Apple's iOS 15.2.1 update is now the only version of iOS that people can update to, even those who are running a version of iOS 14 and would previously have been presented iOS 14.8.1 as an alternative update option.
Previously, Apple allowed iOS 14 users to stay away from iOS 15 entirely and remain on iOS 14.x via new security updates. That was working with iOS 14.8.1 until recently — but now that alternate update option has been removed as spotted in a Github post via 9to5Mac.
9to5Mac was able to confirm that devices running iOS 14.8 or previous versions of the operating system can no longer be updated to iOS 14.8.1. Instead, the Software Update menu only shows the iOS 15.2.1 update. Previously, iOS 15 was shown as an optional update, while users could just install iOS 14 security patches.
It looks like the change happened around the time that iOS 15.2 arrived last month and it isn't clear why it was made or if it was even intentional. It does appear possible that it was, though — Apple's recent iOS 15 installation numbers seem lower than expected and it could be that Apple has made a link between not forcing iOS 15 updates and people not actually installing it. Give people an option, it seems, and they'll stick with what they know.
That, as of right now, no longer seems to be an option. Assuming people want to make sure they have the latest security updates and fixes, of course. I'm very much of the opinion that the best iPhone is a fully updated iPhone and Apple will hope that's how its users feel when presented with iOS 15.2.1, too.