After previewing iOS 11.3 and talking about a couple of headlining features, Apple has released the first developer beta of iOS 11.3. This third and final major point release of iOS 11 brings a lot of new and interesting features. First of all, iMessages in iCloud, the iMessage cloud syncing feature we were promised at WWDC 2017 will finally make it to our iPhone screens this spring. There are also new Animoji, better ARKit features and yes, Apple’s promised battery management feature is coming soon as well.
All the iOS 11.3 Features And Improvements
Messages on iCloud
Let’s start with the one we’ve all been waiting for since June 2017. For heavy iMessage users, this feature promised to get rid of 4-8 GB of conversations without actually having to delete anything. Once this feature actually arrives, it will also reduce the frustration of manually moving iMessage conversations every time you get a new phone.
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.
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.
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.
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.
New Battery Section
While it’s not available right now, Apple will add the promised power management toggle in a later beta of iOS 11.3. After the Batterygate backlash, Apple promised to add a switch that lets users disable the CPU throttling if their battery health is below a threshold.
This new update will add information about the battery health to the Battery section in Settings for iPhone 6 and above.
When iOS 11.3 sees its public release in spring, Apple will enable the Business Chat feature. This 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).
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.
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.
Oh the action menu when you tap a song name in Music for iOS 11.3 is so much better (and similar to Spotify) pic.twitter.com/6iKa3wsRAT
— Federico Viticci (@viticci) January 25, 2018
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
In iOS 11.3, iBooks is now just Books. pic.twitter.com/2s6734FovE
— Ryan Christoffel (@iryantldr) January 24, 2018
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).
App Store Finally Shows 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
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
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.
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.
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.
AirPlay 2 Multi-Room Support Is Here
AirPlay 2’s multi-room playback feature will finally be enabled in iOS 11.3. Using this feature you’ll be able 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.
Face ID Now Works for Family Purchases
Face ID authentication will now work when approving purchased from users in your Family Sharing account.
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 Beta 1 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.
When Will iOS 11.3 Release?
iOS 11.3 release is supposed to be in Spring. Spring technically starts on March 20 so we should see the final iOS 11.3 release by late March. This means iOS 11.3 will spend over a month in beta.
Are you going to run the iOS 11.3 beta? Are you excited about this release? Share with us in the comments below.