Following a lengthy beta period, Apple has now released iOS 9.3 for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. iOS 9.3 is a significant feature update for Apple’s mobile operating system, with brand new additions like Night Shift, Touch ID Notes and more. iOS 9.3 runs on every iOS 9-capable device, including the brand new iPhone SE. The update appears to weigh in at a hefty 1.7 gigabytes.
See our full walkthrough of all the new iOS 9.3 features after the break …
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iOS 9.3 runs on every iPhone all the way back to the 2011 iPhone 4s, although older device owners may want to wait on upgrading in case of performance issues. Performance issues are not a problem on newer hardware, with iPhone 6, iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus as smooth as ever.
iOS 9.3 is supported by every iPad generation since the iPad Air. iOS 9.3 also runs on the fifth and sixth-generation iPod touch. We’ve embedded Apple release notes … but read on for our coverage of iOS 9.3
iOS 9.3 features a lot of new stuff, somewhat uncharacteristically for a .x update, including Night Shift (official Flux for iOS), Touch ID Notes, Verizon WiFi Calling, changes to Apple News, many new 3D Touch gestures and more. We go through everything new below …
Everything New In iOS 9.3
Night Shift, Automatic Color Temperature Changes
Night Shift is long-awaited for many iPhone, iPad and iPod touch users … the feature automatically shifts the color temperature of the screen over the course of the day, gradually reducing the amount of blue light the IOS display emits as daylight ends. This makes your screen look more yellow, but ostensibly has health benefits: it should let your eyes more easily relax and there are studies that indicate this feature can make it easier to fall asleep after using your iPhone in bed.
Night Shift can be enabled in Settings to turn on and off automatically with a schedule; you’ll probably want to set it based on the automatic sunset and sunrise schedule option. However, you can also enable it manually through Control Center: Tap the sun/moon icon in the center of the bottom row of Control Center.
Night Shift is limited to a certain subset of supported hardware, unfortunately. iPhone 5, 5c, 5th-generation iPod touch, iPad mini, iPad 2, iPad 3 and iPad 4 owners all lose out on the ability to adjust the color temperature of their screens.
Notes With Password Protection And Touch ID
As part of iOS 9.3, Apple has added some security features to the Notes app. You can now secure specific notes with a password. On devices equipped with a fingerprint sensor, you can also secure them with Touch ID protection.
Tap the lock button in the Share Actions and set a passphrase, along with a hint reminder. One password is used to protect every note you lock — it’s not a unique password per note. When you back to view this note, you will need to supply either a valid fingerprint or the password to see the contents. The title of the note is always visible in list view, so be sure not to include sensitive data in the first few lines.
Be aware that on non-updated devices, these protected notes are not available. Check all your devices are up-to-date with the latest OS version before using the new Notes features to keep everything in sync.
Landscape Apple News, Top Stories Improvements
Apple has rolled out some enhancements to the News app in iOS 9.3 You can now play embedded videos inline with the main news feed; play buttons replace images where appropriate. You can also view the entire app in landscape on iPhone, useful to take advantage of the additional real estate on an iPhone 6s Plus. There’s a new swipe gesture too, revealing Like, Save and Share actions. Moreover, iOS 9.3 News has a new presentation for Top Stories putting them right at the top of the feed.
Add Activity To Health Dashboard, Discover Health Apps
In iOS 9.3, you can now add Apple Watch Activity statistics (Move calories, Exercise minutes and Stand hours) to the Health app Dashboard. The dashboard is black in appearance, matching the Activity app. When in Day view, the widget shows the Activity rings and three lines of stats. In other timelines (Week, Month, Year), the widget instead shows a graph over time of the tracked Activity metrics.
Health has some other changes too. In detail views for health data, there are new App Store suggestions which track that particular data type. For instance, viewing Steps recommends apps like Movesum, Pedometer++ and CARROT Fitness.
Workout Tab In Activity App
The Activity app, revealed on the Home Screen when pairing an Apple Watch, now includes an additional tab to show detailed information for Workouts conducted using Apple Watch. There are filter options to drill down by workout type or date recorded. You can also see an overview summary on a month-by-month basis with totals and averages.
New 3D Touch Quick Actions For Stock Apps
iPhone 6s launched with 3D Touch in September but it didn’t seem like iOS 9 was completely ready for the new hardware feature, with many apps not taking advantage of the pressure-sensitive screen. Apple has filled out the available Quick Actions for stock apps in iOS 9.3. You can now press firmly on the app icons for Settings, Weather, Compass, App Store, iTunes Store and Health to reveal new quick shortcuts. Quick Actions for Settings is notable; 3D Touch is now the fastest way to open WiFi and Bluetooth settings.
CarPlay Updates For Music And Maps
As CarPlay displays render from the iOS device itself, updates to iOS seamlessly improve the CarPlay experience too. With iOS 9.3, CarPlay users will see For You and New tabs in the Apple Music app as well as the addition of Nearby to the Maps app. Nearby brings local points-of-interest and businesses (restaurants, coffee shops, etc) to just one tap away.
Full Screen Video In Podcasts And Apple Music For iPad
An obvious omission in previous versions of iOS is the lack of full-screen option for video podcasts and music videos. This has been rectified with iOS 9.3. There is now a double arrow button in the top-right corner, representing a full-screen control. Tap it to open the usual full-screen iOS video player. Unfortunately, there is still no Picture-In-Picture support.
Sync PDFs With iCloud For iBooks, New Purchased Screen
Finally, iOS will sync user-supplied eBooks and PDFs over iCloud. When launching iBooks on iOS 9.3, the app will ask if you want to enable iBooks for iCloud. Going forward, all devices automatically sync all content, not just purchased iBooks. This relies on iCloud, so what you can store and sync depends on your available iCloud storage space. With the inclusion of comprehensive sync, iBooks becomes a first-class location to manage PDFs on iOS.
The Purchased tab in iBooks has also been revamped to allow filtering by content type: Books or Audiobooks. Apple has recently allowed users to re-download previously purchased audiobooks from iTunes. This change exposes that content.
Multi-User Mode For iPads In Education
For iPads used in education, Apple is introducing a multi-user shared iPad mode for the first time. This will let just one device be used by multiple students in the classroom. iOS 9.3 will automatically download the logged-in user’s data as necessary, including apps, books and documents. The data of previous users is intelligently deleted when the iPad runs low on space. Perhaps this foreshadows a multi-user mode for all customers in iOS 10.
Pair Multiple Apple Watches To One iPhone
For Apple customers owning multiple Apple Watch models, iOS 9.3 includes a handy improvement to how device pairing is handled. Users can now pair multiple Apple Watches to one iPhone. Previously, users would have to repeatedly unpair and repair to switch between different smartwatches. iOS 9.3 includes a toggle to Auto-Switch between paired watches, when the user puts it on and raises their wrist. To take advantage of this feature, you must update your Apple Watches to watchOS 2.2.
Suggested Apps In Wallet
A small change to Wallet is included in the iOS 9.3 release. The app now places App Store recommendations for contextually-relevant apps in the lower-left corner of the screen, in respect to the selected Wallet pass. For instance, for my Santander bank card, I get a quick link to the Santander banking app.
Although the above roundup deep dives into every significant change in Apple’s newest mobile operating system, there a few more miscellaneous enhancements in iOS 9.3.
- iOS 9.3 includes Verizon WiFi calling support, so customers on that carrier can use the Internet to make and receive phone calls without relying on the traditional cellular phone signal.
- Apple continues to expands the international availability of Siri; you can now speak voice commands in Malay (for Malaysia), Finnish and Hebrew.
- Live Photos can be duplicated to make a full resolution still photo, from the original moving image.
- On iPhone 6s, using 3D Touch to activate the app switcher triggers haptic vibration for additional feedback.
- Apple has improved support for the iPad Pro with Smart Keyboard across the System. There are more shortcuts in native apps, and some system-wide shortcuts have been simplified (Home is now Cmd+H). You can jump between Spotlight Search results using the arrow keys.
- For developers, iOS 9.3 includes some new APIs to enable developers to manage the Apple Music media library and display Activity rings in third-party apps.
You can download iOS 9.3 for free from Settings. Open Settings -> General -> Software Update to begin the process. Let us know what you think of iOS 9.3, Apple’s latest release of its mobile operating system, in the comments below.
Here’s how Apple describes its latest software update:
With this update your iPhone, iPad and iPod touch gain improvements to Notes, News, Apple Music and a new feature called Night Shift that may even help you get a better night’s sleep by shifting the colors in your display you the warmer end of the spectrum at night. This release also includes additional improvements and bug fixes.