Security patches for the iPhone are currently rolled out as iOS updates. Thanks to code found in the iOS 14.5 beta, it looks like this might change.
Thanks to some code that was discovered in the iOS 14.5 beta, there’s evidence to suggest that Apple is creating a system to deliver iPhone security patches faster than ever before. Apple is the best in the business when it comes to long-term software updates for the iPhone, but in regards to rolling out smaller security patches, there’s plenty of room to improve. If a software bug or security vulnerability is discovered, Apple needs to release a full-on iOS update to implement these changes on people’s iPhones — such as the iOS 14.4.1 update that was released a few days ago.
By comparison, this is very different from how Android updates are handled. While Google (rightfully) gets a lot of flak for the vast majority of Android devices running old and outdated software, the way security updates are issued is much more efficient than what’s found on iOS. Once a month, Google issues security patches that resolve all sorts of glitches and vulnerabilities. It’s then up to Android manufacturers to decide when (or if at all) to implement these patches on their own devices, but the fact remains that Google creates and releases a monthly security update that can be installed without needing to launch a completely new Android version.
As reported by 9to5Mac, something similar could be coming to iOS in the near-ish future. Per that report, “A new section added to the iOS software update menu indicates that Apple will provide standalone security updates for iPhone and iPad users.” While it’s currently unclear exactly how the whole process would work, the code suggests that users would be able to decide whether they want to install a full iOS update or just the security updates that are available.
iPhones Could Get Security Updates Faster And More Often
As 9to5Mac also points out, Apple already offers something very similar for its Mac users. If someone is running an older version of macOS, there’s an option for them to install standalone security updates rather than the latest version of macOS — allowing them to keep their system updated with the latest available security patches while staying on an older OS version they may prefer.
With that in mind, a similar system for iOS could have huge benefits. It’s possible that Apple may give older iPhones the same ability to install new security patches without having to update to a brand new iOS version, but what seems more likely is that this will allow Apple to release security updates to all iPhones in a more timely manner. Google is able to release monthly security patches because it doesn’t have to create a new Android version every single time, and if Apple has found a way to deliver security updates to iOS without changing the core OS, that could result in updates being delivered faster and on a much more frequent basis.
All of this is up for speculation for the time being, but if Apple is to make an official announcement about it, there could be one in the coming months. WWDC (Apple’s big software conference for developers) takes place every June, and at WWDC, Apple talks about new things coming to iOS, macOS, iPadOS, etc. It’s possible this new handling of security updates could be announced there, but it’s too early to say with any exact certainty.
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