Apple has released the release candidate version of iOS 17.3, the next major update to the iPhone and iPad operating system. While release candidates typically focus on bug fixes and optimizations, iOS 17.3 RC brings some exciting new features that make this more than just a routine update.
iOS 17.3 RC (Release Candidate) is the final version of iOS 17.3 that Apple provides to developers before the official public release. The RC build is intended to weed out any remaining bugs and issues before the software hits consumer devices. This allows Apple to ensure a smooth customer experience.
Based on the release notes, iOS 17.3 RC packs in some major new additions beyond the expected bug fixes and performance improvements. Most notably, this update introduces Stolen Device Protection for Find My and further expands the capabilities of the Continuity Camera feature.
iOS 17.3 RC represents the culmination of the iOS 17 development cycle. While a point update like iOS 17.3 may seem minor on the surface, the release candidate proves that even between major iOS releases Apple continues to push the platform forward with impactful new features.
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Stolen Device Protection
One of the flagship additions in iOS 17.3 RC is Stolen Device Protection for Find My. Building on Find My’s existing anti-theft capabilities, Stolen Device Protection makes it even harder for someone to activate and use an iPhone that does not belong to them.
Here’s an overview of how Stolen Device Protection works:
- Requires Face ID or Touch ID during setup – A thief can no longer bypass the activation lock by wiping and restoring an iPhone. The device will require the proper authentication via Face ID or Touch ID before it can complete setup and be used.
- Find My must be enabled – Stolen Device Protection only engages if Find My is enabled on the device. This prevents a stolen iPhone from being reactivated if Find My is disabled.
- New notification if unknown AirPods connect – If a thief tries to connect AirPods that are not paired to the stolen iPhone, the rightful owner will receive a notification. This provides an alert that an unauthorized person may be attempting to use the device.
Stolen Device Protection represents a major step up in Find My’s anti-theft capabilities. While Find My has always allowed users to remotely lock or erase a lost or stolen device, this new protection makes it far more difficult for thieves to actually reactivate and use an iPhone or iPad that does not belong to them. It provides an additional powerful layer of protection.
Enhanced Continuity Camera
iOS 17 first introduced Continuity Camera, a feature that allowed iPhone users to use their device as a wireless webcam for Mac. iOS 17.3 RC enhances Continuity Camera with some great new capabilities:
- Center Stage support – The iPhone’s Center Stage feature that automatically pans and zooms to keep users in frame during FaceTime video calls is now supported in Continuity Camera on Mac.
- External display support – Continuity Camera can now work with your Mac’s external display. For example, you can use the ultra-wide camera on your iPhone as a webcam on an external monitor connected to your Mac.
- New settings – There are new settings to mirror front camera video and disable Continuity Camera access on lock screen. This provides greater control over the feature.
For anyone that uses their iPhone as a webcam thanks to Continuity Camera, iOS 17.3 RC makes the experience even more flexible and powerful. Center Stage support in particular brings a whole new level of capability that was not possible previously.
Beyond the headline additions, iOS 17.3 RC also brings a range of other enhancements and changes:
- 5G support on Dual SIM modems – Devices with two physical SIM slots like iPhone 14/14 Pro can now stay on 5G Standalone networks when using Dual SIM.
- New emojis – Over 20 new emoji characters have been added, ranging from shaking face, moose, goose, jellyfish, hyacinth, and more.
- Display and text size settings – Separate settings for display and text size have returned after being combined in iOS 16. This allows users to tailor both to their preferences.
- Always Show Keyboard in Landscape – An option can keep the keyboard constantly visible in landscape mode.
- Other small tweaks – Minor changes like displaying Wi-Fi signal strength as a percentage, warnings about outdated Home architecture, accessibility improvements, and more.
While not as splashy as the main features, these types of iterative enhancements improve the overall user experience and polish the platform. Even point releases like iOS 17.3 RC represent Apple’s attention to detail with iOS.
Based on Apple’s software release cadence, iOS 17.3 RC suggests that the final public release is imminent. The company provided the release candidate to developers on January 19, 2024.
Looking at past iOS release cycles, the public launch typically occurs 1-2 weeks after the RC build is seeded. Most industry insiders expect iOS 17.3 to launch on January 22 or 23, 2024.
Once released, iOS 17.3 will be available as an over-the-air software update for all compatible iPhone and iPad models. Users can check Settings > General > Software Update to download and install iOS 17.3 once it is publicly available.
According to the release notes, iOS 17.3 RC and the upcoming public release support the same iPhone and iPad models as iOS 17.2:
- iPhone 14, 14 Plus, 14 Pro, 14 Pro Max
- iPhone 13, 13 Mini, 13 Pro, 13 Pro Max
- iPhone 12, 12 Mini, 12 Pro, 12 Pro Max
- iPhone 11, 11 Pro, 11 Pro Max
- iPhone Xs, Xs Max
- iPhone XR
- iPhone X
- iPhone 8, 8 Plus
- iPhone SE (2nd generation and later)
- iPad Pro 12.9-inch (5th generation)
- iPad Pro 11-inch (3rd generation)
- iPad Pro 12.9-inch (4th generation)
- iPad Pro 11-inch (2nd generation)
- iPad Pro 12.9-inch (3rd generation)
- iPad Pro 11-inch (1st generation)
- iPad Pro 12.9-inch (2nd generation)
- iPad Pro 10.5-inch
- iPad Pro 9.7-inch
- iPad (9th generation)
- iPad (8th generation)
- iPad (7th generation)
- iPad (6th generation)
- iPad (5th generation)
- iPad Mini (6th generation)
- iPad Mini (5th generation)
- iPad Air (4th generation)
- iPad Air (3rd generation)
iOS 17.3 RC proves that even point releases like iOS 17.3 can introduce meaningful new features and improvements. Stolen Device Protection significantly enhances Find My security, while the Continuity Camera upgrades expand the usefulness of that feature. And a myriad of smaller tweaks improve the overall experience.
With the release candidate now in developers’ hands, the iOS 17.3 public launch appears imminent. iPhone and iPad users should see the update arrive sometime around January 22-23, 2024. This continues Apple’s pattern of steadily evolving iOS with a mix of sweeping changes and smaller but still impactful updates like iOS 17.3.