Apple iOS 16.3.1 Release: Should You Upgrade?

Apple iOS 16.3.1 and iPadOS 16.3.1 have been released, bringing important fixes and critical security updates. Here’s everything you need to know.

Tip: Bookmark this page as I will update it if/when new issues are found. I will give my final verdict in a week.

Apple IOS 16


For whom is that?

Apple iOS 16.3.1 is available for all iOS 16 compatible devices, i.e. iPhone 8/iPhone X and newer. iOS 16 dropped support for the iPhone 6S and 7 series and the iPod Touch. Given the importance of the security updates in iOS 16.3.1, I would also expect iOS 15.7.4 in the coming weeks if older devices are vulnerable.

Apple confirmed delays in automatic updating last year, allowing avid upgraders to manually trigger the update by navigating to Settings > General > Software Update. If you are using newer beta software (see The Road Ahead section at the end), you will need to deregister your device before the update will appear.

Note: This guide does not focus on older iOS updates, iPadOS, or macOS, but I will address relevant topics in these guides.

The deal breakers

The big news is that iOS 16.3.1 originally caused Google Photos to crash on iPads and iPhones, but this has now been fixed after Google released an update to the app. Other than that, no widespread issues were reported in the first 24 hours.

However, I’m seeing scattered reports of bugs in a number of areas, including misprints in pages, app crashes, an error reporting battery level, and problems connecting to Wi-Fi. There are also several reports of upgraded devices showing degraded cellular signal (1,2,3,4), although at this point that’s not enough to ring alarm bells.

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So what do you get?

Apple’s iOS 16.3.1 release notes list the following fixes:

– iCloud settings may be unresponsive or displayed incorrectly when apps use iCloud. – Siri requests for Find My may not work

The headline fixes here relate to iCloud and Crash Detection. The former caused iCloud to stop syncing, putting user data at risk. The latter is Apple’s latest attempt to refine its crash-detection algorithm, after the feature made the news again this month for sending numerous false positives to rescue workers.

iOS 16.3.1 security

Apple’s iOS 16.3.1 security page reveals that the update includes only two security patches:

Kernel Available for: iPhone 8 and later, iPad Pro (all models), iPad Air 3rd gen and later, iPad 5th gen and later, and iPad mini 5th gen and later Impact: An app may be able to execute arbitrary code with kernel privileges run Description: A use-after-free issue was addressed through improved memory management. CVE-2023-23514: Xinru Chi from Pangu Lab, Ned Williamson from Google Project Zero WebKit Available for: iPhone 8 and later, iPad Pro (all models), iPad Air 3rd gen and later, iPad 5th gen and later, iPad mini 5 generation and later Impact: Processing maliciously crafted web content may lead to arbitrary code execution Apple is aware of a report that this issue may have been actively exploited. Description: A type confusion issue was addressed with improved checks. WebKit Bugzilla: 251944 CVE-2023-23529: an anonymous researcher

Of these, CVE-2023-23529 is the biggest threat. The vulnerability affected Webkit (the engine behind all iOS web browsers, including Safari) and potentially allowed hackers to run code on your iPhone or iPad.

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Apple also confirmed it: “is aware of a report that this issue may have been actively exploited.” This makes it a zero-day vulnerability as hackers could start exploiting it before Apple could release a fix.

Apple iOS 16.3.1 Verdict: Upgrade

Given the importance of security fix CVE-2023-23529 in iOS 16.3.1 / iPadOS 16.3.1, I recommend all iPhone and iPad users to upgrade. Yes, there have been isolated reports of bugs in the version (particularly complaints about signal strength), but keeping your device safe comes first.

If you’re a cautious iPhone or iPad owner and still prefer to wait, I’ll give my final verdict in a week. So bookmark this page.

Along the road

Expect the first beta of iOS 16.4 to be released either this week or early next week. Rumor has it that the update will feature a revamped HomeKit architecture that was originally released in iOS 16.2 and then quickly removed due to bugs and installation issues. You can join the Apple Beta software program if you want to try iOS beta versions but know they will be buggy.

I also expect iOS 16.3.2, a dedicated bug fix, to come before iOS 16.4 as Apple continues to polish the core OS. Something that has been in the works since its buggy debut.


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MORE FROM FORBESNew Apple iOS 16.3 iCloud syncing issue hits iPhone ownersBy Gordon Kelly

I am an experienced freelance technical journalist. In addition to Forbes, I have written for Wired, The Next Web, TrustedReviews, The Guardian and the BBC. I started in B2B print journalism, covering tech companies at the height of the dot-com boom and transitioned to covering consumer tech when the iPod was starting to catch on. A career highlight for me was being a founding member of TrustedReviews. It started in 2003 and we were repeatedly told that websites couldn’t compete with print! Within four years, we were acquired by IPC Media (Time Warner’s publishing division) to become their flagship tech title. What fascinates me are the machinations of the biggest technology companies. Got a pitch, tip or leak? Contact me on my professional Facebook page. I do not bite.

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