iOS 9.3 features Night Shift, lockable Notes, new Quick Actions, and more; here's our review

Apple events are always observed with excitement – either fueled by anticipation for new hardware to be announced or by expectations of a major software release to be shown for the first time. Yesterday's Apple keynote was definitely focused on the former. We got to see the smaller but powerful iPhone SE and the... smaller but powerful 9.7-inch iPad pro, along with a bunch of new bands tailored for the Apple Watch

But there's something new on the software front as well, namely iOS 9.3. The platform's latest build is now being pushed out to iPhones and iPads after being in beta for over a couple of months. In fact, we are already enjoying it on our iPhones here at the office. Here's what you should be most excited about, knowing that iOS 9.3 has been released.

Night Shift

No other iOS 9.3 feature has drawn as much attention as Night Shift. We assume that's because of its potentially great practical value, but also due to the highly intriguing way it works. For those not familiar, research has shown that the blueish light emitted by modern gadgets' displays may delay the user's sleep. People who have the habit of fiddling with their phone, tablet or laptop before bedtime have likely experienced this. Night Shift comes into play by reducing the amount of blue light emitted by the iPhone or iPad's screen. As a result, the user may have a better time falling asleep at night. 

Now, some of you may be skeptical about this whole blue light filtering thing. It seems a bit too crazy to work, we know. Nevertheless, we strongly encourage you to give Night Shift a try if you have troubles falling asleep. You see, the feature works just like f.lux –  a piece of software that has been available on Mac, PC, and Linux for years. Having used it for a long time, some of us here at PhoneArena can confirm that it truly makes a difference. Your experience may vary, of course. On a related note, it will be interesting to hear the feedback of a broader user group after using Night Shift for a while.

Night Shift comes with its downsides, however. The obvious one is that it throws color accuracy totally out of balance, and some might simply not like the way it looks. On the other hand, there's a convenient toggle switch in the Control Center that flips Night Shift on or off – something iOS 9.3 didn't have while in beta. And you're free to regulate how much blue light gets filtered, which is neat.

New 3D Touch quick actions in stock apps

3D Touch is now a bit more useful with iOS 9.3. Quick actions to several of the system's stock applications have been added, including the very practical shortcuts to the battery, Wi-Fi, or Bluetooth settings, all accessible from the Settings icon. (The wallpaper settings shortcut available in iOS 9.3 beta has been removed for some reason.) Also, hard-pressing on the Weather app shows the top three locations in your list of cities. Overall, the added shortcuts aren't all that many, but we do appreciate everything that's new.

Notes can be protected with a password or fingerprint

It is one of the most used iOS apps, so it makes total sense for Apple to improve it. There are several new – and very useful, we must add – features in Notes added by the iOS 9.3 update. You can now sort notes alphabetically, by date added, or by date edited. You can easily make lists with the new checklist button at the bottom. And when sketching, a two-finger swipe to the left brings out another canvas. But the option to protect notes from prying eyes is the biggest feature that's been implemented. Yes, it is there, even though you might have not noticed it – the lock button is placed in the Share Sheet.

Overall, securing notes is a handy feature, especially when both a password and a fingerprint can be used for the purpose. But there's room for improvement. Firstly, it is strange that a protected note can still be deleted. Another peculiarity we must point out is that the first few words in the note remain visible even after the password is applied. This, we assume, is to give some indication as to which locked note we're about to open. Having multiple password-protected notes would be a confusing sight if they're all completely hidden. 

As we mentioned above, a fingerprint can be used instead of a password for locking notes, although this option isn't as obvious as it should be. It is enabled by going to Settings > Notes and flipping the "Use touch ID" switch. Note that you must have a password on every locked note even if you choose to use a fingerprint instead of it. 

A better News experience

The News app in iOS is a great tool for keeping track of the latest headlines. It has grown even more useful now in iOS 9.3 – the latest update to the app makes it better at picking articles you may find interesting. These are listed in the Top Stories section at the very top. Unsurprisingly, our feed is full of gadget-related stories. And if you're not sure what stories to read or what sources to follow, the Editor's Picks section will come in handy. 

We've also notices a few minor, but welcome changes to the News experience. For instance, swiping left on a story in our feed lets us quickly share it. Swiping to the right allows us to dislike it or to mute its source entirely. Videos can be played right in the news feed, without us having to open the whole story. And we can now read news in landscape orientation on our iPhone, although not all medias take full advantage of this.

Mind you, Apple's News app is still not the ultimate news app. You still can't add news feeds that Apple hasn't approved, there's still the occasional formatting glitch here and there, and text size adjustment is not available in every article. Not to mention that the service is only available in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. But for anyone who just wants to stay informed on the latest news or the hottest trends, News should get the job done.


These are just some of the changes that iOS 9.3 brings to iPhones and iPads. The whole list of improvements in the new software release is much longer – too long for us to focus on each and every tweak. Still, there's a number of things we should mention, at least briefly: that iPads used in education may get to try the new multi-user support, for instance, or that AT&T customers will get to enjoy Wi-Fi calling. Or that third-party apps will be allowed to use Health data. Or that iBooks are now integrated with iCloud. Or that Siri now supports Finnish, Hebrew, and Malay. Or that the multitasking menu is faster. Or that a whole bunch of glitches and vulnerabilities have been fixed.

In a nutshell, iOS 9.3 is not a ground-breaking release, but we never expected it to be. It's an incremental update, after all. It is focused on squashing bugs and adding small, meaningful changes that make life easier. Night Shift is a great example of this. Should you be thrilled about its release? Not really. Better save your excitement for whatever Apple has in store for WWDC this summer. Until then, enjoy your smoother iOS experience.



1. submar

Posts: 713; Member since: Sep 19, 2014

Enjoy your smoother iOS experience on 4S.

4. zeeBomb

Posts: 2318; Member since: Aug 14, 2014

idk how people still have a 4S in today's world

14. joevsyou

Posts: 1091; Member since: Feb 28, 2015

co worker at my job has one, got a 6 last year and he still carries the 4s around to play his games with his cracked screen. I ask him why not just play the games on the his new phone. He said he doesn't want to put any apps on it and it's strictly for calls and text only LOL

29. Forerunner7

Posts: 35; Member since: Dec 11, 2013

A lot more than you think, you'd be surprise that most people using iPhone arent exactly "rich". And true to their tagline back then, if it aint broke dont replace it, lol.

47. flavius22

Posts: 218; Member since: Aug 23, 2015

Iphone is not for rich people, but exactly for those ones that wanna look like they are

35. Wiencon

Posts: 2278; Member since: Aug 06, 2014

I have, still running best version of iOS ever, iOS6

38. gaming64

Posts: 234; Member since: Mar 22, 2016

You're joking right? My iPod 4th Gen became useless as hell after updating to iOS 6.

48. EcoCare

Posts: 444; Member since: Jul 30, 2014

iPhone 4s has newer chips compared to iPod touch 4th gen, so that's why.

10. Dr.Phil

Posts: 2360; Member since: Feb 14, 2011

You have to admit, whether you are a fan of Apple or not, that it is pretty awesome they still offer major iOS updates to devices as old as the 4S. The device is now 5 years old. Google doesn't even offer major updates on their Nexus devices past 2 years.

17. FrenchGuy

Posts: 134; Member since: Dec 12, 2014

The nexus 4 had 3 years of support. After that period of time, a major is just to make the device run slower and make you buy another device

24. oozz009

Posts: 520; Member since: Jun 22, 2015

Maybe but that was an exception, it usually goes up to 2 and a half and no more.

46. nithyakr

Posts: 161; Member since: Jun 20, 2014

My iPhone 6 Runs smoother after the 9.3. Something I clearly noticed. And finally they got out of the spotlight search framedrop. Now my iPhone 6 feels like it's on Steroids. Really Good stuff from Apple!!

2. Adreno

Posts: 755; Member since: Mar 12, 2016

Has Apple finally fixed that iOS lag?

15. cnour

Posts: 2305; Member since: Sep 11, 2014

iOS lag? You are in the wrong place.

18. bucky

Posts: 3784; Member since: Sep 30, 2009

lol the android and snapdragon user that speaks of lag...heard it all now.

19. Macready

Posts: 1821; Member since: Dec 08, 2014

You must have never seen WatchOS run on the Apple Watch. It's worse than the oldest Android versions I have touched.

20. chenski

Posts: 768; Member since: Mar 22, 2015

What about the exynos users =p

22. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

Really? All the YouTube video say you're lying. WEBLINKS - VIDEOS - Look at the scroll lag - Even my Note 5 scroll 100 times faster with 1 swipe. Dude. You dont have to lie when we have YouTube. Its just no point in lying.

28. Adreno

Posts: 755; Member since: Mar 12, 2016

That's how Apple fans are. They can't admit a fact which exposes a flaw in iOS. But they are quick to bash Android of lag, as if iOS doesn't too. smh

37. Mxyzptlk unregistered

Pot smell that kettle brewing.

36. Mxyzptlk unregistered

Should I post youtube links of lag in the Note 5 and other Samsung devices that are "supposed" to be buttery smooth?

51. S-R-K

Posts: 304; Member since: Mar 15, 2016

I think what’s most bothersome in all this is that iOS 9 is said to improve performance on all devices by Apple, and in even in the iOS 9 update info before you update it says this. Wasn’t the use of Metal supposed to provide a boost like Apple said? My 64 GB iPhone 6 Plus in some small areas is a little more polished in IOS 9 (for example clearing out notification seems smoother/more cleanly animated), and Safari scrolling and wifi is good, but in more noticeable areas there’s a tad more lag and drop in frame rates in numerous areas whereas the iPhone 6 hasn’t suffered as much. The iPhone 6 Plus still has some significant choppiness when you open up many of the stock apps, then touch in place to bring up the keyboard, then rotate the iPhone into landscape orientation and watch how choppy it can be. I’m hoping for more polish and optimization in 9.3.

30. Forerunner7

Posts: 35; Member since: Dec 11, 2013

Try use the iOS 9 on an iPhone 4S and you'll see what he mean :3

50. S-R-K

Posts: 304; Member since: Mar 15, 2016

New software on a old device? common that’s the users fault for installing. users are offered an update they’re not forced to update. it’s all about making money…how’s this now being realized? it’s been happening ever since iOS 7 came out. I’ve never updated an iOS device over its A# processor, neither should you.

3. Joulukas

Posts: 115; Member since: Jun 05, 2013

Am I wrong, but the "nightdhift" is something I have seen before as color temerature settings. The fact that surrounding light is automativally considered is just added feature to this, nothing ground breaking.

6. Adreno

Posts: 755; Member since: Mar 12, 2016

You're right, it's nothing groundbreaking. An app in the Apple app store called f.lux did same thing, but Apple has kicked it out of their App Store, because they were going to include similar blue colour filter in the iOS 9.3 and they've called it Night Shift.

16. cnour

Posts: 2305; Member since: Sep 11, 2014

What is your f**king point? Apple gave it to me now native and for free. So where is the mistake in doing this?

40. gaming64

Posts: 234; Member since: Mar 22, 2016

f.lux is also free via jailbreak. He's right. It's nothing new and the worst part is it only supports 5s and above. F.lux has been around for seven years(I researched) and it's nothing groundbreaking.

43. S-R-K

Posts: 304; Member since: Mar 15, 2016

What happened to your old account? You've just made a new account.

44. gaming64

Posts: 234; Member since: Mar 22, 2016

I closed that account months ago.

Latest Stories

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers at or use the Reprints & Permissions tool that appears at the bottom of each web page. Visit for samples and additional information.