Apple has just released iOS 10.3, which will most likely be the last major point release in iOS 10. On the face of it, 10.3 might not seem like a significant update. But there are a lot of little things that add up to a much better user experience. Overall, your iPhone and iPad will be faster after the update, you’ll find some small UI changes, and some features that have been long overdue. Let’s dive in.
1. APFS Makes iOS Snappier, Gives Storage Back
One of the biggest features of iOS 10.3 that’s not at all user-facing is the new file system. Apple has switched to its own file system – Apple File System or APFS and it’s a doozy.
Basically, Apple’s own file system is much better at taking care of storage and performance. Users who have ben running the beta for the past couple of weeks have reported that they got a considerable amount of storage space back – sometimes as much as 5 GB.
Improved software is the best hardware upgrade: soon APFS in iOS 10.3 will free up exabytes of storage pic.twitter.com/UN7BsBnDXQ
— Nikhil Jhingan (@nikj) March 2, 2017
APFS also helps with the performance, especially on older devices like the iPhone 5s. After updating to iOS 10.3, the iPhone will feel snappier and smoother. If you think the iPhone performance has been degrading in the past few releases, this update might just fix those issues for you.
The transition to APFS is seamless. You won’t lose any data.
2. Find my AirPods
AirPods are notoriously easy to lose, even in the house. The new Find my AirPods feature will help when inevitably, that does happen.
When you open the Find my iPhone app, you’ll see a new tab for AirPods. When you tap the button, it will play a high pitched sound on the AirPods which will keep increasing in frequency. This only works if your AirPods are connected to your iPhone via Bluetooth.
If that’s not the case, you’ll be able to see the last location that AirPods were connected to your iPhone.
3. Siri Learns That Cricket Is a Sport Played in Many Countries across the Globe
Cricket is a sport that’s loved and played in many countries across the globe (it’s the unofficial official sport of India). So it’s about time Siri learned to tell scores for Cricket matches. You can now just ask Siri “What’s the score for the last cricket match?” and she’ll tell you. Siri can pull in scores for the champions and world cup series.
Other than that Siri can now schedule Uber trips hours in advance and can help you pay bills.
4. Improvements to App Store Views
Years after Google Play Store, developers can finally leave replies to App Store reviews. This should help developers follow up on negative ratings or help users understand features of the app. The developer replies will be visible to everyone.
You’ll also be able to 3D Touch a review to rate if it was helpful or not.
Best of all, though, there’s a new option in the iTunes and App Store section that lets you disable in-app purchases and ratings popups within apps.
5. Developers Can Change App Icons
iOS 10.3 comes with dynamic app changing feature. Developers will now be able to change app icons without an app update.
But of course, Apple has put limitations to the feature to make sure it’s not abused. The app icon can only change after the user gives the permission. So don’t expect your favorite calendar app to automatically change its icon to denote the date like the built-in Calendar app can.
6. Little UI Changes
There’s a new animation when closing apps in iOS 10.3 that not everyone will notice. Wen closing the app. you now get this rounded corner at the edges. It’s actually quite nice as the animation aligns well with the rounded corners of the app icons.
When entering a passcode, you’ll now see circles as an empty state instead of dashes.
Some of the buttons have also been changed in the Mail app. You’ll see up/down arrow for switching between emails. The icon for unread emails is also much clearer now.
7. Redesigned Settings Page and New Profile Section
When you open the Settings app, you’ll now see your own profile icon, and name at the top. Tapping here gives you access to all of your Apple ID, iCloud, iTunes and App Store details. Right below, you’ll see any important notifications relating to your Apple account (if any).
The iCloud page, for instance, has a new storage bar at the top making it easy to visually see the storage space that’s taken up.
Scroll down and you’ll see a list of all the devices connected to your iCloud account.
8. Maps App Changes
First of all, the 3D spinning globe view you’d get when you zoomed all the way out in the satellite view is gone. You’ll now get a flat earth view.
Also, when you search for a city or an area, you’ll see a little weather icon in the bottom-right with the current temperature. If you have an iPhone 6s or above, you’ll be able to 3D Touch it once to bring up an hourly forecast. 3D Touch once again and it opens that city’s detailed weather forecast in the Weather app.
9. CarPlay Changes
Switching apps in CarPlay just got easier. Instead of going all the way back to the Home screen, you’ll now see the three most recent apps in the left sidebar, all the time. And you’ll be able to switch to them with just one tap. This should make switching between your maps, media, and phone app a lot more seamless.
Also, CarPlay now lists electric charging stations for EVs. There’s also a new CarPlay section in the About page which gives you information about the exact software version you’re running.
10. Podcasts Widget
The Podcasts app has its own new widget now. It’s similar to the Music app widget where you’ll see artwork of the podcast (4 in compact mode, 8 in expanded mode) and tapping on an artwork will start the podcast playback. There’s no proper playback control or queue management on the widget.
You’ll be able to dim light switches directly from the shortcuts in the Control Center panel.
12. Apple Watch Gets Theater Mode
watchOS 3.2 which should release along with iOS 10.3 brings a new Theater Mode. No this isn’t the dark mode for iOS you’ve been waiting for.
Theater mode turns on silent mode and disables the Wake Screen on Wrist Raise feature and basically, the display doesn’t light up automatically when you’re moving around. You’ll still get notifications for which you’ll get haptic feedback but the screen won’t light up. Tap on the screen and you’ll be able to see the notification. This is a great feature for when you’re watching a movie, in a dark environment. I’m going to appreciate this feature when I’m driving or playing card games with my friends.
You can enable this feature by swiping up from the watch face to open Control Center.
13. Lots of Bug Fixes
As always, Apple has squashed a lot of pesky bugs in this update including bugs that lead to weird UI issues. The infamous bug where you could freeze someone’s phone just by texting a message string is gone as well.
Update 1 (March 28):
➤ iOS 10.3 Brings Wi-Fi Calling and VoLTE to a Multitude of Carriers
Update 2 (March 31)
iOS 10.3 fixes a security vulnerability that caused iPhones to repeatedly call 911.
Update 3 (April 3):
Update 4 (May 15):
Apple has released iOS 10.3.2, which includes some bug fixes and security improvements. There haven’t been any new user-facing features in iOS 10.3.2 that we have come across so far.
Should You Upgrade? Yes
I’ll admit, the prospect of a new file system on your daily driver does seem scary but Apple has done this well. The transition is smooth and you won’t even know about it. The file system conversion will take 10-15 minutes but that’s it. I’ve been running the betas and I haven’t faced any issues.
And the upsides are huge. Actual performance increase – something we haven’t seen in a couple of point updates. The new features are solid as well.
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