While it’s not a major update by any measure, iOS 9.3 ships on the new iPhone SE and iPad Pro, and is now available as a free update for existing iOS 9 devices. I’ve been using it in beta form on my iPhone 6S Plus and iPad Mini 3 for months, so here’s a quick peek at what’s new.
This is the one major new feature, and something I really appreciated since first experiencing similar functionality in Amazon’s FireOS last fall: Basically, it reduces the amount of blue light that is emitted by the device at night because studies suggest that not doing so interrupts our natural sleep patterns and makes it harder to fall asleep. I’m interested in this because I like to read before I go to bed, and obviously I prefer to do so on devices.
Night Shift is configurable in Display & Brightness settings, where you can set up a schedule for when this feature is automatically enabled (8:00 pm to 7:00 by default) and manually impact the color temperature. Which is good, because I prefer the colorization to be warmer (more yellow) than the Apple default.
You can also manually toggle Night Shift from the slide-up Control Center UI in iOS as well.
While Google is adding this kind of functionality to Android N as well,Windows users have to turn to a third party utility called f.lux, which I’ve recommended in the past (and use).
Apple’s Notes app used to be pretty bare-bones, but since the big update that came with iOS 9, Apple has seen a big usage uptick. So with iOS 9.3, it’s starting to do requests, and you can now add TouchID-based security to your notes for that additional layer of protection.
I don’t use Notes, so I don’t really care about this one per se.
Apple’s terrible News app is actually getting a lot better in iOS 9.3, speaking of requests, adding a For You section with personal recommendations, a new landscape view on iPhone, and inline video playback support.
New Quick Actions
Those with iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus handsets can utilize new Quick Actions, which occur when you press and hold on the screen. I find this feature gimmicky, personally, and the addition of more of this stuff doesn’t get me all that excited.
Here’s a good example of implementation vs. possibility: With iOS 9.3, you can press and hold on the Settings icon and you will see Quick Actions for jumping directly to Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and Battery settings. Neat. But here’s what would be better: The ability to press and hold on the relevant buttons in Control Center and actually configure those features. (For example, press and hold on Wi-Fi and select a network.) Today, those things are just dumb toggles.
If you’re lucky enough to be using one of the few CarPlay-based auto systems in the market, iOS 9.3 adds better Apple Music integration and the Apple Maps “Nearby” feature, which works like Local Scout used to in on Windows Phone.
So nothing major, but let’s give Apple credit for keeping the ball rolling: iOS 9 first shipped back in September, and this is the third formal set of updates since then. Not too shabby.