According to an official Apple report in February, the adoption of iOS 10 had reached a mighty impressive 79%. In terms of adoption figures – the performance of iOS 10 is, in fact, marginally better than even iOS 9 (which had been installed on ~76% active devices within the first five months of its launch). iOS 10.3 – the third major iOS 10 update – was released by Apple on March 27 (followed by iOS 10.3.1 earlier this week). The update has quite a few interesting new features, to which we turn our attention in what follows:
Smoother app transition animations
Apple has done a neat little change with the animations – making them shorter and just that little bit quicker. That, in turn, adds a ‘crisper’ feel to the overall user interface (UI). On an upgraded iDevice, the changes in the animation scheme can be detected at the time of launching or closing any application. The edges of the app icons have also been made slightly more rounded than before.
Find My AirPods
The W1-chip powered AirPods – launched last year along with iPhone 7 – have found widespread favour from users across the globe. However, there have also been many reports of people misplacing the small-sized earbuds (which are, let’s face it, rather expensive too!). The iOS 10.3 update comes with a handy ‘Find My Airpods’ feature, inside the ‘Find My iPhone’ application. Provided that the AirPods are connected via Bluetooth with an iPhone, all that the users have to do is tap a button – to generate a sound – which keeps increasing in frequency – in either or both the earbuds. A detailed log of the location(s) where the AirPods were last connected to the iPhone is also displayed.
Note: The usefulness of the ‘Find My AirPods’ feature is somewhat limited due to the absence of GPS radio (geo-sensors) in the earbuds. Also, if the AirPods are in their box, they cannot be tracked using this feature.
Distribution of iCloud Storage
That’s right – people can now check at any time how their iCloud Storage space is being used. On tapping the iCloud section inside the ‘Settings’ app, all the applications that are taking up cloud storage space are displayed. There are bar diagrams as well, to show the amount of space taken up by the different types of applications/data. This makes it easier than ever before to detect any app that might be hogging too much of memory/storage – and get rid of it.
More powerful Siri
Apple’s mobile digital assistant Siri has been getting smarter with practically every new iOS update. In iOS 10.3 too, Siri gets new capabilities. For instance, users can now tell Siri to schedule a Lyft or Uber cab ride in future, and the digital assistant will do the needful. Third-party iPhone app developers have the option of using the latest SiriKit version to come up with user-friendly, prompt and secure bill-payment apps. The status of payments made can also be checked any time – thanks to the more powerful Siri.
A new file system
The biggest new feature of iOS 10.3 is one that happens completely under the hood. The long-standing HFS+ file system in iPhones/iPads have finally made way to the more robust APFS (Apple File System). Devices are automatically upgraded to the new file system, as soon as the iOS 10.3 update is installed in them. APFS offers built-in support for NAND flash storage and SSD (solid state drives) – and is, hence, more optimized than HFS+. Better encryption, snapshots, directory/file cloning and copy-on metadata write are some other useful new features that APFS brings to the table. It has also been confirmed that APFS can free up 1.5-2 GB of storage area.
Note: The new file system is the main reason behind the rather slow download speed of the iOS 10.3 update (size → ~600 MB).
Dynamic app icons
On iOS 10.3, mobile app developers no longer have to push out new versions of their applications each time they wish to tweak the app icons. Such changes can be made more frequently and seamlessly, with no interference to the app-usage experience. What’s more – people can now (if they are allowed by developers) set customized icons for their iOS apps. For example, in the ‘At Bat’ app (Major League Baseball), a person can set his/her favourite team’s logo as the app icon.
Cloud calling on Verizon
This one is exclusively for all the Verizon users out there (since T-Mobile, Sprint and AT&T already supported iCloud calling from beforehand). The latest iOS 10 update has brought greater continuity to this feature – by adding Verizon to the fold. Once the cloud calling feature is activated (Settings → Phone → Call On Other Devices → On to set up wifi calling), users can easily make/receive on iPads, iPod Touch devices, Mac systems and even Apple Watch. The iPhone does not have to be near at hand all the time.
Note: At the time of activating the iCloud calling feature, users have to specify the iDevice(s) on which (s)he would prefer receiving calls.
Compact Apple ID information
iPhone-owners can see a new section for Apple ID profile (right inside the Settings app) – after they have upgraded their handsets to iOS 10.3. On this screen, a list of all the Apple devices a user is connected with at any time can be viewed. In addition, this section serves as a convenient, compact location to view all important information – right from contact details, payment information and Family Sharing, to the settings for security, App Store and iCloud account. Password changes and modifications in security profiles can be done from here.
Weather Forecast on Apple Maps
On iPhones with 3D Touch (i.e., iPhone 6S or iPhone 7) – the iOS 10.3 updates bundles an interesting new feature in the native Maps application. There is a dedicated weather widget (called by tapping the weather icon on the side) that generates 6-hour weather forecasts in the locality of a particular user. The embedded Weather app can also be launched by doing a long press on the same icon. People can add any location(s) as ‘favourite’ – and check weather information as and when required.
Note: Maps now offer a flat earth view instead of the rather confusing 3D spinning view (which had to be zoomed out to the max).
10. Podcast widget
iOS is still nowhere as customizable by end-users as Android – but the Cupertino company has been working on this for the last couple of years. The ‘Today’ screen of iOS 10 is a classic example of the greater options that iPhone-users now have – and the 10.3 update has a nice feature addition for fans of podcasts. By swiping on the Home screen and tapping the green (+) tab next to the Podcasts, a new widget can be included to the Control Center (the layout of existing podcasts can also be modified). The cover art of all the subscribed podcasts are displayed in the widget. Users can resume listening from any point or launch a new podcast.
11. Siri knows cricket; Parked cars in Maps
For cricket-lovers too, iOS 10.3 brings good news. The new and improved Siri can now give real-time updates from all Indian Premier League (IPL) matches and other fixtures recognized by the International Cricket Council (ICC). Another handy new feature is the option to look for ‘parked car’ in the Maps application. There is no need to remember the exact place where a vehicle had been parked – your iPhone will do it for you!
Note: On devices running on iOS 10.3, users can give voice commands to Siri for checking the gas levels in cars, sounding the horn, and/or switching on the headlights.
12. Immersive app reviews and developer responses
Leaving a review/rating for an application has been made easier than before on the iOS 10.3 platform. End-users can provide such reviews directly from within the app (i.e., no need to go to the App Store separately). In addition, iOS app developers can now directly respond to the ratings, reviews, queries left by customers. In case an app receives low ratings and negative reviews, developers can quickly learn about the problems its users are facing – and perform the necessary fixes.
13. Theater Mode on Apple Watch
The watchOS 3.2 update was released alongside iOS 10.3 – and it brings a cool new ‘Theater Mode’ functionality to the smartwatch. In this mode, the ‘Wake Screen on Wrist Raise’ feature gets deactivated and Silent Mode is turned on – ensuring that the Watch screen does not light up whenever the wearer is moving. Haptic feedback for notifications works – and users can tap the Watch face to view all unread notifications. ‘Theater Mode’ can be activated from the Control Center.
14. CarPlay enhancements
The CarPlay platform has also received a boost with iOS 10.3. The ‘Up Next’ section on the Music app shows all the tracks in the queue. From Apple Music, the latest music categories are accessible – while new curated lists are available daily. The status bar now has handy shortcuts to recently used smart car applications, making app-switching quicker and easier (doing away with the need to return to the Home screen every time). Toggling between travel, social media, messaging, and other apps on the go becomes more convenient.
15. Expanded Home app capabilities
The latest apple iOS update does its bit to make HomeKit-supported devices more user-friendly and easily manageable. Through the native Home app, users can load/trigger pre-programmed scenes (with the help of built-in buttons/switches). The remaining battery levels in HomeKit accessories can also be monitored with the Home application. After you have upgraded to 10.3, you’ll find that managing the smart lights at your home has become that much simpler.
For those who love movies, the iOS 10.3 update has brought the option of renting movies from iTunes and viewing it on any connected Apple device (no separate renting required). VoiceOver has been made more stable, while several irritating bugs have been fixed. With 32-bit iOS apps reportedly being phased out (iOS 11 will support only 64-bit apps) – the app compatibility checker of iOS 10.3 also makes a lot of sense.
The repeated notifications sent to iDevice owners for upgrading to the latest iOS version is often viewed as a distraction – but iOS 10.3, with its myriad of new features and enhancements – is a solid update. iOS 10 was referred to by many iPhone owners/enthusiasts as the best ever version of iOS…and Apple has indeed done a good job of improving it further.
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