At the end of last month, Apple released an unusual standalone software update to macOS users called the “Device Support Update,” which it said was aimed at “ensuring proper update and rollback for iOS devices and iPadOS with Mac ”.
While no further details were provided, it was speculated that the update added support for recently released devices, including iPhone 13 models, the new iPad mini, and the ninth generation iPad. Still, the update was the first of its kind to go through System Preferences -> Software Update, which made some users curious about it.
Usually, when you connect an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch to a Mac, a dialogue box will appear from an application called MobileDeviceUpdater that says “A software update is required to connect” to your iOS device. This normally happens when the device has been independently updated to a newer version of iOS or iPadOS that the Mac does not recognize, indicating that the download is required for your Mac to communicate with the device.
It appears that Apple has now chosen to reduce reliance on MobileDeviceUpdater by automatically delivering these downloads when they’re ready through Software Update, so users no longer have to wait to plug in an iOS device to get this. that is now referred to as a “Device Support Update”. The change is likely an effort to reduce how often the MobileDeviceUpdater dialog box appears when connecting a device, which may appear to some users as some kind of malware.
The change was helpfully confirmed by Bites‘Adam Engst, who sat on the mysterious device support update for a week or two to check out what it was.
I was so lucky today when I plugged in my iPad Pro and got the usual MobileDeviceUpdater dialog. I made sure the software update always gave me the device support update, and then allowed the MobileDeviceUpdater dialog to update my Mac. After closing and reopening Software Update, the Device Support Update option is gone, confirming that they are the same.
As Engst notes, it’s not a life-changing discovery, but it’s good to know what happens when installing future device support updates from the software update: they do not require a reboot and users will always receive a MobileDeviceUpdate dialog the next time they plug in their device if they have not yet installed the update.