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Wanted: A way to block iOS updates

ATLANTA — Apple does not give EMM products the power to block iOS updates. That capability is near the top of many IT pros’ wish lists.

Enterprise mobility management (EMM) software is at the mercy of operating system vendors. If an OS vendor doesn’t provide an API for a certain feature, EMM can’t control it. Apple has opened up more of iOS to EMM over the years, but the ability to block iOS updates remains elusive. Attendees here at AirWatch Connect this week discussed the issue and how it affects their IT departments.

United Airlines instructs its pilots to hold off on updating their devices whenever a new version of iOS comes out. The IT staff vigorously tests every new beta version of iOS prior to its live release to make sure the airline’s custom apps will still work on it and to identify any unforeseen problems.

“It’s not something I can control, but it’s something I can prepare for,” said Jon Merritt, United’s director of flight operations and cockpit technology. “If someone hits ‘update,’ the device will update. I have to make sure we’re prepared beforehand.”

Autoliv, an automotive safety systems manufacturer in Stockholm, Sweden, performs similar testing on the barcode-scanning iPhone apps it relies on to ship products.

“If the device automatically updates, and the app stops working while we’re in the middle of work, that could be a problem,” said Matt Taylor, IT director at Autoliv. “So we do a lot of testing of the OS updates as well. You can’t really stop the user from updating. That’s an issue right now.”

Apple announced the latest version of its mobile OS, iOS 10, in June and released it last month.