The update includes a range of small new features and fixes for bugs and other problems.
But the most significant update is the release of Advanced Data Protection and Security Keys for Apple ID – two tools that are unlikely to be used by many users, but could prove key for those at risk of attacks.
Advanced Data Protection is a new feature that encrypts much more of people’s iPhone backups. Previously, most of those backups were not end-to-end encrypted, meaning that Apple, hackers or government agencies could theoretically look at information as it was being stored.
But the new setting switches on end-to-end encryption for almost all of those backups, with the exception of some parts such as calendars that rely on old standards and so cannot be easily backed up.
Switching it on should keep people safe from attacks on backups that are looked after by Apple. Such attacks on cloud storage have seen an increase in recent years.
But it could also mean losing access to data. While Apple requires that people ensure they have backup plans in place – such as nominating someone who would be able to lock their account if they forget their password – the fact that Apple is unable to retrieve the information means that it could be lost forever if someone is unable to log in.
The Advanced Data Protection feature was rolled out in the US late last year but is now being added globally.
The security keys feature is similarly aimed at higher-risk people who may want to keep their account protected. It allows people to buy a physical security key that must be used with a phone, meaning that anyone hacking into account would not only need login details but that object, too.
Once again, that dramatically increases the security on an account. But it could also prove frustrating to people who do not need it, since it will mean carrying around that security key.
Not all of the new features are focused on security. It also adds new wallpapers that celebrate Black History Month, and support for the new HomePod.
The update also includes fixes for a range of bugs. They include problems where the wallpaper might not appear on the Lock Screen, and a fix for an issue where Siri would refuse to play music.
The update can be downloaded by opening the Settings app, clicking “general” and choosing the option for software update. It will also be pushed out to users in a prompt.