iOS 9.3 brings new features to the current version of Apple's mobile operating system for iPhone and iPad. Highlights include a new Night Shift mode, Touch ID security for Notes, greater personalization for News, app discovery in Health, Apple Music and Nearby for CarPlay, and a new education experience for iOS.
When is it coming out?
Apple hasn't set a release date for iOS 9.3 yet. Since the beta cycle has just begun, and there's typically a half-dozen betas released at a roughly every-two-week schedule, late February or early March might be a safe bet.
Who should be excited about it?
Everyone, because bug fixes and security updates are always great! More specifically:
So, Siri supports more languages now?
A few more regions and languages, yes! iOS 9.3 adds support for Malaysia (Malay), Finland (Finnish), and Israel (Hebrew).
What's the deal with Night Shift?
Our eyes and bodies were never designed to stare at computer screens all day. As a result, the blue light emitted from said screens can seriously mess up sleep schedules and lead to mid-day exhaustion and tension headaches. OS X has long had third-party utilities like F.lux to help address this problem with display recoloring, but with 9.3's Night Shift, iOS gets its own proprietary version.
It uses your geolocation data and local clock time to automatically determine when the sun sets in your area, and gradually shifts your iOS device's display to a less harsh, more late-night-brain-friendly hue. In the morning light, your display colors shift back to their normal state.
Is this going to make everything obnoxiously orange?
We'll have to wait and see how iOS implements Night Shift, but, like F.lux, your eyes should adjust pretty quickly to oranger hues, especially in darker environments. But yes, it will likely add an orange tint to your screen, making tasks like photo or video color correction slightly more difficult. That said, we imagine you'll be able to disable the feature if you really prefer to stare at glaring blue light in the evenings.
I heard that Notes has touch ID support now?
It does! With iOS 9.3 you'll be able to secure all your notes—especially the ones that might contain private personal, medical, login, or financial data—with a password or with Apple's fingerprint identity sensor, Touch ID.
That means, even if you lend someone your iPhone or iPad so they can call an emergency contact or keep busy while waiting for the food to arrive, they won't have access to your private notes.
It's not the system-wide [Touch ID protection of Guest Mode]/./ios-9-wish-list-guest-mode) we've been waiting for, but it's a great start towards making iOS better protected so we can more comfortably share our devices with others.
What's new with the news?
It's getting more personal! Articles in For You will be better curated for your tastes, and you'll also get suggestions for editor's picks and trending topics.
Video will now play right from the story, and iPhone is getting landscape support as well.
And the health app is going to make me healthier?
I don't know if any app can make you healthier, but the Health app is certainly making it easier to keep track of your health. The app now has categories for your Apple Watch's move, exercise, and stand trackers, and even tracks your day-to-day goals. In addition, the weight, workouts, and sleep data screens have a slider menu that suggests great third-party apps for recording that data.
CarPlay has some new stuff too, right?
It does! If you have a CarPlay-compatible car, you can look forward to better Apple Music integration, with both the New screen and For You custom playlist suggestion screen available to you. And if you're an Apple Maps fiend, CarPlay now supports the Nearby feature, which lets you quickly find gas, parking, restaurants, and more.
What's this about iPad and education?
The iPad is getting a huge education upgrade when iOS 9.3 hits the stage, and it's sure to make a lot of educators using iPads in their classrooms thrilled.
The education improvements essentially boil down to three categories: Shared iPads, a new Classroom app for teachers, and the Apple School Manager app for OS X.
iOS 9.3 supports the new Shared iPads protocol, which allows a student to load their Apple ID and information on any iPad the school owns. When students log in to an iPad, all their personal information, iCloud Drive documents, books, and apps will appear on that iPad. Apple is using intelligent caching to make this system work quickly; as such, when a student logs in to a classroom iPad they've used previously, it won't have to take a ton of time to redownload each student's apps.
In addition, Apple has added two features for younger students: Photo ID, which displays the student's photo on the lock screen of the iPad they used last, and a four-digit pin option for students who don't yet have the dexterity type a username and password.
The Classroom app
Apple's new Classroom app is designed for the iPad-toting teacher, and lets them check on their students' progress, bring them to various apps in a lesson plan, and share student work via AirPlay.
Teachers will have access to a new Screen View command, which lets them virtually look at any iPad screen in their class; in addition, they can use Remote Control to launch a specific app, website, or ebook page on every iPad in the classroom. If teachers have students who are struggling with attention issues, they can even lock iPads to specific apps to keep the class focused on the task at hand.
The Classroom app offers a few other useful features, too, like being able to help your student reset a forgotten password.
Apple School Manager
An education-focused device manager, Apple School Manager lets administrators control every iPad in their school fleet. It also allows them to set up and manage school-focused Managed Apple IDs for teachers, students, and staff; buy and distribute books and apps (with the institution's education discount automatically applied); build and deliver iTunes U Course Manager courses; and do it all remotely.
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