Hidden Code Suggests Apple Will Offer Standalone Security Updates to iDevices

New code strings in the latest iOS betas indicate that Apple Inc plans to begin treating customers to out-of-band security updates starting with the next release of its mobile operating systems for iGizmos.

To stay on top of the latest security fixes, iPhone and iPad users today must download the latest version of the full iOS / iPadOS designated for their hardware. Starting with iOS 14.5, however, that might change.

Code strings spotted in the latest iOS 14.5 beta by the Apple news site 9to5mac indicate that iPhone and iPad users will soon be able to fetch the latest security patches without installing a full version of their devices’ operating system.

A recent example of such an update is in the contents of iOS 14.4.1, which Apple expressly shipped on March 8 to patch a security hole in Webkit. In the future, such an update may be released as a smaller package and labeled as a security update, rather than a whole new iOS version.

Whether this will happen starting with the public release of iOS 14.5 remains to be seen, but the code references inside the latest iOS beta indicate that Apple plans to implement the change sometime soon.

The tech giant already does this on the desktop front – macOS users can selectively download and install just the security fixes they lack, leaving their OS version intact. If Apple replicates this scheme on the mobile front, iDevice owners can keep using older hardware while still receiving security support from Cupertino, California – a welcome move from a company often accused of planned obsolescence.

Apple has been making considerable efforts on the privacy and security front in recent times. For example, the latest version of the Safari browser for iPhones and iPads sports a feature called Fraudulent Website Warning, displaying a warning if you visit a website suspected of phishing.

Starting this year, registered Apple developers selling software on the App Store will need to provide information about their privacy practices, including the practices of partners whose code they integrate into their app. This information is required to submit new apps as well as app updates.

The same goes for data collection practices:

“Starting with the beta versions of iOS 14.5, iPadOS 14.5, and tvOS 14.5, you’ll be required to ask users for their permission to track them across apps and websites owned by other companies,” Apple states on its Developer portal.

As of yet, there is no official launch date for the public version of the update. However, with five developer betas under its belt, the new installment should be in users’ hands relatively soon.