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IT can block iOS updates in iOS 11.3 — finally!

A little more than a year ago, we published an article titled, “Wanted: A way to block iOS updates.” Well, Apple administrators, want no more.

The upcoming Apple iOS 11.3 update will, for the first time, allow admins to temporarily prevent users from downloading and installing operating system releases on their devices. The restriction applies only to iPhones and iPads in Supervision mode, which requires Apple Configurator for some management tasks and is typically used in education and corporate-owned device scenarios; IT won’t be able to block iOS updates on personal devices through traditional mobile device management software.

Apple admins have said the ability to block iOS updates will give them time to test for application compatibility and operating system bugs before rolling out new operating system releases. To that end, Apple won’t allow them to block an update forever. The default delay is 30 days, and the maximum is 90 days. After the specified time period expires, all available updates will appear on the device for users to download and install.

The first technology for controlling Android OS updates, Samsung E-FOTA, hit the market last year. IT admins have long had the ability to control Windows OS updates on PCs.

Admins’ concerns about application compatibility and bugs are not unfounded, as there have been serious issues with iOS updates in the past. Most recently, a bug in the native Mail app in iOS 11, released last September, prevented users from accessing several popular forms of Microsoft-provided email.

Apple released the iOS 11.3 beta this week. Similar functionality to block operating system updates on Macs will be included in macOS 10.13.4, the company said.

In addition to the ability to block iOS updates in the iOS 11.3 update, Apple will give users the ability to override its controversial processor throttling on older iPhones. The company acknowledged last month that it intentionally slows down phones with old batteries, saying it’s to prevent the devices from crashing when the battery can’t keep up with processing demands.

The cynic in me still thinks Apple’s true intention was to encourage owners of old iPhones to buy shiny new, expensive ones. Either way, we’ll have the option to stop the throttling once the iOS 11.3 update hits general availability — as long as our IT departments don’t block that.

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