Last week, Apple launched the first beta of iOS 10.3. According to an official January report, the adoption rate of iOS 10 has jumped by nearly 21% between January 2017 and November 2016 (76% vs 63%) – and the arrival of iOS 10.3 is expected to bolster this figure further. Interestingly, there have been reports of troublesome bugs in the recently-launched iOS 10.2.1 and the Cupertino company will be looking forward to resolving them all in the upcoming version of its mobile platform. In today’s discussion, we will take a look at the most interesting new features in the first preview of iOS 10.3:
Detailed iCloud Storage information
In the third major update on iOS 10, storing data on iCloud will be more systematic than ever before. From the profile, users can easily tap on the iCloud tab, to check out a detailed breakdown of the devices and the programs that are using the storage space at any time. The information is graphically represented, and it allows people to optimize iCloud. What’s more, users will be provided with useful tips and suggestions on the all-new ‘Suggestions’ tab on the Settings screen.
Change in app animation
This one is a very subtle change. As confirmed by professional iPhone app developers worldwide, there is a definite change in the animation scheme – when an app is launched/closed. While the change is rather difficult to discern in fast-working applications, it is fairly easy to see the more rounded edges on apps that take some time to launch. Not a tweak that will affect app-usage in any way, but an interesting one nonetheless.
Arrival of APFS file system
As soon as you update your iPhone/iPad to iOS 10.3, you will be bidding farewell to the HFS+ file system on your phone. The more secure Apple File System (APFS), with stronger encryption support, will be automatically installed on the device. As per reports from app-makers and testers, APFS also performs better than HFS+, when it comes to supporting NAND file storage.
Find My Airpods
Easily the most talked-about feature enhancement in iOS 10.3. Ever since Airpods – the Bluetooth-powered Apple earbuds – debuted last year (on iPhone 7), there have been multiple reports of users losing/misplacing them. iOS 10.3 offers a great solution to stay away from such problems. It has a built-in ‘Find My Airpods’ feature, that tracks the Airpods to their last-known location (i.e., the location when the earbuds were paired with an iPhone most recently). The feature becomes visible as soon as a user logs in to his/her ‘Find My iPhone’ application. People can also send pings to the Airpods with this new feature.
Analytics in Settings
In the default Settings application, there used to be a section called ‘Documentation & Usage’ option (under Privacy) – through which people could specify whether they wanted to share data with Apple. That section has been renamed to ‘Analytics’ and retains all its original features. There is a new tool in this section as well, in the form of ‘Share iCloud analytics’. It can be used to share analytics data from iCloud accounts. Apple keeps things secure with its differential privacy regulations.
Apple Settings Profile
On iDevices running on iOS 10.3, it is no longer necessary for users to separately check out personal profile information from App Store, iCloud and iTunes. Right at the head of the ‘Settings’ menu, there is an all-new ‘Profile’ section – which allows iPhone-owners to view all information associated with iCloud, iTunes, App Store and even Family Sharing, summarized on the same screen. The iDevices linked with each of these accounts can be viewed through this ‘Apple ID Profile’. All that the users have to do to access the information is sign into their ‘Find My iPhone’ account.
Floating keypad for iPads
One of the several cool new features of iOS 10.3 that are ‘hidden’ in the preview version (i.e., not provided to mobile app developers yet). iPad-users, after upgrading, will get an option to replace the default keyboard on their device with a one-handed keypad that can be easily dragged and placed anywhere on the screen. The ‘floating keyboard’ idea seems just a trifle weird at present, but it can well prove to be a handy tool for users.
Multiple SiriKit enhancements
Right from the status of mobile payments and digital wallet security, to scheduling taxi-rides – everything can be done with SiriKit, in the updated iOS 10.3 platform. The mobile digital assistant can work in collaboration with Lyft and Uber to schedule rides, people can pay bills directly through SiriKit, and the status of m-payments can be monitored safely. There’s good news for all the cricket-fans out there as well – with SiriKit on iOS 10.3 offering real-time scores and updates from international games and IPL matches.
App icon updates
This is going to be a mighty useful feature for iOS app developers. Instead of having to publish an update every time the icon of the application was tweaked, the changed app icons can now be pushed out at any time. This, understandably, makes it easier for developers to showcase updated icons – without having to worry about full updates.
Weather information (in Maps)
After upgrading your Apple device to iOS 10.3, you will find a small tab on the bottom-right corner of the ‘Maps’ screen. On tapping it, detailed weather information (at your detected location) is displayed. In addition, users can also apply 3D Touch on the tab, to view weekly weather info breakdowns. Apple Maps have been getting a lot better over the last couple of years, and this is yet another interesting addition.
Shortcuts for CarPlay applications
With ‘connected cars’ increasingly coming into focus, it was expected that the latest version of iOS will have some new feature related to the proprietary CarPlay system. iOS 10.3 brings app shortcuts for CarPlay on the table. People can now browse through shortcuts of all their recently used CarPlay applications, instead of having to head back to the ‘Home’ screen to launch every new app.
Note: iOS 10.3 also has HomeKit enhancements, primarily in the form of integrated support for programmable switch accessories.
12. Verizon gets iCloud calling support
T-Mobile and AT&T already had this functionality, and with iOS 10.3, Verizon is going to have it too. With seamless iCloud call support, users on the Verizon network can now place/receive calls on any of their Apple Devices (iPad,
Mac system, iPod Touch, in addition to, of course, the iPhone). Users have to enable the feature to get started with iCloud calling.
13. Safari motion reduction and Podcasts widget
Many iPhone users across the globe have highlighted the motion effects on the Safari browser to be more than a bit off-putting. iOS 10.3 looks to relieve users of this particular inconvenience. In Safari, the update offers a ‘Reduce Motion preference’ option for users, that enhances the web-browsing experience. The Apple Podcasts application will also have its very own iPhone/iPad widget, on the final version of iOS 10.3.
Plenty of app developers as well as general users were expecting a dark, ‘theater mode’ (for iPhone/iPad) to arrive on the iOS 10.3 platform. However, iOS 10.3 beta 1 has no news about such a feature. As is customary, the next couple of months should see more beta releases of iOS 10.3, with a final release likely in late-March. It remains to be seen whether Apple adds more features, and what changes it makes to the existing ones, in the next developer previews of the platform.