a new anti-theft capability called Stolen Device Protection.
What is Stolen Device Protection?
Stolen Device Protection builds on existing Activation Lock feature to further protect users if their iPhone is lost or stolen. As described by Apple:
iOS 17.3 introduces Stolen Device Protection, an important new capability that helps ensure stolen iPhones cannot be activated or reactivated without authorization from the original owner. This protection also applies should the iPhone be entirely erased and its operating system be reinstalled.
Basically, if someone steals your iPhone and tries to reactivate it, even after wiping it completely, they will be prevented from using the device without your Apple ID credentials.
This takes Apple’s anti-theft measures to a new level, as up until now a stolen iPhone could potentially be recommissioned by thieves if they were technologically savvy enough to fully wipe and reload the device. Stolen Device Protection aims to eliminate this vulnerability.
How Does It Work?
The technical details of how Stolen Device Protection works are not yet clear. However, it likely utilizes cryptographic checks during device activation that prevent wiped devices from being reactivated without explicit authorization.
This is managed through the user’s Apple ID account. So even if a stolen iPhone is completely reset to factory settings, when the thief attempts to reactivate it, they will be challenged for credentials that they do not have access to.
Effectively, this bricks the stolen device so that it has little resale value for the criminals. It also increases the chances that the rightful owner will get their lost iPhone back if it is recovered by authorities.
Other Features in iOS 17.3
Beyond the marquee Stolen Device Protection capability, iOS 17.3 includes several other notable new features:
AirPlay to Mac: iOS 17.3 enables using AirPlay to stream video, audio, and screen sharing straight from an iPhone to a Mac. This provides a more seamless experience for iPhone/Mac interoperability.
Collaborative Playlists: The update allows Apple Music subscribers to share control of a playlist with other users. Multiple people can add, remove, or reorder songs in shared playlists.
Always-On Display for iPhone 14 Pro: iOS 17.3 adds the ability to have select notifications and widgets visible even when the iPhone 14 Pro/Pro Max screen is in standby. This takes advantage of the phone’s LTPO display.
5G Improvements: Performance enhancements for 5G connectivity, building on existing Smart Data mode for better battery life.
In total, over 20 new features and capabilities are included iOS 17.3 spanning Messages, Wallet, Safari, Maps, Weather, and more.
When Will iOS 17.3 Release?
In an unusual move, Apple openly announced the release timeframe for iOS 17.3 over a week in advance.
They confirmed that iOS 17.3, along with corresponding iPadOS 17.3 and watchOS 10.3 updates, will be publicly released sometime next week.
The company seeded “release candidate” versions of the updates to developers on January 17th. This signals the final testing phase before public rollout.
Barring any major last minute issues, iOS 17 users can expect to update to version 17.3 within the next 7 days.
What’s Next After iOS 17.3?
iOS 17.3 represents a major milestone, but Apple’s mobile operating system updates are ongoing. Following standard software release cadence, we can expect to see additional iOS 17 point releases over the coming months.
These will likely bring bug fixes, security patches, and some smaller feature additions. Of note, rumors suggest iOS 17.4 in early February may include Apple Card improvements and Always-On Display settings.
Beyond that, all sights are set on iOS 18 preview in June at the annual Worldwide Developers Conference keynote. iOS 18 will inaugurate a new round of more sweeping iPhone additions when it launches alongside the rumored iPhone 15 lineup this fall.
Table Summary of iOS 17.3 Changes
|Stolen Device Protection
Enhanced Activation Lock
|AirPlay to Mac
|Always-On Display (iPhone 14 Pro)
Safety Check updates
Safari tab groups
The imminent release of iOS 17.3 culminates months of beta testing and brings substantial new capabilities to iPhones. While the full breadth of changes span the iOS ecosystem, the introduction of Stolen Device Protection is a potential game-changer for protecting user data in the event an iPhone ends up in the wrong hands.
iPhone owners eager to take advantage of the anti-theft features, collaborative playlists, Always-On Display, and the many other enhancements can update to iOS 17.3 when it launches next week.
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