At Last, Apple Unveils Unexpected iPhone Update

There is an upcoming substantial update arriving to the iPhone next month, iOS 17.4. However, prior to its release, it appears that another update, iOS 17.3.1, will be available for download in the following days or weeks. Here’s the information we have on it.

Update below from February 8. This post was initially published on February 6, 2024.

What Is It?

MacRumors has identified new software in the site’s analytics logs that is not iOS 17.4. This method of detecting new iOS versions has been successful for MacRumors. For example, it recently informed us about the impending release of iOS 17.2.1, an update that caught many by surprise.

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What’s In It

We only have the version number as a clue, implying that it is less significant than the previous and upcoming “whole-number” releases. This update could involve bug fixes, security enhancements, or both. However, it will not be a Rapid Security Response, which Apple only releases to modify a minor operating system version rather than a whole-number release. Simply put, it could theoretically be iOS 17.3.1 (a).

It’s highly unlikely that new features will be introduced in iOS 17.3.1, since features were already included in iOS 17.3 and more are planned for iOS 17.4. Therefore, it appears that Apple may hold off on introducing any other new features. Instead, existing features could be updated. For instance, the excellent Stolen Device Protection launched in iOS 17.3, which is set to be refined in iOS 17.4, may have its improvements integrated earlier in iOS 1.73.1. Stolen Device Protection enhances security measures when the device is not in a familiar location. Although complaints have been made about the inability to specify specific locations as familiar, it is unlikely to change. However, it is anticipated that users will be able to implement additional security restrictions wherever they are. This could be part of iOS 17.3.1.

Release Date

Considering that iOS 17.4 is not expected for nearly a month, iOS 17.3.1 could potentially be released at any time. MacRumors proposes that it could be released next Tuesday, exactly a year after the release of iOS 16.3.1 last year. As the site states, “If Apple adheres to a similar timeframe as in recent years, it is likely that iOS 17.3.1 will be released in the next week or so.”

In my opinion, it will likely be next week, with Tuesday, February 13 being the most probable release date as Apple favors Tuesday releases. It is improbable that it will be this week, as previous releases identified by MacRumors occurred approximately a week after the site detected the activity it’s currently monitoring.

More information will be provided as it becomes available, but for now, February 13 seems to be the likely release date.

February 8 update. It’s here, and arrived sooner than many, including me, had expected. You can read details of exactly what’s in the new update here, but just as interesting is why it’s landed as soon as it did.

Apple likely identified a problem that necessitated immediate resolution, prompting the earlier-than-expected release of the update. However, the fact that it was launched this week instead of the following week, as anticipated, indicates that Apple is adhering to its schedule and is not deviating from it.

Recently, there was a situation where the second developer update of iOS 17.3 had to be withdrawn shortly after its release. This led to speculation that the entire timeline could be delayed in order for Apple to catch up. However, the update arrived exactly as predicted, on Monday, January 22. If anything, it was released a day earlier rather than the week or two later as previously speculated.

So, why?

I believe it’s due to the next major update, iOS 17.4, which will completely transform the iPhone by allowing access to rival app marketplaces.

Moreover, the update must be released on time as it aligns with new legislation, the Digital Markets Act, affecting the 27 countries of the European Union. Although it primarily impacts the EU, it must be timely. Since Apple wouldn’t release an update for one region and not for another, it must be ready for release in the U.S. at the same time as the EU. In other words, a delay now, to minor updates such as the new iOS 17.3.1, could have dire consequences for the major update coming next month.

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