Apple’s next update brings fixes for Apple’s battery snafu, new Animoji, AR upgrades and more.

Apple on Wednesday announced iOS 11.3, the new update to its mobile operating system. The latest iOS iteration comes with a range of new features including the ability to disable Apple’s processor throttle that allegedly slows down older iPhones with worn out batteries.

Apart from the processor throttle, iOS 11.3 brings updates to Augmented Reality platform (ARKit) and iMessages as well. Although Apple will release the stable version of iOS 11.3 this spring, you can still use a public beta version. In order to use the beta version, you will need to enroll your device into Apple’s Beta Software Programme. iOS 11.3 is also available for developers under the iOS Developer Programme.

The stable update will be available for iPhone 5s and later, iPad Air and iPad Pro, iPad 5th generation, iPad mini 2 and later and iPod touch 6th generation.
Here are the features we know about, as of Jan. 24.

Let’s take a look at the top features that the software update comes with.

1. Take control of your battery

I’m not talking about battery life — I’m talking about the ability to keep Apple from secretly throttling your phone’s processing power as your phone’s battery ages. Apple was caught red-handed doing that this past winter, and wound up having to apologize for keeping it a secret. And though the company apparently had a good reason for doing it — preventing unexpected shutdowns — the revelation left a bad taste in some people’s mouths.

Anyhow, as of iOS 11.3, your battery is yours to control. You can turn off the throttling feature, and/or navigate to Settings > Battery to take a look at your battery’s current health. If your iPhone 6 or later does need a battery swap to maintain peak performance without issues, Apple says iOS 11.3 will tell you so.

Then, it’s just a matter of opting for Apple’s $29 replacement battery sometime before the end of the year. (That’s how long Apple has said the $29 price will last.

2.Business Chat

Similar to the recently launched WhatsApp for Business app, Apple is introducing ‘Business Chat’ via iOS 11.3. Through this feature, users will be able to chat with businesses on iMessages.

Why call a big company or navigate their website when you can just ping them in your messenger app? Facebook Messenger already offers such a feature, and iOS 11.3 will bring Business Chat to iMessage on your iPhone and iPad, too. Here’s Apple’s pitch:

“With Business Chat, it’s easy to have a conversation with a service representative, schedule an appointment or make purchases using Apple Pay in the Messages app. Business Chat doesn’t share the user’s contact information with businesses and gives users the ability to stop chatting at any time.”

Originally announced last June at WWDC and slated to arrive as part of iOS 11, it looks like the feature still won’t be finalized when it launches this spring — it’ll be a beta for “select businesses including Discover, Hilton, Lowe’s and Wells Fargo.”

3. More Animoji

Got an iPhone X? Then you’re probably familiar with Animoji, the floating animated avatars you control with your face so you can send animal-ified emotions to your friends and family via iMessage. (They use the Face ID motion sensing camera array built into the front of the iPhone X.)

iOS 11 came with 12 different Animoji, and iOS 11.3 brings four new creatures into the pen — a lion, bear, dragon, and skull.

4.ARKit

Apple had introduced the ARKit platform to bring OS-level support for Augmented Reality applications and services. The platform had debuted with iOS 11. The latest update will allow ARKit to recogise objects like tables and chairs placed on vertical surfaces, and also detect irregularly shaped objects.

ARKit will also be optimised to use 2D images like signs, posters, and artwork, and integrate them into the real world for more exciting AR experiences. Apple also claims that ARKit’s camera has 50% better resolution and auto-focus.

5. AirPlay 2

It’s not mentioned in Apple’s press release, but savvy developers discovered it anyhow: iOS 11.3 will bring AirPlay 2, which allows Apple to take on Sonos with multiroom audio playback (e.g., you decide which song plays on each of multiple speakers distributed throughout your home). It’s a feature that was announced last June at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) for iOS 11, but apparently wasn’t ready until now.

Of course, it’d probably help if there were more AirPlay 2 speakers to support the feature. The $349, £319 or AU$499 Apple HomePod, shipping this February after an initial delay, won’t support it at launch — and it’s not clear if iOS 11.3 is what the HomePod is waiting for. Apple didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment.

In the meanwhile, it sounds like you’ll be able to cast audio to multiple Apple TVs around your home. That’s something.

6. Read and delete iMessages anywhere

It’s one thing to get notifications on your iPhone, iPad and Mac when you get a new message. It’s something else entirely to be able to delete a message on your Apple laptop and have that deletion reflected on your phone and tablet, too.

Messages on iCloud was supposed to bring that to iOS 11, but the feature didn’t make the cut — until now, apparently, seeing how developers just discovered it exists in the iOS 11.3 beta. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll arrive this spring with the full release of iOS 11.3 either, but perhaps?

7. Your health, delivered

Also in beta, Apple’s new Health Records feature hopes to provide something patients (aka humans) have wanted since the advent of the medical record — a way to easily access all of your medical records, no matter which doctor, clinic or hospital you pick, in one single (and encrypted) place.

Of course, that only works as long as all of your care providers are on board, and so far only these places are part of the beta:

  • Johns Hopkins Medicine – Baltimore, Maryland
  • Cedars-Sinai – Los Angeles, California
  • Penn Medicine – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Geisinger Health System – Danville, Pennsylvania
  • UC San Diego Health – San Diego, California
  • UNC Health Care – Chapel Hill, North Carolina
  • Rush University Medical Center – Chicago, Illinois
  • Dignity Health – Arizona, California and Nevada
  • Ochsner Health System – Jefferson Parish, Louisiana
  • MedStar Health –  Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia
  • OhioHealth – Columbus, Ohio
  • Cerner Healthe Clinic – Kansas City, Missouri

“In the coming months, more medical facilities will connect to Health Records offering their patients access to this feature,” writes Apple.

Everything else

Here’s a short list of everything else interesting that Apple has announced (or curious developers have found) so far:

  • Apple says Apple Music will soon let users “stream all the music videos they want without being interrupted by ads” and offer music video playlists.
  • Apple says Apple News will offer an “improved Top Stories” section and a new video section with “the most important videos of the day”.
  • Apple says iOS 11.3 will support Advanced Mobile Location to automatically send a user’s location to emergency services when they make a 911 (or similar) call.
  • Apple says it’ll let developers make HomeKit accessories with software authentiation (which is cheaper than a hardware authentication chip, so maybe we’ll see more HomeKit adoption).
  • The iBooks app is now just called Books, according to developers who’ve tried the iOS 11.3 beta.

Additional features

Developers will now be able to add HomeKit support to existing accessories with iOS 11.3 update. Countries where Advanced Mobile Location (AML) is available, iOS 11.3 will send the user’s location while making calls to emergency services.

 

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