Apple previews upcoming iOS 9.3 features for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch


If you want a very secure and feature-rich Unix-like mobile operating system, Apple's iOS is incredible. In fact, many forward thinking folks, like myself, envision a day where it becomes a desktop OS too, potentially replacing OS X. While iPad Pro is a good first step, the iOS operating system still has a long way to go in that regard.

Today, Apple announces the features for the upcoming iOS 9.3 -- currently in beta. While hardly revolutionary, this evolutionary upgrade is packed full of some really cool new things. It may even be able to help you sleep better. No, really; iOS 9.3 could improve your overall health and well-being.

"This latest iOS release adds numerous innovations to the world's most advanced mobile operating system. There are improvements to a wide range of apps, along with great new additions to CarPlay. iOS 9.3 may even help you get a good night's sleep. And you'll find a preview of new features that will make using iPad in schools easier and better for students and admins", says Apple.

What is this hubbub about iOS helping you sleep better? It is nonsense, right? Actually, no. The company explains, "many studies have shown that exposure to bright blue light in the evening can affect your circadian rhythms and make it harder to fall asleep. Night Shift uses your iOS device's clock and geolocation to determine when it’s sunset in your location. Then it automatically shifts the colors in your display to the warmer end of the spectrum, making it easier on your eyes. In the morning, it returns the display to its regular settings".


Apple's technology appears scientifically sound, and Harvard Medical School agrees, stating, "light at night is bad for your health, and exposure to blue light emitted by electronics and energy-efficient lightbulbs may be especially so."

It remains to be seen if Night Shift will truly result in a significant sleep improvement. More importantly, users will only embrace the feature if it doesn't negatively impact the overall device experience. In other words, if warmer colors at night make images appear less-than perfect, I can see it being an immediately-disabled feature.

While that is the most newsworthy new feature, it is hardly my most anticipated. No, that would be improvements to the News app. As someone who wants to stay up-to-date on the latest news stories, Apple's app has been a godsend. Not everyone loves it, but I appreciate the overall aesthetics -- the design keeps me hooked. iPhone users will be able to view stories in landscape, and videos can be viewed directly in the feed. Apple even promises faster updates -- the most important thing for news-junkies.


Another cool feature is the ability to lock notes. If you leverage the official Notes app like I do, you probably put a lot of private information in the app. Well, you can now password or fingerprint-protect specific notes. At first, I was perplexed by this -- my iPhone and iPad are protected at login. My colleague Mihaita, however, reminded me that some people share devices or unlock them and hand them to family members. After sharing his insight with me, I can understand the value. You can hand your unlocked device to your kids, for instance, without them accessing private notes. Me? I don't let anyone touch my iPhone or iPad!


iOS 9.3 also delivers improvement to CarPlay, but this is not something I will be using anytime soon. Unfortunately, I probably have many more years with my old Ford Focus -- a new car with a fancy car stereo is not in my future. With that said, if you are planning on getting a new car with CarPlay support, you can look forward to easier access to predictive playlists from Apple Music and nearby locations in Maps. Need to use the potty? Maps will find you a gas station. Sadly, it will not alert you to toilet cleanliness -- yet.


Of course, iOS 9.3 also aims to improve the user. Besides color-trickery for improved sleep, Apple wants to help improve your health in other ways -- including your brain, by way of education. The health dashboard will do a better job at aggregation and visualization, better bringing your health data into one place.


Apple will also introduce a new classroom app, which will improve the iPad experience in schools. In fact, this will allow multiple students to share one iPad -- a huge pain point and hindrance to iOS gaining more traction in the education market.

Are you excited for all of these upcoming features? Will Night Shift truly help you get better sleep? Tell me in the comments.

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