Saturday, June 15, 2024

Apple iOS 17.5 Major iPhone Software Release: Should You Upgrade?

The latest iPhone software update is now live, landing on Monday, May 13. Normally, I’d have posted this analysis of how the new release has been received sooner but, as we’ll see, there’s already been one curious effect for some users, who have complained that long-deleted photos have been popping back into view.

May 19 update. This post was first published on May 16, 2024.

ForbesiPhone 16 Pro Max All-New Design Upgrade Promised, Insider Claims

Please note I’ll be updating this post in a week, on Thursday, May 23, with a final thought on whether you should upgrade.

The zombie photo issue discussed below is becoming more complicated. As you’ll read, it concerns photos which users have deleted suddenly coming back to life and appearing again in users’ photo streams. As reported by MacRumors, issues have now been reported by iPad users as well as iPhone and one Redditor has found a particularly stinging example of it. They had wiped their iPad in September 2023 and then sold it to a friend. That friend updated to iPadOS 17.5 this week and begin to see old photos reappear. Well, it’s lucky that the buyer was a friend or the seller might never have known about the issue.

So, what’s going on? Well, Apple still hasn’t made any comment, so we don’t know. However, what we do know about electronic storage is that when you delete a file, photo or other item, in most cases the data is not overwritten, rather the connection to that data is cut. As the storage fills up it would in the end overwrite that section when it’s needed.

It seems likely that those photos which are reappearing now were ones where the data wasn’t overwritten and somehow the new software, perhaps in an indexation procedure, has revived them.

What’s more concerning about the new report is that photos belonging to one user are now showing up on a device which now belongs to someone else, with a separate Apple ID.

All that said, my interim verdict is still to upgrade (with final comments to follow on Thursday, May 23). At best, you’ll see no evidence of this issue, and it’s certainly not yet clear that it’s widespread. At worst, you may see photos you don’t want and have to delete them again. If you bought your iPhone or iPad second-hand, be on the look out for unexpected images but, again, the chances seem at this stage to be slim.

Who Is It For And How Do You Get It?

As with other iOS 17 releases, it’s compatible with all iPhones launched in 2018 or later. To wit: iPhone XS, iPhone XR, plus all models of the following series: iPhone 11, iPhone 12, iPhone 13, iPhone 14 and the latest iPhone 15. It also includes the iPhone SE second-and third-generation phones. If you have automatic updates turned on, it’ll arrive in due course, but you will likely get it sooner if you click on the Settings app, then opt for General, then Software Update.

What It’s About

There are new features in this update. As is becoming increasingly the case, there are some changes which only apply to users in the European Union, in this case making it possible to download apps to the iPhone from the web.

For all users, as the notes from Apple point out, there are improvements to tracking notifications, so that if someone puts a compatible Bluetooth tracker in your bag, for instance, unbeknown to you, you’ll be told. Previously this applied only to hidden AirTags. There are also new offline features for News+, including games, though these are not available everywhere yet.

ForbesiOS 17.5 iPhone Update Now Live With Important New Features

Apple iOS 17.5 Security

There are 15 security vulnerabilities fixed in this update, of varying levels of seriousness. As fellow Forbes contributor Kate O’Flaherty explains here, these include an issue with the heart of the iPhone OS, called the Kernel, and a vulnerability in Voice Control.

Initial Reactions

At first, reactions were positive to this upgrade with one user saying “all in all, fantastic performance from iOS 17.5,” though there were also multiple mentions of issues with battery life. And then, out of nowhere, came reports of photographs being raised from the dead. Multiple users have commented in the last hours of images deleted months or even years ago reappearing. The reason is still not clear, though it could be that the photos weren’t properly deleted from the device (through an earlier bug) and some process in the new update, such as re-indexing, perhaps, which revealed them anew.

Apple iOS 17.5 Initial Verdict: Upgrade

The security fixes are the reason to suggest upgrading straight away. True, there’s the curious bug that has seen some photos reappear, but it’s not clear that it’s widespread. It’s certainly worth watching out for but it’s not that valuable photographs are being deleted, quite the reverse. But despite this, the seriousness of the security vulnerabilities makes this an urgent fix.


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