Apple iOS 9.3 brings new features to Apple’s tablets, including Night Shift, lockable Notes, and more. We’ve put them to the test, to see how much they actually improve the iPad.
This review concentrates on the features that debuted with iOS 9.3. For more information on the earlier changes, read our Apple iOS 9.1 for iPad Review.
Studies have shown that using a tablet at night can keep people awake. Scientists have determined that the cause of this is too much blue light, so Apple tablets can now shift the display to show red light as the evening progresses.
This effect, called Night Shift, can be configured so it’s not overwhelming. The user can set when to begin and end the change, and the shift severity. It can also be turned off, either permanently or just for the rest of the day. We recommend the latter when playing games or watching video, as this feature is really practical only for reading.
Based on our testing with an iPad and other tablets that offer a similar feature, the change to redder light at the end of the day really does make it easier to go to sleep. It’s more pleasant and soothing than the often harsh blue-tinged lights of the LCD display.
People use Apple’s Notes application in many ways, including storing information that they’d like to keep private. iOS 9.3 added a way to lock individual notes with a password.
This is a nice addition, but currently the feature is a bit rudimentary. Users choose which notes to lock, but everyone has the same password so multiple people can’t use this feature to keep information private from each other.
Notes can be secured with Touch ID so they can be unlocked with the press of a fingertip. This has to be the same person (or people) that can unlock the iPad with this biometric security system.
Those who are looking for more a more robust way to secure information like passwords really should turn to one of the many applications in the App Store dedicated to this task.
iCloud for iBooks
With iOS 9.3, Apple finally integrated its iBooks ebook reader into its iCloud cloud-storage service. This means that every ebook or PDF that’s stored on an iPad can be automatically synced with the iBooks application running on a iPhone or another iOS tablet.
This software already did this for books and magazines purchased from Apple, but the latest version automatically synchronizes all EPUB and PDF files, no matter the source.
The News aggregator was a new feature in iOS 9 and Apple is still tinkering with it. The homepage for this application is called “For You,” and contains a collection of stories that are supposed to appeal to the user. With iOS 9.3, Apple promises “The articles in For You are now better tailored to your particular interests.”
Based on our experience, News is doing an acceptable job of picking articles for its homepage that appeal to us. There are usually one or two that don’t, but Apple also says that For You also includes “trending topics and Editors’ Picks,” which is how, for example, a handful of articles on the Final Four can show up for non-basketball fans.
After almost a week of heavily testing the final release version of iOS 9.3 on an iPad Pro 12.9, we find it to be remarkably stable. Not a single application has crashed during this time, much less a crash of the full operating system.
There were initially issues with installing this new version on very old devices like 2011’s iPad 2, but Apple has now fixed these. And some users complained of problems with hyperlinks in web browsers and other applications not functioning, but Apple rushed out iOS 9.3.1 to take care of this. Our test device experienced neither of these issues.
We now feel confident in recommending that people install version 9.3.1 on any iPad that’s already running an earlier version of iOS 9.