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Apple’s End-of-Year OS Updates Add Promised Features, Security Updates

It wasn’t surprising when Software Update suddenly started offering iOS 17.2, iPadOS 17.2, macOS 14.2 Sonoma, watchOS 10.2, tvOS 17.2, and HomePod Software 17.2. All but the last come with new and enhanced features that Apple promised but didn’t include in the initial releases. (Apple regularly schedules operating system updates in early to mid-December so its engineers can enjoy the holidays and users can explore the new features during the downtime.)

Given how feature-rich these releases are, I encourage waiting a week to ensure they don’t introduce unexpected problems. Then install the updates at a point when, if something goes wrong, you won’t be forced to troubleshoot tech issues during family holiday time. That’s always awkward.

Apple also released security fixes for older operating systems: iOS 16.7.3 and iPadOS 16.7.3, macOS 13.6.3 Ventura, and macOS 12.7.2 Monterey. Note that the iOS and iPadOS updates address the WebKit vulnerabilities Apple previously said had been exploited against versions of iOS older than iOS 16.7.1, which I incorrectly interpreted as suggesting iOS 16.7.2 wasn’t vulnerable (see “WebKit Zero-Day Vulnerabilities Prompt iOS 17.1.2, iPadOS 17.1.2, macOS 14.1.2, and Safari 17.1.2,” 1 December 2023). If you’re stuck on iOS 16, I recommend updating sooner rather than later.

iOS 17.2 and iPadOS 17.2

The marquee feature of iOS 17.2 is the addition of Apple’s Journal app, which even warranted an Apple Newsroom article. Although developers have offered many journaling apps on the iPhone since the App Store opened, Apple seems to be claiming it was worth releasing its own because it’s so important to “practice gratitude and improve wellbeing.” Journal isn’t just a case of Apple “Sherlocking” the competition, though. One of Journal’s main features is that it leverages “on-device machine learning to provide private, personalized suggestions to inspire journal entries,” and Apple has opened that API up to third-party journaling apps so they can also suggest moments to write about. I tend to agree with Dan Moren, who suggests at Six Colors that there are people who like journaling (and are unlikely to switch to Journal) and those who don’t (and are unlikely to start).

Other notable improvements to iOS 17.2 or both iOS 17.2 and iPadOS 17.2 include:

  • The Action button on the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max gains a Translate option for those needing frequent translations.
  • The Camera app on the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max offers faster focusing speed when using the Telephoto camera to capture small, faraway objects. It also lets users of those iPhones capture spatial video for three-dimensional viewing on the Apple Vision Pro headset, which is due next year. Spatial video won’t look different when viewed elsewhere.
  • Messages gains a catch-up arrow that lets you jump to the first unread message in a conversation, gives you the ability to add a sticker directly to a message bubble, allows you to adjust the body shape of your Memoji, and introduces Contact Key Verification (see “Upcoming Contact Key Verification Feature Promises Secure Identity Verification for iMessage,” 8 November 2023).
  • The Weather app provides precipitation amount forecasts for the next 10 days, adds a handful of new widgets, provides a wind map snapshot to assess wind patterns, and gives you an interactive moon calendar for visualizing moon phases over the next month.
  • Siri gains support for accessing and logging Health app data using your voice—it’s on-device only to protect privacy.
  • AirDrop extends the NameDrop approach of holding two iPhones close together to share boarding passes, movie tickets, and what Apple loosely describes as “other eligible passes.”
  • The new Favorite Songs playlist in Apple Music collects the songs you’ve marked as favorites. If it doesn’t appear for you, as it didn’t for me, mark a new song as a favorite, after which it should show up with all your previously favorited songs.
  • You can disable Apple Music’s Use Listening History in a Focus to prevent music you listen to while in that Focus from appearing in Recently Played or influencing recommendations. Workout or studying music might differ from what you usually want to listen to.
  • There’s supposedly a new Digital Clock widget for use on the Home Screen and in StandBy on the iPhone, and on the Home Screen and Lock Screen for the iPad. I’m unsure what to look for here—nothing jumps out at me.
  • Enhanced AutoFill identifies forms in PDFs and helps you populate them with information such as names and addresses from Contacts.
  • A Sensitive Content Warning for stickers in Messages prevents you from unexpectedly being shown a sticker containing nudity. How long did it take teenagers to find that loophole?
  • iPhone 13 and iPhone 14 models gain support for Qi2 wireless chargers that are starting to hit the market. The iPhone 15 lineup is already compatible.
  • There are new keyboard layouts for eight Sámi languages used by the Sámi-speaking peoples in northern parts of Norway, Sweden, and Finland, and of the Kola Peninsula in Russia. (Thank you, Wikipedia.)

The only bug fix that Apple admits to resolves problems with wireless charging in certain vehicles, but iOS 17.2 also addresses 10 security vulnerabilities, none of which are being actively exploited in the wild.

macOS 14.2 Sonoma

Most of the features in iOS and iPadOS appear in macOS as well. So macOS 14.2 gains PDF Enhanced AutoFill, Messages improvements, Weather enhancements, Favorite Songs playlist, Use Listening History carve-out, and keyboard layouts for seven additional Sámi languages.

There are just two Mac-specific improvements:

  • The Clock app now supports multiple timers, timer presets, and recent timers, bringing the Mac into parity with other devices.
  • Shazam Music Recognition now lets you identify songs playing around you even when you’re wearing AirPods.

Apple’s release notes don’t mention any bug fixes, but there are also fixes for 21 security vulnerabilities, none of which are being actively exploited in the wild.

watchOS 10.2

As with iOS 17.2 and iPadOS 17.2, watchOS 10.2 lets you access and log Health app data using Siri—instrumental on the Apple Watch—but only for two models: this year’s Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2.

The other changes refine several of the new interface approaches that appeared in the initial release of watchOS 10:

  • Apple added an option to Settings that returns the ability to swipe to change watch faces, the absence of which irked many users. I couldn’t find it, but Take Control of Apple Watch author Jeff Carlson revealed that Apple hid it in Settings > Clock on the Apple Watch itself; there’s no corresponding option in the iPhone’s Watch app.
  • Another Settings option—in Settings > Workout—lets you control whether or not you need to confirm when a workout ends.
  • Now Playing appears automatically whenever an Apple Watch is near a second-generation HomePod or a HomePod mini playing media from Music or Podcasts; it requires an Apple Watch Series 6 or later.
  • In most Apple Fitness+ workouts, you can now prioritize the volume of either the music or the trainers’ voices.

The only bug fix listed resolves a problem that prevented watch faces added in the iPhone’s Watch app from appearing on the Apple Watch. watchOS 10.2 also fixes 8 security vulnerabilities, two of which are the WebKit vulnerabilities we covered in “WebKit Zero-Day Vulnerabilities Prompt iOS 17.1.2, iPadOS 17.1.2, macOS 14.1.2, and Safari 17.1.2” (1 December 2023).

tvOS 17.2

Surprisingly, tvOS 17.2 received quite a bit of attention from Apple. Most notably, the company redesigned the Apple TV app, adding a sidebar for faster navigation. Within the sidebar, Watch Now has been renamed to Home, and within Home, the Channels & Apps section lets users focus on subscribed channels and connected apps. I have long found the TV app’s interface to be a mess that tries to do more than is feasible in such a limited space; we’ll see if this redesign makes a difference or just moves deck chairs around.

Also, the iTunes TV and iTunes Movies apps are now just shells of their former selves that redirect to the TV app, where you can buy or rent shows and movies. Finally, although Apple doesn’t mention it in any of the other release notes, these changes are also reflected in the TV apps in iOS 17.2, iPadOS 17.2, and macOS 14.2.

The other significant change in tvOS 17.2 comes with the FaceTime app, which Apple introduced in tvOS 17. That initial version lacked a few key FaceTime features: you can now answer calls directly on the Apple TV, participate in FaceTime Audio calls, and move calls from your Apple TV to your iPhone or iPad. (FaceTime on the Apple TV requires at least a second-generation Apple TV 4K.)

Other improvements include:

  • SharePlay now supports Dolby Atmos and Dolby Digital surround sound formats.
  • Apple Fitness+ lets you prioritize music or trainer voices, just as in watchOS 10.2.
  • You can press the Siri button on the remote to start an onscreen search anywhere inside supported apps like TV and Music.
  • Siri now includes language support for Arabic in Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, Malay in Malaysia, and Turkish in Türkiye.

Continuing the trend from the other updates, Apple’s release notes mention no bug fixes, but tvOS 17.2 addresses 7 security vulnerabilities, including the previously fixed WebKit bugs.

HomePod Software 17.2

Nothing but “performance and stability improvements” to see here, folks. Move along.

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Comments About Apple’s End-of-Year OS Updates Add Promised Features, Security Updates

Notable Replies

  1. there are people who like journaling (and are unlikely to switch to Journal) and those who don’t (and are unlikely to start).

    This would be true for me if MacJournal ever worked well on iOS. I’ve used Evernote, but it stopped behaving well, then got really expensive. I’ve used Obsidian, and it’s okay, but not really user-friendly; I have to spend lots of time tweaking it to get it to behave as I’d like. I’m currently trying Daylio, but it won’t sync between devices and is generally too limited.

    In other words, I’m interested to see what Apple’s app is like. If it supports blogging or something like it, I may well switch over.

  2. No. I’m aware of it, and have downloaded it, but never really got into it for some reason.

  3. A quick note on the Ventura update. Last week, I was running Safari 16.? I could not find a. Update to 17? Even two chats with Apple support left me where I was as they told me that Safari 17 was only for Macs running Sonoma. Today, update let me update to Safari 17.?

  4. blm

    I’ve been running Safari 17.1.2 on Monterey since December 1st, and that’s just when I noticed it, it might have been available earlier, so definitely not just for Sonoma. Just checked Software Update, and Safari 17.2 is now available (as well as a Monterey update to 12.7.2).

  5. I have 16.7.2 on my iPhone 12 and my iPad Mini 6 but I’m being told I can only get 17.2. How can I get 16.7.3? The hardware requirements are iPhone 8 and iPad Mini 5 and later so I qualify.

  6. Apple is trying to get all eligible devices to iOS/iPadOS 17, so only older devices that can only run 16 will be able to get 16.7.3 and up from now on.

  7. I’ve been running Safari 17 on macOS Monterey and Ventura from the day 17.0 became available, so Apple Support was totally wrong about that.

  8. Thanks for the overview Adam, useful.

    MacJournal was always a solid Notes alternative, I used it for blogging for years, feature rich.

    I am curious to see what Apples app makes of me with its on device learning. Hmmm.

    FaceTime on the AppleTV is fantastic, though you have get off the sofa to pop the phone up in front of the TV, not the smoothest of starts, well depending on your knees maybe.

  9. With the iOS 17.2 update, my Shortcuts shortcut for opening a specific Notes Note now fails with “Couldn’t communicate with a helper application.”

  10. OK. I won’t be getting iOS 17 for several months then as I do the major updates in July or August. I figure by then Apple usually has a majority of the bugs worked out.

  11. Diarly is also worth a look. It is included with Setapp.

    I’m an erratic journaller, but when I do want to note something down it is handy on my phone. I like the default time stamp entry feature, and I haven’t seen any issues syncing between iOS and macOS.

  12. Also, get the same error with macOS 14.2.

  13. I’m on iOS 16.7.2 on my iPhone and iPad and not ready to make the move to 17. Appears Apple wants to force me to because I do not see the 16.7.3 updates. :slightly_frowning_face:

  14. That’s right, but just curious why you are not ready for iOS/iPadOS 17 yet?

  15. Maybe I have become overly cautious, but in my experience major updates often introduce bugs and break something. I’m just not willing to risk that now, especially because I am not that excited about the new features the new OS version brings. Eventually I will update, when I think most wrinkles have been ironed out and I have the time available to deal with any issues that could pop up. I am happy with the way things are, so why fix something that isn’t broken?

  16. I agree totally (as I have written (in TidBits posts) about Apple making changes, which is a big risk (my opinion), to introducing bugs and breaking stuff (which has worked well in the past) ).

    A large motivation for me to update Apple software, is to install the security updates. If it were not for this concern, I might still be back at Catalina macOS, which I thought was pretty good at the time.

  17. Speaking as someone who installs all Apple operating system updates as soon as they’re available, I think worrying about updates breaking things is seriously overblown. I can’t remember the last time I regretted installing an update. When there are new features that might not work well, they can usually be ignored.

    Sure, with a major update, wait a month or two to ensure that all your apps have been updated to support it, and with smaller updates, wait a week or so to ensure that the Internet doesn’t squawk about some unexpected problem, but beyond that, the only reason to delay is because you’re too busy to wait for the installation to complete. And the longer you wait, the more likely you are to have problems—skipping multiple macOS versions is an almost guaranteed way of making your upgrade hard.

    You can come up with rubrics about how you’ll wait until the X.3 update or 7 months or whatever, but that’s just random. What might have been true with the bug fixes in one release will not be true for the next.

    If you’re really unsure if you should install an update, see if I’ve made a recommendation when I’ve written about it, and if not, ask here. But only listen to the people who have actually installed it and therefore know what they’re talking about.

    Let’s try to stick to the topic of these particular operating system updates now.

  18. As somebody who is actually rocking the latest and greatest OS versions on his main Apple devices, I’ll disagree. I’ve gotten burned plenty, and would Apple not restrict me from downgrading, there would have plenty of updates I would have skipped.

    I think @pmvtutor points out exactly why somebody would NOT want to jump on the incessant gotta-keep-updating Apple band waggon.

    If you have no interest in all the bling and emojis and whatever else shiny bloatware battery-sucking nonsense Apple puts into their latest iOS (the thread you just locked has plenty of TidBITS people alluding to exactly that), then why bother? Why risk breaking your setup when what you have works for you? Once you’re approaching 2 generations behind so you start getting concerned with no longer getting security updates, is early enough to reconsider. Or perhaps once an app you absolutely want requires a later OS. But otherwise, why the rush if you already know you’re not interested in the “new features”? There’s really no need for people to just follow Apple marketing like sheep. You don’t need to follow everything Apple marketing suggests to be a happy Apple user. No need to jump the gun on anything. After all, with Apple’s QC record as of late, the conservative crowd is the crowd avoiding the greatest mayhem.

    [And just FTR, you @ace, are obviously a different case. Since you are a professional tech writer and investigating this stuff is your bread and butter (and thank you for doing that otherwise the rest of us wouldn’t know what to expect), you obviously need to adopt a different update schedule and POV. But regular users really shouldn’t see themselves forced to adopt anything as long as they’re happy with what they have (and can remain secure). Everything I wrote above pertains to the non tech writer professional who uses their Apple device primarily as a tool to get other work done. For them, unlike for you, it’s not just l’art pour l’art.]

    Edit: I will add that I think Apple has these days effectively given up on their annual release schedule. Sure, they launch a “major” update in fall, but it then takes them almost 8 months just to finally release all the features they so boldly advertised ahead of the annual release. And honestly, I think that is a good thing — release stuff when it’s ready to go, not when your marketing folks tell you to throw a big rally just because last quarter’s sales came in half a basis point below some pundit’s expectations. But the flip side of that is also, now dot releases aren’t just about big fixes and security as much as they are where actual new stuff gets released. So it’s getting harder to advise to just update for security releases. It’s becoming more and more of an ugly trade-off between the security updates and perhaps the occasional bug fix you’re hoping for, vs. the “new feature” you’re going to also get even if you have zero interest in it. But I’ll readily admit, this is a tough nut for Apple to crack. There’s no way I personally would prefer the rigid annual release schedule just because of this conundrum.

  19. My experience helping people in Apple’s Support Communities is that anyone who makes their living using their Mac in the area of print publishing or graphic design (which usually involves 3rd party pro apps and fonts) would be taking a lot of risks to upgrade without a bootable clone of a working earlier MacOS to revert to if needed.

  20. And I remember very well the potential loss of past email that some early Catalina adopters reported.

  21. 17.2 has fixed some long-standing Books layout problems I had, but it still won’t let me drag multiple books at once, which would be a big help. (I want my books sorted by author surname, which means I have to sort them manually, so dragging multiple books would be a huge plus.)

    Annoyingly, Books on MacOS used to be able to do this, but the capability suddenly vanished a few versions ago.

  22. The digital clock is a widget to replace the calendar in StandBy.

  23. Really regret updating one of my Apple TVs. Not only is it harder to find my content, all the marks indicating that I watched an episode were lost in the move to the AppleTV app. Not a big deal for current seasons, but the Seinfeld box set my son and I have been slowly working our way through…

  24. Just to be clear, I don’t recommend that anyone update immediately like I do. I think people should wait at least a month or two for major updates and at least a week or two for minor ones, though I sometimes recommend quicker updates for zero-day security exploits.

    But I am saying that as someone who lives and dies by his Mac and iPhone working, immediate updates have never been a problem for me.

    I’m not sure what this poor quality control record is. When you look back at the actual bugs listed in Apple release notes from this season’s updates, there are barely a handful. Nearly all the notes related to security fixes (which are bugs, I suppose, though not ones that users have experienced) or promised features. Howard Oakley just published a list of a few bugs that are known, including the Contacts printing bug I wrote about. But we’re just not talking about vast numbers of problems that everyone who has updated is living with.

    That’s not to say that people don’t have individual problems, but those are a different beast because they may revolve around highly unusual configurations, specific corruption, or other variables that Apple couldn’t have known about.

  25. That is, of course, just the bugs that Apple will publicly admit. Most of the bugs I have reported that were eventually fixed were never actually officially recognized.

  26. Interestingly, the Apple Press Release for Journal quotes the founder of Day One. They’ve incorporated the Journal Suggestions API so you get suggestions directly into Day One.

    Why I find this intriguing is because Day One will allow you to start a journal entry on the phone (using Apple’s suggestions) then finish the entries on a Mac - something I can’t do with the Journal app. It’s also quite affordable.

    Paradoxically, Apple releasing the Journal app has made me more likely to use Day One.

  27. One anomaly I have found since updating to MacOS 14.2 – in Apple Mail, the search function no longer works – it just does nothing. This makes life considerably harder. I went to Time Machine to see if I could reload an older version of Mail, or at least verify that 14.2 brought a new version of Mail, only to discover what others have apparently found, that Time Machine does not back up the Mail program. Have any others found a problem with search in Mail?

  28. Welcome Ken.

    Try booting into Safe mode, then shutdown and restart with a normal boot. It solved the broken Mail search for me. I picked up this tip from the web as the Mail search issue appears to have affected quite a few people.

  29. One anomaly I have found since updating to MacOS 14.2 – in Apple Mail, the search function no longer works – it just does nothing.

    I have had search go non-functional in Mail (more than once) and discovered that it was excluded (unchecked) in Spotlight’s Preferences/Settings. Just rechecking the Search Results / Mail & Messages box has fixed it.

  30. There is one change that caught me by surprise in watchOS 10.2. I am slowly recovering from some knee issues and an ankle injury so I cannot run as long as I used to, so I frequently do a running workout for part of my route and finish with a walking workout (3.8 miles running 1.2 miles walking for example.) watchOS’s workout app allows you to start a new workout directly while you are in another workout type.

    watchOS 10.0 change the behavior from pervious versions. Rather than swiping right to access a series of controls and pressing the “new” button, the “new” button was accessed first by pressing the “end” button. This seemed senseless really, and it was despite the fact that removing the “new” button left a space on that screen of workout controls.

    Unfortunately that created some muscle memory for me, because I didn’t notice that 10.2 reverted back to a the “new” button back on the list of controls. I found out the hard way the other day when I ended a workout when I really wanted to start a walking workout.

    This change was not listed in the change log for 10.2.

  31. Only once regretted an update, when an OS update borked FCP. Since then I’ve checked key app discussion fora prior to updating.

    Never been an issue since.

  32. My Apple TVs for some reason always lag way behind on updates, but the described upgrade to the TV app may be reason why I switch the home button to open the TV app first rather than the Home screen. The TV app still doesn’t integrate with Netflix, but I’m watching fewer and fewer things on Netflix these days anyway. I’m going to force the update on at least one of my Apple TVs and try out the new interface.

  33. I just installed iOS 17.2 and found a setting that hasn’t gotten much press. You can now specify what sound you want for the default alert. In one of the previous iOS updates the default alert had been changed by Apple to a soft ‘pop’ sound called ‘Rebound’, that wasn’t nearly significant enough for me, with no option to change it. I just read on MacRumors (see item 26) that we can now use Settings>Sounds & Haptics to set ‘Default Alert’. This is in addition to our existing sound settings for texts, mail alerts, calendar alerts, etc. The default alert is the sound my preferred weather app uses to alert me to severe weather and ‘pop’ just wasn’t noticeable enough. I now have it set to something that gets my attention. IMHO, this is a great improvement by Apple.

  34. Has Apple re-introduced the ability to choose the default sound for countdown timers? They removed it in 17.0, much to my annoyance.

  35. It has for me, in the sense that whatever sound you choose remains the default until you choose another. That is how I understood it to work before

    Dave W.

  36. My (single) timer has always used a custom tone (music I edited) and that didn’t change when I installed 17.0 (or 17.2). I just created some timers and this is what I found. If I create a new (second) timer it will use my existing custom tone (call it Tone A) unless I choose a new sound (Tone B). If I create a third timer it will use Tone B unless I change it, and I do have the option to change it if I want.

  37. Right. So here’s just another bug introduced with an update.

    None of it is at all “individual” or “highly unusual”. Apple rushed a Sonoma update to release without bothering to properly test it against a standard Sonoma feature: virtualization. Something certainly many Sonoma devs use these days and actually such a common feature that somebody like Howard Oakley posts about it about once a week. So how about we just stop trying to spin failure. This is a plain old bug courtesy of Apple’s bad QC. Or ongoing de-facto public beta. Whatever you want to call it. But it’s yet another one. Care to detail. Where has that gone?

  38. Ironically, it turns out one of the memory leaks Howard has been complaining about for quite a while might not be a bug after all, but Apple’s intended behavior (caching thumbnails). Perhaps, instead of an actual memory leak or bug (which it apparently really is not), what people should be bemoaning in this case is Apple forcing their view of memory management upon users (thinking of the 8 GB RAM crowd here) without giving them an option. Well, I guess since you can just nuke the Finder to regain that memory, that could be considered Apple’s “option”. :wink: It’s an interesting read for sure.

  39. MacStories and Six Colors have excellent reviews of the Journalling app:

  40. Well! Apparently I can’t try Apple’s Journal app after all.

    I’m running a 10.5” iPad Pro. Apparently there are unreleased system requirements for this app. Any clue what they are?

  41. I’m not terribly surprised. The 10.5-inch iPad Pro (which I have too) feels like an afterthought in terms of iPadOS 17 support. In this case, Journal is probably relying on some of the machine learning capabilities in the newer chips.

  42. I am 99.9% sure that the new Journal app is iPhone only at the moment. I’m not sure why it says that it’s compatible with an iPad on the iPad App Store. I can’t even find it through search on my iPad.

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