iOS 16.2 beta 3 + Emergency SOS via Satellite hands-on

iOS Rapid Security Response debut

The Rapid Security Response feature that Apple announced at WWDC 2022 is now undergoing beta testing. Users who are running iOS 16.2 beta 3 received a secondary security update named iOS Security Response 16.2 (a). This update includes no real security enhancements, as 9to5mac confirms that the test is merely that, a test. However, it does give us the first look at how Apple’s security updates will work. In most cases, Security Responses will be small updates that are aimed at fixing crucial security holes in iOS software without forcing the user to download a full iOS update.

Video walkthrough

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Installing a Security Response

After visiting Settings → General → Software Update, users are greeted with an invitation to Download and Install iOS Security Response 16.2 (a). The update looks similar to a normal OTA update, except for its size (this test came in at 98 MB).

Once the update is initiated, you’ll see the following responses from Apple’s update server:

Security Response Requested → Preparing Security Response → Downloaded.

Once downloaded, tap the Install Now button followed by your device’s passcode to initiate the update. Users will see a brief “Verifying Security Response” prompt before the device reboots. While the download and prep took a few minutes, the iOS Security Response 16.2 (a) update completed in just about 30 seconds after my iPhone rebooted. This is significantly faster than a typical iOS update, and will be a great feature for keeping detrimental bugs at bay without necessitating a full iOS update.

Users can also toggle automatic Security Response updates by going to Settings → General → Software Update → Automatic Updates, and using the Security Responses & System Files switch. This option is enabled by default, and I recommend keeping it enabled.

Verifying Security Response installation

Settings → General → About → iOS Version, and you should see the Security Response release notes, which are separate from the main iOS update release notes, if it was installed successfully.

Uninstalling a Security Response

To uninstall a Security Response, visit Settings → General → About → iOS Version, and tap the Remove Security Response button underneath its release notes. Tap Remove again on the pop-up that appears to confirm, and your iPhone will automatically reboot after a few seconds. Once rebooted, visit Settings → General → About → iOS Version to ensure that the Security Response is no longer displayed.

Updated Always On Display options for iPhone 14 Pro

iOS 16.2 beta 3 affords iPhone 14 Pro users more fine-grained control over the Always On Display. IN previous versions of iOS you could only disable the Always On Display, but in beta 3 you can disable Lock screen Wallpaper, Notifications, or both, yet still keep the Always On Display active for widgets and the date/time.

This is a step in the right direction, as even after a couple of months, I still haven’t gotten used to the Always On Display, and usually end up disabling it outright. I could also see hiding wallpaper providing a measure of battery life savings. Apple, please keep the customization options coming.

New ‘Battery Level’ Shortcuts variables

iOS 16.2 beta 3 includes a couple of new variables for the Battery Level action in Shortcuts. Not only can users prompt for battery level like before, but now they can check to see if the device is charging, or if it is connected to a charger.

Apple launches Emergency SOS via Satellite

Last Tuesday, Apple pushed a server-side update that made the new Emergency SOS via Satellite feature live for all iPhone 14 owners running iOS 16.1 or higher. This feature makes it so that you can communicate with emergency services via text even when you don’t have cellular connectivity.

All in all, I’m extremely impressed with Apple’s Emergency SOS via Satellite functionality.

There is also a new feature found in the Me tab of the Find My App that allows you to send your location to a friend using the Satellite feature. This, too, requires that your phone be without cellular signal.

On Tuesday, I traveled 25 minutes outside the city to go to a place with dense foliage, a place where I know that cellular access doesn’t exist. Unfortunately, when I arrived at the location, the forest area was closed due to deer hunting season. Not wanting to get hit by stray buckshot, I thought it would be wise to heed the warning.

Although there is a demo, I was really looking forward to trying out some of the Emergency SOS via Satellite features in a real no-coverage situation. Fortunately, there is a workaround that can be used to simulate a scenario with no cellular coverage, and I cover it in my video walkthrough.

The Emergency SOS via Satellite demo

All in all, I’m extremely impressed with Apple’s Emergency SOS via Satellite functionality. It’s the type of thing that provides a little extra peace of mind when venturing off the grid for a hike. It’s clear that Apple worked hard to make satellite connectivity not only possible, but practical. For example, the iPhone 14 series has all of the need hardware to establish a connection with a satellite 800 miles in the sky, moving at thousands of miles an hour. In fact, you don’t even have to hold you iPhone in any awkward ways or perform any other song or dance to make it work.

Send Location via Satellite live example

I was able to send my location to a friend while completely devoid of cellular or Wi-Fi signal while sitting at my office desk indoors. This was not a test like the SOS demo, but the real deal. If that doesn’t speak to how impressive this feature is, I don’t know what will.

Above, you can see the result on a “friends” phone that follows me via the Find My app. Here, you can see my location was sent to the friend via satellite. These locations can be sent every 15 minutes.

Emergency SOS via Satellite is available for free for two years after iPhone 14 activation. It’s the type of feature that most people will forget about until they absolutely need it, but like Apple Watch, it’s only a matter of time before it makes a real difference in someone’s life.

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