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 [↩]
Monday, November 21, 2022 Monday, November 21, 2022
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Saturday, November 12, 2022 Friday, November 18, 2022
Coming via a December update once iOS 16.2 goes public is Custom Accessibility Mode. This new feature, according to 9to5Mac, will provide a more streamlined iOS and iPadOS experience for users who may benefit from a simpler interface. Custom Accessibility Mode will therefore be a Springboard replacement, which is the app icon Home Screen interface that iPhone users have used since the original iPhoneOS 1.0 launch. Upon launch, users will be able to enable Custom Accessibility Mode via Settings → Accessibility.
The Custom Accessibility Mode splash screen, which 9to5Mac unsurprisingly was able to unearth, features three main points:
Streamline Home Screen and apps
Large text and controls
Customizable to accommodate different needs
In a nutshell, it looks like Custom Accessibility Mode will be a simplified version of the iOS interface for users who might benefit from such an experience. Similar to how services like GrandPad make using an Android tablet dead-simple for older users, Custom Accessibility Mode aims to do that, but on iOS. Head over to 9to5Mac to see more pictures of it in action.
iOS 16.2 finally enables 5G support for iPhone users in India. Support will officially launch once iOS 16.2 goes public next month, but beta users in India have confirmed that 5G support is now active while using the 16.2 beta.
Freeform settings panel
The Freeform app that Apple debuted back at WWDC was made available in the initial iOS 16.2 beta. In the second beta, Apple added a settings panel for Freeform that includes alignment guide preferences, as well as software acknowledgements.
‘Everyone’ AirDrop receiving setting for just 10 minutes in China
This is a China-only feature that disables the ability to set AirDrop receiving to Everyone indefinitely. One reason for this change may be to stave off unwanted spam via unsolicited AirDrop sessions.
The Music app gets a couple of new changes in iOS 16.2 beta 2:
Animated album artwork features transparent audio details and Play/Shuffle buttons.
Transport controls now feature same button animations as Lock Screen Live Activity.
More status bar icons appear next to Dynamic Island
Live Activities – More Frequent Updates
Health – Medications Lock Screen widgets
Long-press needed to disable Focus on Lock Screen
Show Photo in Library option when using photo wallpaper
Sleep Mode alarm doesn’t appear on top of Lock Screen album art
After launching iOS 16.1 to the public, Apple quickly followed up with the initial iOS 16.2 last week. iOS 16.2 brings lots of new changes and features to the table. In this hands-on video walkthrough, I discuss new changes to the Home architecture, the new Freeform app, Siri upgrades, Weather app enhancements, and much more. Watch the video, and be sure to subscribe to Cellular for more hands-on coverage of iOS 16.2.
One of my favorite new features relates to Safari. When using iCloud+ Private Relay feature, you can now disable it directly within Safari on a one-off basis. This makes it so that when visiting websites where the experience is degraded due to iCloud Private Relay, users can quickly disable it to solve issues.
To disable iCloud Private Relay directly from Safari in iOS 16.2, simply tap the ‘Aa’ website settings button, and tap the Turn Off Hide IP Address option. You’ll then get a prompt alerting you that the website and your network provider will be able to see your IP address until you reload the tab or go to another website.
Keep in mind that this option will only appear in website settings if you have Private Relay enabled via Settings → iCloud → Private Relay.
There are, of course, many additional new changes and features in iOS 16.2, but this is one that stood out to me. Watch the full video walkthrough embedded above as I step though each new feature in-depth.
Monday, October 24, 2022 Thursday, November 17, 2022
Today marks the official release of iOS 16.1, the first big update to September’s release of iOS 16. As you will see in my hands-on video walkthrough, iOS 16.1 is packed to the gills with new features and changes.
Some of the changes in iOS 16.1 will have a direct effect on how Apple’s new iPhone 14 Pro works, specifically related to the Dynamic Island, but the majority of features apply to all phones eligible for iOS 16. Watch my hands-on iOS 16.1 walkthrough for details on what matters most.