After previewing iOS 11.3 in January, Apple is finally expected to release it to the public later today. iOS 11.3 includes a number of new features and improvements. First of all, iOS 11.3 brings Apple’s promised battery health feature which lets you disable the controversial battery performance management feature, iMessages in iCloud, the iMessage cloud syncing feature we were promised at WWDC 2017, new Animoji, and better ARKit features.

Battery Health

Battery Health feature is available only on iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone SE, iPhone 7, and iPhone 7 Plus. According to Apple, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X models include hardware updates that allow a more advanced performance management system that more precisely allows iOS to anticipate and avoid an unexpected shutdown, so the power management feature doesn’t affect iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and the iPhone X.

When you go into Settings -> Battery, you’ll find a brand new Battery Health (Beta)section.

Here, you’ll see two things – Maximum Capacity and Peak Performance Capacity. Maximum Capacity is basically the battery health of your iPhone. For a brand new phone, it’s at 100% and as time goes by you’ll see the maximum capacity reduce.

Apple says that “a normal battery is designed to retain up to 80% of its original capacity at 500 complete charge cycles when operating under normal conditions“. So as long as your iPhone’s Maximum Capacity is over 80%, it’s all good right? Not exactly. Because you also have to consider Peak Performance Capacity.

As batteries degrade, so does its ability to deliver peak performance. Previously, this is where iPhones were unexpectedly shutting down. The CPUs wanted more power, the battery couldn’t deliver and the iPhone would quit on you. Now, in iOS 11.3, Apple will start balancing battery health with peak performance needs.

iOS 11.3 iPhone Battery Health Feature 2

 

In the second half of the screen, you’ll be able to see your Peak Performance Capacity. Here, Apple isn’t using a number or a scale. Instead, you’ll find a detailed paragraph telling you about the current performance level. If your iPhone is new, the Peak Performance Capacity will be normal.

But say your iPhone is at 90% battery health and isn’t able to match peak performance (iPhone will unexpectedly reboot), you’ll see the following message:

This iPhone has experienced an unexpected shutdown because the battery was unable to deliver the necessary peak power. Performance management has been applied to help prevent this from happening again. Disable…

The same goes if your battery levels are below 80%, or they are unreadable. If your battery has degraded, you’ll see the following message:

iOS 11.3 iPhone Battery Health Feature 6

You see that little blue Disable.. at the end of the paragraph? That’s the only way to disable the power management feature (CPU throttling). Once you disable the power management feature you’ll see the following message. Once the power management feature disabled, you can’t manually enable it again. But that’s not permanent. The next time your iPhone experiences an unexpected shutdown due to heavy load, the power management feature will automatically turn back on again. And the option to disable the feature will reappear again.

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ARKit 1.5

The new ARKit 1.5’s features are clearly inspired by user feedback. And that’s great. At least we know that Apple is listening to us when it comes to ARKit. ARKit will finally recognize vertical spaces so you can put virtual objects up on walls and doors. It will also now recognize surfaces which are not perfectly square (like your fancy handcrafted table).

ARKit can recognize 2D images like signs and posters and integrate them in your AR experience. This means that apps can create experiences where a poster can animate and come to life after you point your iPhone’s camera in its direction. Another big upgrade comes in form of quality. ARKit now supports 1080p instead of 720p.

New Animoji

Animoji iOS 11.3

It looks like Apple is treating Animoji like emoji and adding new Animoji in smaller over the air updates. iOS 11.3 will bring four new Animoji’s – lion, bear, dragon, and skull. Animoji works using iMessage app and is exclusive to iPhone X.

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Health Records – US only

Apple Health Records

Apple has collaborated with several hospitals, institutes, and clinic to create the new Health Records feature in the Health app. This feature will aggregate all of your health records in one convenient and easy to use place in the Health app. That is if your medical records are linked with one of the supported medical institutes. According to Apple, all records are encrypted on your device and are protected with a passcode.

Currently, Apple supports Johns Hopkins Medicine, Cedars-Sinai, Penn Medicine, Geisinger Health System, UC San Diego Health, UNC Health Care, Rush University Medical Center, Dignity Health, Ochsner Health System, MedStar Health, Ohio Health, and Cerner Health Clinic. Apple will add more health providers in the future.

Business Chat – US only

iOS 11.3 Business Chat

The Business Chat feature lets iPhone and iPad users directly interact with businesses using the Messages app. Apple has taken a privacy-first approach here and your personal information is never shared with the business. You can end the chat anytime you like (and the business themselves can’t approach you again).

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At launch, Business Chat will work with a couple of brands like Discover, Hilton, Lowe’s, and Wells Fargo. As time goes on, Apple will add more businesses to the fold.

Videos in Apple News

The For You section in Apple News will now feature a list of trending videos that are customized for you.

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Videos in Apple Music

Apple Music is also going to have a dedicated section where you’ll be able to view videos. We don’t have a lot of detail about this but it could be similar to YouTube’s Music service. In Apple Music, you’ll be able to watch music videos without ads.

While we’re talking about Apple Music, the app has changed its behavior for title tap action in the Now Playing screen. Now when you tap on the track title, you’ll get a list of options to choose from. You can view the artist, the album or the playlist.

iOS 11.3 Music app feature

HomeKit Upgrades

iOS 11.3 brings official support for the new software authentication system. This new feature lets manufacturers add HomeKit compatibility to existing devices. Earlier, the devices needed hardware authentication. Now that this feature is live, we can expect to see a lot more smart home accessories with HomeKit compatibility (something that’s sorely needed).

iBooks Becomes Books

iBooks now Books

In Apple’s continual efforts of distancing itself from the “i” prefix with new products, Apple has renamed the iBooks app to simply Books. Now we’ll have to use Apple Books to refer to the app (which I’m sure is what Apple wants).

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App Store Finally Shows App Update Size

iOS 11.3 App Update Size

Apple took this feature away in iOS 11’s new App Store redesign and it didn’t make sense why. Now it’s back. You’ll see both the version number and the update size for each app in the Updates tab in the App Store.

New Privacy Screen When Setting Up

iOS 11.3 Privacy

When you’re setting up a new iPhone running iOS 11.3, you’ll find a new privacy screen. This screen explains that when an app is accessing your personal information, you’ll see a new private information sharing icon in the status bar.

Face ID Purchases Animation

Face ID Pay Animation

Apple Pay and App Store purchases on iPhone X only start when you double-click the Side button. So far Apple only showed a static screen instructing the user to do so. It made it seem like you were supposed to double tap the highlighted area on the screen. For less tech-savvy users, this was a clear point of frustration.

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In iOS 11.3, Apple is switching this static page to an animation that actually shows that the user needs to double-click the physical Side button.

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Emergency Calls Update

Now, when you call emergency services, Apple will automatically send your exact location (using GPS or Wi-Fi) to the authorities. This way, you won’t have to waste time telling them where you are. The feature won’t work in US but it’s enabled in United Kingdom, Estonia, Lithuania, Austria, Iceland, and New Zealand.

Game Center Updates

You can finally manage your Game Center friends individually. You can add and remove a single friend easily from the Game Center section in Settings.

Face ID Now Works for Family Purchases

Face ID authentication will now work when approving purchased from users in your Family Sharing account.

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Password Autofill Now Works Inside In-App Web Views

Password Autofill feature on the iPhone X with Face ID is pure magic. You end up on a login screen, iOS automatically kicks in Face ID, your face is scanned and your username and password pasted in a second or two. All while you didn’t have to do anything. Now, you’ll be able to use this feature even when apps are using their own in-app web views for authentication.

iOS 11.3 Might Make Older Phones Faster

While Apple hasn’t added the switch that disables CPU throttling, it seems like Apple has disabled the feature or changed how it works in iOS 11.3 beta 1. Or at least Apple has changed how those devices handle benchmarks. Users are reporting that their older iPhones which used to benchmark around 900 on Geekbench are now showing 1400 or so in single threaded performance. This is still the first beta so it’s too early to judge the performance.

Increased Pairing Security with USB accessories

iOS 11.3 has improved the pairing security with USB accessories. Apple explains “If you use iAP USB accessories over the Lightning connector or connect to a Mac or Windows PC, you may, therefore, need to periodically enter your passcode if you have a passcode set on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.” Apple has essentially added an expiry date of one week for the pairing records. So it means that you will need to enter the passcode at least once a week when you connect your locked iPhone or iPad with a USB accessory via Lightning connector.

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Keyboard Improvements

iOS now allows you to return to the keyboard with a simple touch after the dictation.

Options to Sort App Store Reviews

You can now sort the customer reviews on the product pages by the following options: the most useful, the most favorable, the most critical or the most recent.

Major New Features That Have Been Delayed

Messages on iCloud

We’ve all been waiting for the Messages on iCloud feature since June 2017. It has been delayed once again possibility because it was quite buggy in the beta versions. For heavy iMessage users, this feature promised to get rid of 4-8 GB of conversations without actually having to delete anything. It also reduces the frustration of manually moving iMessage conversations every time you get a new phone.

MessagesiniCloud

Messages on iCloud will “just work”. All iMessages will be saved in your iCloud account and only the latest messages will be available on your device. But as you scroll up or search for something, you’ll find your entire archive there. This feature will also put an end to all of your Apple devices showing completely different iMessage conversations.

When you open Messages app after upgrading to iOS 11.3, you’ll see a splash screen asking you to enable iMessages in iCloud. You’ll first need to enable 2-factor authentication to use this feature. Once it’s enabled, you’ll see a progress bar for your upload at the bottom of the Messages app.

AirPlay 2 Multi-Room Support Is Here

airplay-2

AirPlay 2’s multi-room playback feature would have allowed users to output the same audio to different devices. Say for instance you have two Apple TVs connected to stereo systems in two different rooms, plus a HomePod. You’ll be able to blast music on all three devices at the same time via your iPhone.

BONUS

Speed and performance improvements

If you have an older iPhone and you disable Apple’s throttling feature, you’re obviously going to notice huge improvements where UI speed and overall performance are concerned. As a quick recap, Lithium-Ion batteries lose capacity over time as they endure more and more charge cycles. Once the remaining capacity reaches a certain point, earlier versions of iOS automatically throttle performance as a workaround for the shutdown bug that was driving users crazy. Phones would remain throttled until the battery was replaced, which is why Apple slashed the price of its battery swap program as a mea culpa. Now, in iOS 11.3, users can disable throttling so their older iPhones are no longer slowed down.

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Yes, we all know that feature has been added to iOS 11.3. What far fewer people are discussing, however, is that RAM management appears to have been improved in iOS 11.3, which is also a huge deal.

iOS 11 has been plagued by serious RAM management issues ever since it was released. You know those real-life speed tests YouTubers love, where iPhones would always crush the latest Android phone? Well iPhones have been losing those races lately because they don’t use RAM efficiently. Apps that should remain “frozen” in the background were being closed completely when new apps were opened because there wasn’t enough available RAM to store their statuses.

It’s still early, but my own initial testing suggests that Apple has made some improvements to RAM management. A number of other iPhone users have emailed me to report the same, and I’ve seen discussions start to pop up online. I have found that apps often remain frozen in the background in instances where they would have previously been force closed. As a result, switching around from app to app is far quicker than it was in earlier versions of iOS 11. Needless to say, this is a big deal.

Augmented Reality enhancements

ARKit is still relatively new and buzzy, but no one is really talking about the nifty enhancements Apple introduced in iOS 11.3. Here are the relevant notes from the iOS 11.3 change log:

  • ARKit 1.5 allows developers to place virtual objects on vertical surfaces, such as walls and doors, as well as on horizontal surfaces.
  • Supports the detection and integration of images, such as movie posters or works, into augmented reality experiences.
  • The real-world view perceived through the camera has a higher resolution as part of the augmented reality experience.

There are countless things that developers can do with these enhancements. As someone with a horrible eye for visualizing decor, I personally can’t wait for good apps that let me see what different paintings and prints will look like on my walls.

App review sorting

This might not seem like a big deal at first glance, but it is:

  • Four options now allow you to sort the customer reviews on the product pages: the most useful, the most favorable, the most critical or the most recent.
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In general, customer reviews in the App Store are really, really, really bad. People get frustrated over silly things or they don’t understand something that should be obvious, so they hop on the App Store and leave a 1-star review. In iOS 11.3, people can finally sort app reviews to weed out the junk and more easily find reviews that are actually useful.

Username and passwords autofill in apps

This change is also a huge deal that people are going to love. In earlier versions of iOS 11, Safari could store usernames and passwords to autofill them on websites where users need to log in. Now, this functionality is finally available in apps, as per the following note from the iOS 11.3 change log:

  • Automatic filling of usernames and passwords is now available in apps’ web views.

So, for example, when you click through a link to The Wall Street Journal in your Twitter app, you can auto-fill your login info rather than having to leave the app and dig your username and password out of a third-party password manager like 1Password.

Death of the auto-correct capitalization bug

This last one is my personal favorite, because this is a bug that has bothered me forever. In fact, this bug might have been in iOS since the very beginning. Here’s the item of interest from Apple’s iOS 11 release notes:

  • Fixes a problem that could cause the capitalization of the first letter of some words by the automatic correction feature.

I’ll describe it a bit better, and iPhone users will know exactly what I’m talking about.

Sometimes as you’re typing messages, you would make a spelling mistake or some other mistake that auto-correct didn’t catch. So, you would hit the backspace button a bunch of times until the word in question was deleted. Because of this bug, when you finished deleting the first letter of the word in question, iOS would automatically engage the caps button even though the word you deleted didn’t start with a capital letter. Then, when you began to type again, the first letter would be capitalized even though it shouldn’t be.

For example, you might delete “teh”in the middle of a sentence and then replace it with “The,” which shouldn’t have been capitalized. It was beyond annoying, but now it’s finally fixed.

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