Wednesday, December 21, 2022 Wednesday, December 21, 2022
In my latest hands-on video, I take an in-depth look at what it’s like to use hardware security keys in iOS 16.3. Hardware security keys are direct replacements for the six digit verification codes sent to trusted iOS devices. Hardware security keys act like trusted devices, and must be used as the second form of authentication alongside your username and password combo.
Apple makes users who wish to use hardware security keys set up two keys initially. This is a requirement so that you will be able to access your account in case one of the keys is damaged or lost. Two keys is the bare minimum, but you can add even more than that if you want. I used a pair of inexpensive FIDO2-compatible security keys that I purchased from Amazon.
If you lose all of your keys, you will be locked out of your account, and Apple will not be able to assist you. That is among one of the reasons why most people should stick to 6-digit verification codes. That being said, hardware security keys increase security by eliminating the possibility of advanced verification code phishing attacks. If you’re a high profile target, these physical keys may be a good option to harden your security.
I also discuss other iOS 16.3 features in this video, and revisit some 16.2 features as well, such as Live Activity’s new more frequent updates setting, and logging into iCloud with Advance Data Protection enabled. I’ll have more on these features in a future post.
Wednesday, December 14, 2022 Wednesday, December 21, 2022
Apple released iOS 16.2 yesterday, and it’s jam-packed with brand new features and changes. The headlining user-facing feature is without a doubt the Karaoke-inspired Apple Music Sing, but the update features so much more. Watch my full video walkthrough for a step-by-step look at what’s new, and check out my writeup on a few of my hand-picked standout features from the update.
If you’re an iPhone 14 Pro user, the new Always On Display options found in iOS 16.2 may be of interest to you. One of the biggest issues with Apple’s implementation of the always on display is that there’s too much information displayed, and the screen stays too bright when configured with certain Lock Screen wallpaper. In iOS 16.2, when visiting Settings → Display & Brightness → Always On Display, you’ll now find the option to disable wallpaper and/or notifications when the Always On Display is enabled.
In iOS 16.2, the ‘Everyone’ option for AirDrop has been changed to ‘Everyone for 10 minutes’, which limits the amount of time that you can have AirDrop available to receive from any user, even those not in your contacts. After the 10 minutes elapses, the AirDrop setting will automatically change back to ‘Contacts Only’. This change, which initially rolled out in China during the iOS 16.2 beta, has now rolled out to additional territories in public form.
This change has proved to be controversial for a number of reasons. From a purely technical standpoint, however, it’s controversial because users no longer have a choice to keep AirDrop access enabled indefinitely for those not in their list of contacts.
Prefer Silent Siri Responses
A new setting found in Settings → Siri & Search, allows users to Prefer Silent Responses from Siri. With this new setting enabled — except for cases where you have headphones connected with the screen off, or while driving — Siri will present the information you request on screen without any audible response. People who bristle at Siri’s voice will find this handy, along with those who don’t want Siri audibly responding with sensitive information in a public setting.
Apple Music Sing
Apple surprised its users when it recently announced Apple Music Sing, a new karaoke-inspired feature for Apple Music. By tapping into the already popular live lyrics feature found in the Music app, Apple Music Sing provides an even more engaging experience. New real-time lyrics make it easier to follow along with a song’s beat, adjustable vocal mixes let users turn down the volume of vocals, and animated lyrics for background vocals and a duet view for multiple vocalists, make it easier to sing along.
I tried out Apple Music Sing with one one my favorite songs — Lovely Day and Just the Two of Us by Bill Withers — and it was a lot of fun. Combined, each of these songs provide perfect demonstrations for all four of the new tentpole Apple Music Sing features.
Apple Music Sing makes the previous “live lyrics” feature in Apple Music look antiquated. For example, in previous versions of iOS, an entire line of lyrics would highlight as the song progressed, which doesn’t allow a person who’s following along to know exactly where they are in a song. Apple Music Sing changes this, because each word in a song is highlighted at just the right time.
In previous versions of iOS, prominent backing vocals would be grouped in with the main lyrics, adding to the confusion. In iOS 16.2, Apple Music Sing demotes these background lyrics to smaller text that is still real time, but easier to differentiate.
When there are multiple vocalists, such as with the duet on Wither’s classic song Just the Two of Us, previous versions of iOS proivide no way to differentiate each vocalist. With Apple Music Sing, each vocalist’s lyrics appear on opposite sides of the interface.
Finally there as the adjustable vocal mixes, which will no doubt garner the majority of the attention, and rightfully so. This feature allows a user to reduce the volume of sung lyrics, while maintaining the volume of the instrumentation, through the user of a simple slider that appears on top of the live lyrics interface. Users slide down to reduce lyric volume, slide up to increase volume, and tap to toggle adjustable vocals on or off. In typical Apple fashion, it’s simple and easy to use.
Although I don’t have the nitty gritty details on how adjustable vocal mixes work, it seems likely that Apple has access to the various stems — separate parts of the song that make up the entire track — and that would make it trivial for Apple to isolate the volume of just one portion of the song. Apple could also be applying its machine learning expertise to help accomplish this task as well.
Advanced Data Protection
The opt-in Advanced Data Protection feature in iOS 16.2 provides end-to-end encryption to a host of additional data types stored in the cloud. These data types can only be decrypted from a trusted device, such as your iPhone, and even Apple doesn’t have the keys to decrypt this data.
This type of end-to-end encryption isn’t new for Apple users. Up until now, sensitive data types like passwords and health data have been encrypted this way. What is new is the sheer amount of data types that are end-to-end encrypted. With Advanced Data Protection enabled, 23 different data types are end-to-end encrypted. These data types include Wallet Passes, Voice Memos, Siri Shortcuts, Safari Bookmarks, Reminders, Photos, Notes, iCloud Drive, and perhaps most notably, Device Backups, and Messages Backups.
Although iMessage has always been end-to-end encrypted, Apple could still gain access to iMessage conversations (in the case of being subpoenaed) by simply accessing that conversation data via iCloud Backups or Messages Backups stored on its iCloud servers. With Advanced Data Protection, this so-called loophole would be closed.
To use Advanced Data Protection, you’ll need all of your iOS devices that are signed in to your iCloud account running iOS 16.2 or later1, or else remove those devices from your iCloud account. You’ll also need to establish account recovery options, such as a recovery contact and 28-character recovery key2.
Since Apple no longer has access to decryption keys, it will be imperative that you have a way to recover your account in case you lose access to your trusted devices. I recommend printing your recovery key on a physical hardware wallet, instead of a sticky note that’s easily lost. If you lose access to your trusted devices, and you have no recovery method, you lose access to all of these data types — backups, photos, messages, the whole gamut.
To enable Advanced Data Protection visit Settings → iCloud → Advanced Data Protection. If you try to enable ADP on a new device, you’ll have to wait until a time threshold elapses before being able to do so. Perhaps Apple sees this as a way of thwarting another possible attack vector that might originate from a surreptitiously added device to your account. Once Advanced Data Protection is enabled on your account, it’s enabled for all devices linked to that iCloud Account.
There are over 40 new changes and features in iOS 16.2, as you’ll see in my hands-on video walkthrough. iOS 16.2 is a massive update — not just for the obvious user-facing features — but for a lot of the tweaks and updates littered throughout the rest of the release.
Devices running older versions of iOS will not be able to sign in to iCloud with ADP enabled, you’ll need to update these devices first [↩]
Apple requires that you establish a recovery key before enabling Advanced Data Protection [↩]