Apple’s iOS 17 Beta Cycle Continues with iOS 17.6

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While iOS 18 is the big news right now, that doesn’t mean Apple is finished with iOS 17 quite yet. After all, iOS 18 won’t be released to the public until at least September, so the majority of iPhone users will still be living with iOS 17 until then.

In fact, only bona fide developers and the bravest early adopters are playing with iOS 18 right now. We’re only at the first developer beta — which we strongly recommend against installing unless you’re willing to risk all of the battery issues and other problems that go with such an early release.

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The first public betas won’t appear until sometime next month, by which time it looks like Apple will have iOS 17.6 out for those still waiting on the final release of iOS 18.

Apple is now juggling two betas: the highly anticipated iOS 18 and a smaller one for iOS 17.6. The latter was recently released to developers, with a public beta likely to follow in the near future.

As usual, the iOS 17.6 beta is accompanied by iPadOS 17.6, tvOS 17.6, watchOS 10.6, and macOS Sonoma 14.6. There’s also a visionOS 1.3 beta for Apple Vision Pro developers to play with.

These new betas come barely a month after the release of iOS 17.5 et al. However, the build numbers suggest there have been some advancements. iOS 17.6 and iPadOS 17.6 are build 21G5052e, compared to 21F79 for the official 17.5 releases. Build numbers for the other betas are 21M5045c for tvOS 17.6, 21U5551b for watchOS 10.6, and 23G5052d for macOS 14.6.

It’s unclear what’s new in iOS 17.6 and the rest of the gang, as Apple has now delivered everything it promised for iOS 17 and more. However, a full point release suggests there’s at least one significant change under the hood, even if it’s only an API for developers.

The developer release notes for iOS/iPadOS 17.6 list two resolved bugs, one with Bluetooth headphones and another related to third-party apps integrating with the front camera on the new iPad Air and iPad Pro models.

Early code explorers have also found evidence of support for putting the Apple Pencil Pro into Lost Mode on the new M4 iPad Pro and M2 iPad Air (which are the only devices that support that Apple Pencil Pro). Much like other Apple accessories that support this feature, this should provide a pop-up message on someone else’s iPad if they find your Apple Pencil Pro and possibly prevent them from pairing it with their device. That’s a logical expansion of the Find My Pencil feature that was conspicuously absent last month, so it’s good to see Apple addressing it.

It also seems like it may be possible to more easily remove an iPhone from Repair Mode in iOS 17.6. Repair Mode was added in iOS 17.5 to allow you to leave Find My enabled when you drop your iPhone off at an Apple Store or other authorized repair provider. However, as the feature stands now, the only way to remove the iPhone from Repair Mode is to turn Find My off entirely and then toggle it back on.

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