iOS 9.3 Features: All the New and Hidden Features

BY Osas Obaizamomwan

Published 21 Mar 2016

iOS 9.3 logo

Apple has just announced that it will be releasing iOS 9.3, the biggest dot update for iOS, later today. I have been on the beta for so long I almost forgot it hadn’t been released yet. So, for those of you that are interested in finding out what iOS 9.3 is all about, we are going to go over all the new and hidden features Apple’s latest iOS provides. 

All the new and hidden features in iOS 9.3

iOS 9.3, while not as huge as the iOS 9 update, still packs a solid load of new apps, settings, and updates to existing apps. We have gone over some of the items over the past few months, but here is another, detailed overview of everything new in iOS 9.3

#1. Night Shift (Automatic screen dimmer)

Night Shift is one of the most discussed items of the iOS 9.3 feature set. The option is embedded within the Settings app and provides a shift and screen temperature depending on you location and time of day at said location. Or as Apple puts it, “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.”


You can enable Night Shift in Settings and choose Schedule if you want the light emission to be based off the time of day.

Night Shift

Night Shift Toggle

If you want an even faster way to access Night Shift, you can do so from the Control Center. Just swipe up from the bottom and you’ll see the Night Shift icon in the bottom-center row.

Night Shift - CC Icon

Tapping on the icon will immediately place your device into Night Shift mode and dim you screen to your current settings. This is just an ON/OFF toggle, so for any adjustments you’ll still need to go to Settings -> Display & Brightness -> Night Shift. 

Update: Please note Night Shift is available only for 64-bit iOS devices, so it is not available on iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, iPod touch 5G, iPad mini, iPad 2, iPad 3 and iPad 4.

Read: How to Master Night Shift on Your iPhone and iPad

#2. Wi-Fi Assist Usage Data

Wi-Fi Assist is a great idea, but missing perfect implementation. While the goal is to help you maintain a connection even with a weak Wi-Fi signal, many owners complained about abnormally high cellular data bills because of the feature. In iOS 9.3 you can now see how much data Wi-Fi assist is actually using.

WIfi Assist usage

Instead of guessing how much data is being used for it, you can see how much and disable or enable accordingly.

Read: How to Find Mobile Data Used by Wi-Fi Assist on Your iPhone

#3. Password Protected Notes

There are some people who found the addition of password protected Notes to be stupid. But, I think the exact opposite. iOS 9 completely remodeled the Notes app and made it so much more powerful I use the app all the time for work. Sometimes I am just writing down a grocery lists, other times I am taking down notes from an important meeting and including documents and other potentially sensitive material. So, in iOS 9.3 you can now password and Touch-ID protect your Notes from prying eyes. Head over to Settings -> Notes -> Password Protection. Enter in a password and enable Touch ID.

Notes Password

Now, this doesn’t password protect the app itself, but only Notes that you individually lock. To do so, open a Note, tap the Share icon and tap Pass Protect Note. You’ll enter in the password you created, and the Note will be locked. Now, whenever that Note is accessed, it will require Touch ID.

Password Protect - Process

Read: How to Secure Your Notes with Touch ID on Your iPhone and iPad

#4. Revamped News App

I’ve been using the News app to follow all of my political news. While the app didn’t get any huge updates for iOS 9.3, it did improve an already good app. Apple has retooled the recommendation engine to suggest articles more tailored to your interests. You can also view video content from the news feed, without having to click on the article. So, that means more Bernie close-ups with less tapping.

News - CNN

News app also added new gestures for quick actions to Dislike, Mute, Like, Save and more by swiping either left or right.

News App - Gestures

#5. iCloud Sync for iBooks supports PDFs

Previously you could only sync iBooks to the cloud in the iBooks app. Obviously, since I literally don’t know a single person that has more than one iBook, the app wasn’t really doing much. Now, in iOS 9.3 you can sync a bunch of other items from your library, including PDFs.

iBooks - Sync

#6. New Quick Actions

New Quick Actions

Quick Actions for the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus were a handy addition to iOS 9. With the use of 3D Touch, iPhone 6s and 6s Plus owners gained access to a mini menu that provided shortcuts to common actions on a per app basis. For iOS 9.3, Apple added a few more stock apps like, Weather, Settings, Health and more. Hooray Quick Actions.

#7. Live Photos

Live Photos were all the rave after the Apple Event. The short “video” effect added to photos is a really cool concept that people seemed to really enjoy. For iOS 9.3, the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus have new option to duplicate a Live Photo and save it as a still image. This is helpful for people who want to share Live Photos without having to revert the Live Photo back to a regular photo. Instead you have one Live Photo and one regular. All you need to do, is find a Live Photo and open up the Share Sheet. There will be a new icon titled, Duplicate. Click on this and chose either to simply duplicate the Live Photo, or duplicate it as a still image instead.

Duplicate - Photos

Previously you needed to edit the photo to a still image from a Live Photo, but this is much more intuitive and easy to manage.

#8. More Intuitive Health App

In this latest update, iOS 9.3 makes an effort provide a built-in list of apps that will work with the Health app. Previously, there were many users confused on how to properly utilize the app. Now there are categories like, Sleep, Weight, and Workouts that each have a list of third-party apps that are compatible. It also works better with those of you that have an Apple Watch and simply improves the ease in which you can consume all your health-based information in one convenient place.

Health - Suggested Apps

And don’t forget about the Health App Quick Actions…

Health - Quick Actions

#9. CarPlay

CarPlay for iOS 9.3 add clean Apple Music integration that allows you to play personally recommended tracks and playlists based on your listening history aka the For You section for those that are users of Apple Music. Apple Maps in CarPlay now includes nearby location suggestions, making it much faster to find where you need to go with less time typing stuff in.

CarPlay - Voice

#10. Apple Education Apps

In a further step to flesh out its educational offerings, Apple has introduced in this update a new Classroom App which gives teachers a variety of ways to utilize iOS devices in school settings. A key feature is the ability to manage multiple Apple ID logins for iOS devices, allowing multiple students to utilize the same device with individualized profiles.

Each profile will have all their Books, Apps, and other content synced to their login. Teachers can use a Screen View feature to see the current screens of classroom devices, and can even open apps on all the devices on the same time. Administrator profiles can purchase apps and books for all devices and they will be placed on all devices automatically. Apple is surely seeking to be the go-to name in education technology, and this seems to be a big leap forward.

Other Additions

There are also a few other additions that you may notice when using iOS 9.3

#11. More Linguistic Siri

Siri now has support for Finnish, Hebrew, and Malay.

#12. Multiple Apple Watch Support

If you have iOS 9.3 and watchOS 2.2 your iPhone will be able to pair with more than one Apple Watch. Each Apple Watch and iPhone must have 2.2 and 9.3 respectively.

Apple Pay app support

While using Apple Pay, there’s now a small icon that will open the associated app linked to the card or pass.
Apple - App Link

Check out our video to get a better idea of all the new features and improvements in iOS 9.3:

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Here’s the complete list of new features and improvements from iOS 9.3 release notes:

Night Shift

  • When enabled, 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 and may even help you get a better night’s sleep.

Notes improvements

  • Protect notes that contain your most personal data with Touch ID or a passcode
  • Sort notes alphabetically, by date created, or by date edited
  • When sketching, quickly bring up a fresh canvas with a two finger swipe, or by tapping the New Sketch button
  • A new checklist button at the bottom of every note makes it easier to create lists
  • Show thumbnails instead of large images and attachments by long-pressing on any image or attachment in a note
  • Choose whether photos and videos taken within Notes are stored only in Notes, or also added to Photos
  • Long-press on an Evernote Export file to import its contents into Notes

News improvements

  • New Top Stories section in For You highlights the most important stories of the day
  • Discover something great to read in Editors’ Picks, a selection of channels and topics handpicked by our Apple News editors
  • Swipe left on stories in For You on iPhone to quickly share or save or swipe right for more options
  • Play video stories right from For You — without opening the article
  • Read stories and watch videos in landscape orientation on iPhone
  • Change the text size in articles to make reading easier

Health improvements

  • Related third-party apps for select data types such as weight, workouts and sleep are displayed in the Health app
  • Health dashboard adds support for move, exercise, and stand Activity data and goals from Apple Watch
  • Easy access to Dashboard and Medical ID using 3D Touch Quick Actions from the Home screen
  • Third-party apps now have access to Activity rings and summaries from Apple Watch through HealthKit

Apple Music improvements

  • Add songs from the Apple Music catalog to playlists without having to add them to your library
  • Watch music videos on iPad in full screen
  • See what’s playing on Beats 1 directly from the Radio tab — without having to tune in
  • Tap the name of the currently playing song in Now Playing to go to the album
  • See which songs are most popular on albums in the Apple Music catalog

Photos improvements

  • Extract the still image from a Live Photo by tapping Duplicate which will give you the option to duplicate the Live Photo, or just the still image
  • Improved download performance of full size original photos or videos stored in iCloud Photo Library
  • Share Live Photos between iOS and OS X through AirDrop and Messages

iBooks improvements

  • Adds the ability for iBooks to store your PDFs in iCloud, making them available across all of your devices
  • Adds support for downloading previously purchased audiobooks from the iBooks Store
  • Adds the ability to share your audiobook purchases with any of your family members using Family Sharing
  • New controls for reading Manga more comfortably with faster page turns and simple controls for enlarging text
  • Adds Apple Pencil support to highlight and save your favorite passages for later

Education improvements

  • Introduces a preview of Shared iPad that enables multiple students to use the same iPad at different times throughout the day
  • Adds support for signing into iCloud with Managed Apple IDs
  • Adds compatibility for the new Classroom app
  • New configuration options to control the organization of apps on the Home Screen
  • New controls to determine which apps to show or hide on the Home Screen
  • Adds support for new restrictions for iCloud Photo Library and Apple Music

CarPlay improvements

  • Apple Music members now have access to their For You and New content in CarPlay
  • New Nearby screen in Maps to quickly find Gas, Parking, Restaurants, Coffee, and other driving essentials
  • Siri speaks more concisely when reading back and composing messages in CarPlay
  • Equalized sound levels between different audio sources in CarPlay

Dolby Digital Plus

  • Adds support for playing video encoded with Dolby Digital Plus audio streams with support for multichannel output using the Apple Lightning Digital AV Adapter

Hardware keyboard improvements and fixes

  • Enables the use of arrow keys to navigate through lists in Spotlight, Mail and Safari
  • Enables the use of space bar to scroll in Mail
  • Improves performance when using the space bar to scroll in Safari
  • Adds the ability to bring up the software keyboard from the Shortcut Bar when a hardware keyboard is connected
  • Fixes an issue that could prevent unlocking an iPad using the hardware keyboard
  • Fixes an issue that caused hardware keyboards to become unresponsive in captive login pages
  • Fixes an issue that could cause the Messages input field to disappear behind the Shortcut Bar when connected to a hardware keyboard

Other improvements

  • Maps adds support for getting a highlighted view of destinations and stops for a specific transit line by tapping on it
  • Maps now displays whether there are multiple transit line options for each route suggestion
  • Wallet app adds the ability to view the app related to a card or pass in the Wallet app by tapping an icon on the card or pass
  • Apple Pay adds support for signing up for store rewards programs with Apple Pay at point of sale terminal
  • Podcasts adds support for fullscreen video playback
  • Activity app adds a new Workout tab with monthly summaries of key metrics and the ability to filter by workout type
  • Move to iOS now offers app suggestions from the App Store based on apps installed on your Android device
  • iCloud Storage adds proactive status information and in-app notifications to let you know before you run out of space
  • Two-factor authentication is now available for all iCloud accounts
  • Support for Spanish (Latin America) system language
  • Siri support for Finnish (Finland), Hebrew (Israel), and Malay (Malaysia)

Enterprise bug fixes

  • Resolves an issue that could prevent some VPP purchased apps from launching after being updated
  • Adds iCloud backup support for device-assigned VPP apps
  • Addresses an issue that could prevent certificates from installing correctly when updating configuration profiles
  • Fixes an issue for some IPSec VPN configurations that could cause the internet connection to be interrupted after a VPN session was ended
  • Fixes an issue to prevent iBooks from emailing enterprise managed PDFs from unmanaged accounts
  • Resolves an issue for some Exchange users that caused Calendar to send multiple responses to the same invitation
  • Improves reliability for devices connecting to OS X Caching Server

Accessibility bug fixes

  • Improves 3D Touch reliability with Switch Control Accessibility option
  • Fixes an issue where VoiceOver interferes with speech after dictation
  • Fixes an issue where VoiceOver users could not write a review on the App Store
  • Resolves an issue where VoiceOver becomes unresponsive when receiving a phone call with a Bluetooth headset
  • Fixes an issue where large text was unreadable in Reminders

Other bug fixes, performance and stability improvements

  • Fixes an issue where manually changing the date to May 1970 or earlier could prevent your iOS device from turning on after a restart
  • Fixes issues that could prevent some iCloud Backups from completing
  • Fixes an issue for some users where Health data was incomplete after restoring from iCloud Backup
  • Fixes an issue where an inaccurate battery percentage could be displayed
  • Addresses an issue that prevented iMessage or FaceTime activation for some users
  • Addresses an issue that could prevent displaying the Phone interface while receiving a call
  • Fixes an issue that enabled overriding restrictions applied to cellular data toggle
  • Fixes an issue that caused notification settings to appear in the Watch app for apps that were not installed on Apple Watch
  • Improves reliability when using 3D Touch on the keyboard
  • Improves stability of the Phone app when setting up voicemail
  • Improves stability of the Mail app when your device is low on storage
  • Improves stability in Mail while using Mail Drop to send large attachments

Let us know what you think of the new iOS 9.3 features in the comments section below.

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