On February 22nd, Apple released the 4th beta version of iOS 9.3. It took Apple around two weeks to issue each of the updated beta versions since the release of the first one on January 11th, but iOS 9.3 keeps bringing special features to light, introducing a new Night Shift feature and improving several existing apps. It also reshapes education with multi-user support among other things.
While Apple hasn’t officially announced a final iOS 9.3 release date, they did mention that spring will bring the 9.3 change for iPad, so we can assume that the March 18th event will host the big announcement. Here is what to expect when it does come.
Changes that iOS 9.3 beta 4 brings
In contrast to previous iOS 9.3 beta versions, which presented us features like Night Shift or added support for Verizon U.S. users with WiFi calling, so far beta 4 seems to offer smaller changes.
Night Shift icon change. The Control Center icon for Night Shift was redesigned to a moon inside of a sun, according to 9to5Mac.
Disabled Apple Pencil outside applications. This is one of the most discussed changes that iOS 9.3 beta brings for iPad Pro users, and while in previous beta versions users assumed it was a bug, not fixing it in the 4th beta may suggest it’s an intentional design decision. According to MacRumors, currently the Apple Pencil can no longer be used to navigate through iOS.
Update - Apple confirmed to The Verge that they would add the Apple Pencil's functionality back in the next iOS 9.3 beta.
There are other minor changes such as the popularity meter in My Music changing from bars to stars, or the colour changing for the Health dashboard icon.
Plenty of other features are here too, announced in previous iOS 9.3 beta versions
Night Shift. Probably the most long-awaited feature, the Night Shift will adjust the colours of your display based on time and location to reduce eye-strain. In other words, between sunset and sunrise the screen will automatically switch to warmer colours.
Notes password protected. iOS 9.3 allows you to protect notes by adding a password or Touch ID fingerprint for extra security. It also allows you to sort notes by date created, date modified or alphabetically.
Major emphasis on education. iOS 9.3 focuses on education by adding features like Shared iPad for students, a new Classroom app, Apple School Manager and Managed Apple IDs. The Shared iPad for students opens the door for multi-user support, enabling students to log into any iPad in any classroom and pick up where they left off (only it's strictly meant for classroom iPads for now). The fact that Apple has built one version of a multi-user login experience may give general public hope for a similar IOS 10 experience this year.
Health dashboard. iOS 9.3 adds third-party app suggestions, so that users will view their health metrics in one place and easily share data with third-party fitness apps. Health also integrates the Apple Watch.
News. With iOS 9.3 News will be personalised by including tailored articles to match users’ interests and also new suggestions with trending topics and Editor's Picks. News will also be a little easier to navigate by allowing videos within a story to be played from the feed directly.
CarPlay Music and Maps additions. iOS 9.3 enhances Apple Music experience by adding New (expert-picked) and For You (preference-based) song selections as part of the music menu. The Nearby feature in Maps will help users find points of interests near their location (such as parking or gas stations). These are the most important features that iOS 9.3 promises to bring, according to Apple’s preview.
When it comes to data backup, there is one thing that is worth mentioning: backups no longer include Safari browsing history (in line with Apple’s increasing focus towards higher user privacy). Previous to iOS 9.3 beta versions, if you looked at Safari’s domain in backup, you would have found the user’s browsing history database. This data has been removed.
Domains are part of the file system of the backup and each domain stores information relating to a different aspect of the backup. With iOS 9.3 beta, Safari data is mentioned under new domains (the System Containers and System Shared Containers), and when we look at these, the Safari directory is empty.
The good news is that we support 9.3 backups, and we did from the first beta. Also, if you want to recover your browsing history information, we can help, please contact our support or enterprise team.
Available to registered developers (update - also for public users)
For now the beta 4 can only be tested by members of Apple Developer program with compatible iPhone, iPad and iPod touch devices. However, looking at previous beta launches, it’s only a matter of time before Apple makes available the new beta 4 to Public Beta Program.
Back up your iOS data
Better safe than sorry when dealing with personal data! Before installing beta software, make sure you back up your device in iTunes, then archive the backup. You won’t be able to use an iCloud backup or one you didn’t archive if you switch back to your current version of iOS.
How does iOS 9.3 sound for you?
Matt Swider of techradar.com said ‘’iOS 9.3 is the biggest incremental iPhone and iPad update in several years, as Apple has new software features that go as far as changing your sleeping habits’’.
We'd love to hear your thoughts -- what do you think?