Apple stops signing iOS 16.3.1 in move that prevents downgrades from iOS 16.4

Apple released iOS & iPadOS 16.4 on Monday, March 24th after an extensive beta testing period with a slew of new changes for the mobile experience, including new Emoji, web notifications, enhancements to the Always on Display, support for standalone 5G cellular connections, and more.

iOS 16 firmware downgrade

But as we at iDB have come to expect from Apple after releasing a newer firmware, the company has moved to stop signing the previously released iPhone and iPad firmware, being iOS & iPadOS 16.3.1.

Apple’s choice to stop signing iOS & iPadOS 16.3.1 means that users no longer can no longer downgrade from iOS & iPadOS 16.4 to 16.3.1 via the Command key + Restore button method in Finder for macOS or the Shift key + Restore button method in iTunes for Windows.

Without an official downgrade method, users who wanted to step down their iPhone or iPad’s firmware version either to jailbreak or to avert a newly introduced bug would have to take to unofficial methods, such as FutureRestore. Unfortunately, FutureRestore no longer reliably works with iOS or iPadOS 16 on devices equipped with an A12 or newer chip. Downgrades should still work on A11 devices and older, however…

For what it’s worth, the palera1n-c jailbreak can be used to jailbreak A9-A11 chip-equipped devices running iOS & iPadOS 15.0-16.3.1, and while iOS & iPadOS 16.4 support was recently teased, it hasn’t yet been implemented as of palera1n-c beta 5, which means users will need to continue waiting. This unfortunately also means that anyone who updated a compatible device to iOS or iPadOS 16.4 will need to wait to jailbreak it.

Jailbreaking, of course, isn’t the only legitimate reason to downgrade an iPhone or iPad’s firmware; so too is the desire to escape a newly released bug, which has happened a handful of times in recent memory including the following examples:

  • iOS 16.0 over-prompting users on clipboard access when pasting copied content into another app
  • iOS 14.7 breaking the Apple Watch’s ability to be unlocked with the host iPhone’s Touch ID sensor
  • iOS & iPadOS 13.2 imposing incredibly aggressive background management on backgrounded apps

iDB feels very strongly that iPhone and iPad owners should have the choice to install whatever firmware their device supports, even if Apple doesn’t want you to. While Apple has a responsibility to keep users safe from security exploits and to keep devices feeling new and refreshed with novel features, users should ultimately have the final say in what gets installed on the devices they buy.

Sadly, Apple isn’t likely to let up on its cat-and-mouse firmware unsigning game without legislative action, as it would make jailbreaking iPhones and iPads easier, which is something the company doesn’t want users doing. Further, it would reduce the firmware adoption that Apple loves to show off to shareholders when comparing them to new Android firmware adoption.

If you’re ever curious as to what firmware is being signed for your iPhone or iPad, then you can head over to the handy website to see details for your specific device. You can also use our Downloads page to download any firmware for any device on demand.

Are you sad to see Apple preventing firmware downgrades to iOS or iPadOS 16.3.1? Let us know in the comments section down below.