Why is My iPhone Harassing Me About a Missing Update?

Why is My iPhone Harassing Me About a Missing Update?
Screenshot: David Murphy

As many Lifehacker readers know by now, I love a good operating system beta. Risking life on the wild side in return for early access to new features is a trade-off I’m always willing to make, and it generally hasn’t been an issue on my Windows PC or various smartphones. My friends, however, haven’t always been as lucky.

If you’ll permit me to use my weekly column to address one of their questions, I promise it’s a quirky and fun one. One of my roommates came up to me yesterday, inquiring why her iPhone — which was previously enrolled in the iOS 14.2 beta — was now prompting her with a strange “new beta” message.

When she went to check on an update for her iPhone, nothing was there. The message still persists, appearing on her phone multiple times per day whenever she unlocks her device and making her wish she never enrolled in a beta in the first place. (Her words.)

How to avoid iOS beta quirks

The technical answer for why this is happening isn’t very exciting, since this bug has already popped up in previous iOS betas. Boy Genius Report found a 2018 tweet from an app developer, Guilherme Rambo, that explains the source of the problem:

If you’re sharp, you can probably guess an immediate solution that will address this annoying issue: You’ll have to set your iPhone’s date back a few days (or a week), uncheck the option for your device to automatically update the date/time, and simply live in the past until Apple pushes out a fix. This will, of course, make it a bit of a headache to use apps like Calendar or Mail, but you’ll at least be free of the bothersome notifications.

Otherwise, your only other option is to try backing up and restoring your iPhone with an earlier version of iOS. That entails backing it up to iCloud or your computer, rebooting it into recovery mode using one of the following button combinations, plugging it into your Windows or Mac PC, and having iTunes (or Finder) update your phone, rather than restore it. This should, in theory, get you back on the stable version iOS 14.1. You’ll then be free of the annoying messages forevermore.

I should probably admit that I wasn’t entirely honest up above: While I normally run the latest and greatest beta versions of operating systems, I was lazy with iOS 14.2. I’ve been sitting on iOS 14 for months — first the beta, then the stable version of the OS, and then the stable version of iOS 14.1. There just wasn’t enough in the iOS 14.2 beta that caught my attention when it was announced.

Is Apple’s New iOS 14.2 Beta Worth Installing?

I’m usually one to suggest that it’s always worth installing a new beta of an operating system because, hey, why not? Sure, you might sacrifice a little stability, but you’ll get to play with new features before everybody else. You’ll also be able to acclimate yourself with new OS changes...

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As a result, when iOS 14’s stable version dropped, I did what I always do — I removed the beta profile from my device (via Settings > Profile), installed the public version of the normal update, and went about my day. My device updated to iOS 14.1 when it dropped for everyone, but it has stayed on that version of iOS ever since.

I think this is a good practice for most people. Nothing against the smaller, iterative updates of iOS, but unless there’s a feature or two you absolutely can’t live without, I think everyday people are better playing around with iOS betas for major releases rather than smaller ones. These are the big numbers — 13, 14, 15, et cetera — not the decimals. And if you don’t remove that profile for a major release after it drops, it’s possible that you’ll then get pushed into betas for the subsequent minor releases.

That’s what brings us to today’s issue. My roommate in question never removed her beta profile after iOS 14 released, so she was running iOS 14.2 without really knowing or thinking about it. And, as a result, she got caught up in an annoying bug that doesn’t affect those on the stable version of iOS 14 — (technically, now iOS 14.1). Is this the end of the world? Not really. But it was definitely avoidable.

Do you have a tech question keeping you up at night? Tired of troubleshooting your Windows or Mac? Looking for advice on apps, browser extensions, or utilities to accomplish a particular task? Let us know! Tell us in the comments below or email [email protected].

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