Along with the release of the fourth beta of 14.5 for developers on Monday, 9to5Mac
has discovered some interesting code suggesting that Apple may be working on delivering security updates separately from main OS downloads in the future.
Fairly often, users of older iPhones or iPads will forgo new iOS downloads for fear of making their gadgets run slower, since these updates are always catered around the latest lines of devices. While Apple made sure that iPhones from the 6s model and newer would be able to use iOS 14, it is well known that they are not the focus of the updates, and some of the upgrades may not be able to improve functionality on older models, unnecessarily clogging up space.
However, updates focused solely on improving security are light and wouldn't change your operating system, only patch existing issues and enhance data safety online. For example, the 14.4.1 update was simply released to fix a single security flaw in WebKit (Apple's internally developed browser engine for Safari).
By isolating security patches in iOS 14.5 and onwards, offering them without the burden of other changes to the operating system you may not need or want, Apple can make sure that past and new customers alike can enjoy equal security in Apple's ecosystem. If the iOS 14.5 beta code suggesting a split of security patches becomes reality, Apple will be another step ahead of Android, which offers OS support for 4 years
on its devices (the iPhone 6s
is already in its 6th year, on the other hand, and is enjoying iOS 14). MacOS already offers a similar feature of security patch isolation, allowing users to download security updates separately from the major MacOS updates.
The code suggesting all this is not something discussed or confirmed by Apple, it's just there as a potential idea. Not all of Apple's ideas have come to fruition in the past, but it's good to know there's at least the possibility of such a convenient security patch delivery method in the future.
On a side note, Apple does not disclose security issues until they've been investigated internally and patches are sent out. Any recent releases and updates can be easily found on the Apple security updates