The wide release of iOS 9.3 is looming, once again sending half the world into full scale rumor mode over what’s likely to be included in the most significant incremental update to the mobile operating system since iOS 9.0. Here’s a roundup of everything we know, and everything we think we know, about what iOS 9.3 has in store.
Confirmed iOS 9.3 Details
Apple’s official iOS 9.3 preview provides a list of some rather impressive functionalities. The first tells us that iOS 9.3 will help folks sleep better. According to Apple, studies show that extended evening exposure to bright blue light (as emitted by LED screens) can mess with people’s ability to get a good night’s sleep. In response, a new feature called Night Shift (functional on 64-bit devices) will be included with iOS 9.3 that automatically alters the colors on a user’s device from bright to warm, based on geolocation and local time. Thankfully, those who enjoy burning the midnight oil will be able to customize the feature to their desired sleeping patterns – because nothing is worse than an electronic device that tells you when it’s time for lights out.
iOS 9.3 will apparently also make users healthier. At least it’ll try. Apple’s Health app has been revamped to provide users with the ability to more easily find third-party apps for health and wellness tracking. This feature will also import data from a user’s Apple Watch for better compatibility with those aforementioned third-party apps.
Notes also gets some much-needed security in the forthcoming update. Users who frequently share their iOS devices with others may find it useful to lock up their personal notes and private data, all the better to keep prying eyes away from things like budgets and passwords. With the release of iOS 9.3, Notes will be updated to incorporate Touch ID fingerprint security or alternate password protection, in addition to improved sorting capabilities to make the program more user friendly. Any secured notes the user creates will only be accessible on iOS 9.3 (and OS X 10.11.4) or later. As of this moment, this feature is not supported by iCloud.
News junkies can expect a better experience with iOS 9.3. This is not an earth-shaking update, but it’s an improvement nonetheless. Because no two people find the same headlines newsworthy, the Apple news app For You has undergone personalization improvements to deliver more pertinent stories tailored to the individual user. Other performance updates will result in quicker loading and the ability to view associated news videos straight from the feed without having to launch another app. iPhone users will also be able to view their news in landscape mode.
Even music lovers are set to get something special in their iOS 9.3 update, with CarPlay improvements that will suggest music users may actually like (instead of making random, off the wall suggestions). Leveraging the Apple Music streaming service, CarPlay will add a For You and a New section to offer suggestions based on prior preferences. Also added to CarPlay is a Nearby feature that works with Maps to help travelers find gas stations, restaurants, and other destinations while also providing star ratings and pricing information for said establishments.
Finally, there’s a lot of buzz going around about a host of new education-oriented themes for iPad that will supposedly help teachers track student progress and make learning easier. Shared iPad will facilitate multi-users through unique IDs that store a student’s progress and let them to pick up where they left off. Classroom is an app that lets teachers launch and control apps across multiple student devices. It also includes a big-brotherly feature called Screen View, through which teachers can peek in on a student user’s screen to monitor their progress. Also included is Apple School Manager, which lets school admins create user IDs and structure coursework.
iOS 9.3 Rumors
Just because Apple has already made public record of what we can expect to find in iOS 9.3 doesn’t mean that’s all there will be to it, as evidence by some of the unofficial reports we’ve read from folks claiming to have tested out the beta version.
One of the most significant has to do with a new feature to Wi-Fi Assist, which will reportedly add data consumption tracking to save users money on their cell phone bills (and likely keep Apple from getting into any more trouble). This follows hot on the heels of a class action lawsuit filed against Apple over claims that Wi-Fi Assist – a feature introduced with iOS 9.0 that allows a device to boost weak Wi-Fi by piggybacking on the device’s cellular plan – wound up costing customers big money in cellular data overage charges without their knowledge. Rumor has it iOS 9.3 will include the ability to check just how much cellular data has been used so users can shut it off before they eat through their plans.
iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus users are getting some handy 3D Touch quick actions, which include shortcuts to device settings like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and battery. 3D Touch will also offer quick-launch capability for stock apps like iTunes, Weather, Compass, and Health. As of this writing, these iOS 9.3 improvements will only be functional across 6s and 6s Plus devices.
Apple Watch owners may thrill to the claims that adding iOS 9.3 to their iPhones will allow them to pair up with more than one watch. In order for this to work, users will have to have both 9.3 and watchOS 2.2 (also pending wide release but currently available to developers in beta) installed to their devices.
Last but not least, iOS 9.3 will reveal that Siri has apparently been busy taking additional language lessons, adding Finnish, Hebrew and Malay to her speech recognition repertoire.
For those who simply can’t wait until 9.3 is officially released and are willing to jump through some hoops, Apple has made a public beta version available on its website. No date has yet been set for the official rollout of iOS 9.3, but there’s speculation it may happen in March to coincide with an also rumored event to display the new iPad Air 3, MacBook Air 2016, Apple Watch 2 and a new 4-inch iPhone 6c.