Apple just announced two new iOS devices: the iPhone SE and a smaller version of the iPad Pro. Neither device was a surprise. In fact, you probably aren’t alone if you were expecting a little more out of the event; as Daring Fireball’s John Gruber notes, there’s been a bit of an undercurrent of “That’s it?” in the collective response to the event and its unveiling of what are, realistically, simply incremental updates to the small iPhone and iPad Pro lines. But even if you weren’t wowed by Apple’s new hardware, there’s plenty of new software that’s relevant to all iPhone and iPad users: iOS 9.3.
The latest version of iOS isn’t exactly the major update that we’re used to getting each year in the fall, when Apple unveils a brand-new iPhone. And iOS 10 is expected to be unveiled in just a few short months, so Apple is likely saving all the big additions and wishlist items until that release. But until then, iOS 9.3 brings some great new features and a few important security fixes. The update will run on any iOS 9-capable device; that means every iPad since the iPad Air, or for iPhones, everything back to 2011’s iPhone 4s, though owners of older devices may want to wait a few days to rule out any performance issues or see if there are any major bugs that persisted through Apple’s developer and public betas. These are the seven best reasons to update your iPhone or iPad to iOS 9.3 now.
1. Night Shift
Night Shift is the feature that has had Apple fans anticipating the release of iOS 9.3 for months. The feature uses the clock and location of your iPhone or iPad to determine when the sun sets in your location. Then, it automatically shifts the color of light emitted by the display toward to the warmer end of the spectrum. That stops the device from showing you cool, blue light after dark — exposure to which has been shown to interfere with the production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep — which can help you sleep better at night.
You can turn on Night Shift by opening the Settings app and tapping Display & Brightness. From there, you can open the Night Shift section and either automate a schedule for the feature or manually turn it on for the night. If you want to automate the schedule, you can either choose a custom schedule, or simply let iOS turn on Night Shift from sunset to sunrise. You can also set the color temperature of the screen with a slider that goes from “Less Warm” to “More Warm.”
2. iMessage encryption fixes
New features aren’t the only additions that Apple made with iOS 9.3. Johns Hopkins researchers have found a serious vulnerability in iMessage’s encryption, which would enable a hacker to decrypt photos and videos sent as secure messages. As Ellen Nakashima reports for The Washington Post, the researchers were able to intercept photos, videos, and files sent by iMessage, even though they couldn’t decrypt messages, by writing software that mimics an Apple server. The encrypted transmissions they targeted contain a link to the photo stored on Apple’s iCloud server, as well as the 64-digit key to decrypt the photo.
They then attempted thousands of keys, and using the brute force method, could decrypt files from Apple’s servers. The user wouldn’t know if his or her files were intercepted in such an attack, but you can prevent such an attack from happening by updating your iPhone or iPad to the latest software. Apple says that it partially fixed the vulnerability with the release of iOS 9, and the vulnerability is completely patched in iOS 9.3.
3. Notes password protection
While Notes is one of the most popular stock apps on iOS, past versions of iOS haven’t let users enable any kind of security on their notes. That changes with iOS 9.3, which adds the option to protect the Notes app with either a passcode or TouchID authentication. Locking your notes will keep them private from anyone who might use your iPad or iPhone, and you can use a single password to lock both notes in your iCloud account and those stored on your iOS device.
To enable the feature, open the Settings app and scroll down to the Notes section. From there, you’ll see a new “Password” option. When you tap it, you’ll be able to either set a password to protect all your locked notes, and add a hint to remind you if you forget. (Notes will show the hint after three failed attempts to enter the password.) You can also enable TouchID, though you won’t be able to enable TouchID without an alphanumeric password. If you enable TouchID, you’ll be able to use your fingerprint instead of your password for most actions.
If you forget your password, the only way to view your locked notes will be to use TouchID (if you enabled it before forgetting the password). When you create a password for the notes on one device, all your other devices that use the same iCloud account will use that password, too. Locked notes will only be visible on devices with iOS 9.3 or later or OS X v10.11.4 or later. On devices with an earlier OS, you won’t see those notes at all. If you want to keep everything synced across devices, make sure that all of your devices are updated before enabling the feature.
4. More personalized News
Apple News has gotten some important improvements with iOS 9.3. The app now enables you to play embedded videos inline with the main news feed, and Benjamin Mayo reports for 9to5Mac that play buttons now replace images where appropriate. The update also adds the ability to view the entire app in landscape mode on the iPhone, which is particularly useful if you want to take advantage of the bigger screen size of the iPhone 6 Plus or iPhone 6s Plus. A new swipe gesture reveals Like, Save, and Share actions, and News also puts Top Stories right at the top of the feed.
5. Health app updates
The latest version of iOS makes it easier to find apps that are built on the HealthKit framework and integrate with Apple’s Health app. When you open the Health app after upgrading to iOS 9.3, you can tap any of the data types on your dashboard and see a new section of suggestions for related apps. For Walking + Running distance, for instance, the app suggests apps like Runkeeper, Strava Running and Cycling, or the Human activity tracker. For Water, it suggests apps including Lifesum, Waterlogged, and even Workflow.
iOS 9.3 also enables Apple Watch owners to Apple Watch Activity statistics, like Move calories, Exercise minutes, and Stand hours, to the Health app’s Dashboard. The dashboard is black in appearance to match the Activity app. When in Day view, the widget shows the Activity rings and three lines of statistics. In other views, like Week, Month, and Year, the widget displays a graph of the tracked Activity metrics over time. Additionally, the Activity app, which appears on the Home Screen when pairing an Apple Watch, now includes an additional tab to show detailed information on Workouts conducted using an Apple Watch.
6. New CarPlay features
Because CarPlay displays are rendered by your iOS device, iOS 9.3 also brings improvements to CarPlay. After you update to iOS 9.3, CarPlay uses will see new For You and New tabs in the Apple Music app. With iOS 9.3, CarPlay will begin suggesting songs, artists, and albums based on your preferences. Apple also added the Nearby feature, which helps you find local businesses and other points of interest, to the Maps app.
7. New education features
Apple’s latest iOS update adds new education features, plus multi-user support for student accounts. For iPads used in education, the multi-user shared iPad mode will enable just one device to be used by multiple students in the classroom. The latest version of iOS can automatically download the logged-in user’s data, including apps, books, and documents, and the data of previous users is deleted when the iPad runs low on storage space. The update makes the iPad a more competitive option in an education market where Google’s Chromebooks are the latest big thing. 9to5Mac speculates that this feature could foreshadow a multi-user mode for all users, perhaps in iOS 10.
Other additions in iOS 9.3 include new 3D Touch Quick Actions shortcuts for stock apps, an option to save stills from Live Photos, the ability to see how much data the Wi-Fi Assist feature uses, full-screen video in Podcasts and Apple Music on the iPad, the ability to sync user-supplied eBooks and PDFs over iCloud, the option to pair multiple Apple Watches to one iPhone, and Verizon Wi-Fi calling support.