iOS 9.3 preview: Night Shift, more 3D Touch actions, secure notes coming to the iPhone and iPad

Not all software updates are created equal. Some just iron out glitches under a system's hood, improving its overall reliability. They're beneficial, but far from exciting. Other updates, however, go a step further by introducing new features and expanding existing ones. Undeniably, the upcoming iOS 9.3 belongs to the latter category, which makes it a piece of software worth being thrilled about. In fact, it does deserve its own preview.  

For the record, we've been test-driving the iOS 9.3 beta version on an iPhone 6s, not the finalized update. But even in this non-final form, the software has given us a clear idea as to how its new features have been implemented. Join us in the paragraphs below as we go over the most significant changes in the latest iOS release.

Night Shift

What if we told you that tweaking a screen's color output may help you get a better night's sleep? Just bear with us for a moment if you're skeptical about this. You see, most modern laptops, tablets, and smartphones emit light that is slightly blueish in tone. This is most noticeable when looking at content where white is predominant – when browsing a web page, for example. Research shows that this blueish hue may delay one's sleep, and that's not a good thing.

One way of tackling this problem is shifting the display's color output towards a warmer tone. This has been the concept behind f.lux – an application that has been available on PC, Mac, and Linux for years. On a related note, f.lux for iOS was recently killed by Apple, and although it can be installed using unofficial methods, doing so requires a jailbroken device. 

Apple's alternative solution comes in the form of an iOS 9.3 feature – Night Shift, which we covered in detail already. Accessible from the Display settings menu, it automatically adjusts the color temperature of the device's screen, taking into account the user's location and the time of the day. In addition, we're given a slider to manually adjust how much blue light gets filtered, as well as the option to modify Night Shift's schedule. 

So, does Night Shift actually work? Having used the aforementioned f.lux for a long time, some of us here at PhoneArena can confirm that the color shift does make a difference to how easily we fall asleep after staring at a screen until late in the evening. Your experience may vary, however, and it will be interesting to hear the feedback of a broader user group once the iOS 9.3 update is out.

But while Night Shift could have its benefits, it does bring along a serious drawback. Obviously, having it enabled throws the iOS device's colors out of balance. Things shown on screen just don't look as nice as they normally would. Because of this, it would have been nice if we had an easier way of disabling Night Shift when we do want to enjoy content in its original color – a switch in Control Center, for example, or a shortcut on the Settings icon accessible via 3D Touch. And speaking of 3D Touch...

New 3D Touch quick actions in stock apps

The iOS 9.3 release makes 3D Touch more useful by adding quick actions to several of the system's stock applications. For example, pressing on the Weather icon lists the top three locations in your list of cities, the App Store icon presents you with easy access to your purchased items, as well as a button to update all apps, and the iTunes Store has a neat shortcut to your recently downloaded content. But the shortcuts accessed via the Settings icon seem to hold the most practical benefit. You may instantly jump to the battery, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or wallpaper settings of your device. Overall, the list of newly added shortcuts isn't all that long, but we do appreciate everything that has been added, and we have a feeling that more useful functions will be added in future updates. 

Secure your notes with a password or fingerprint

In iOS 9.3, the Notes application allows us to protect each note with a password, just in case we wish to hide it from prying eyes. The option is accessible from the Share Sheet, in case you can't find it. 

But while the password feature seems pretty neat, it leaves room for improvement. For instance, the first few words in the note remain visible even after the password is applied. Seems odd, but that, we assume, is to give some indication as to what note we're looking at. Having multiple password-protected and completely hidden notes would have been a confusing sight. The remainder of the note's contents can't be seen without authorization, but a password does not protect a note against being deleted, and that is something that should be added, in our opinion.

We must make it clear that a fingerprint can be used instead of a password, although this may not be obvious at first. Alas, there doesn't seem to be a way to skip the latter entirely. Yet who knows, things might change by the time iOS 9.3 is released to the masses. 

A better News experience

The News app in iOS isn't new. It made its debut with the launch of iOS 9.0, albeit in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia only. If your iPhone or iPad is configured to work in a different market, Apple's News app won't be listed on your device at all. But if you do have it, you'll be enjoying a smoother experience, as the latest stories now load more quickly. Also, videos are played right in the news feed, and the new landscape mode lets you read more comfortably on your iPhone. No less importantly, the app should be better at picking stories according to your interests.

iOS 9.3 release date and expectations

While these were the most significant changes coming with iOS 9.3, the list of improvements goes on and on. The new software will also bring multi-user support to iPads used in education, an improved Health app, a better CarPlay experience, integration of iBooks with iCloud, Siri support for Finnish, Hebrew, and Malay, a faster multitasking menu, the option to pair multiple Apple Watches with a single iOS device, and much more. But the public release of iOS 9.3 is still several weeks away, or at least that's what we can assume looking at the release times for the last few iOS betas and final updates. We won't be surprised if Apple needs another month to ensure that iOS 9.3 is ready for prime time. 

Should you install the iOS 9.3 beta while you wait? On one hand, there isn't anything of exceptional interest coming with the new software release. Yes, many of the new features are cool, but none of them is ground-breaking. Save for the new Night Shift mode, perhaps. But on the other hand, iOS 9.3 should soon become available for public beta testing. Once that's a fact, feel free to satisfy your inner geek by giving it a try. As for the current release, available to developers only, it isn't perfectly stable, so you might not want to bother with flashing that in case you somehow get a hold of it. (Update: The public beta of iOS 9.3 is now available.)



1. der_damo

Posts: 213; Member since: Sep 16, 2014

As long as Apple implements every Jailbreak-tweak one by one, I'm perfectly fine without a Jailbreak - now bring Zephyr amk.

2. Deca-core

Posts: 75; Member since: Nov 20, 2015

that's the problem with iUsers..they just keep on waiting for apple to add features which have been on android for years.

3. Jimrod

Posts: 1605; Member since: Sep 22, 2014

That's the problem with non-iUsers, they seem to think iUsers are jealous about something, desperate for every gimmick and cry themselves to sleep that Samsung has a widget or something. Was anyone waiting desperately for "Nightshift"? I doubt it. Will they complain about having a feature they didn't before, no.

9. MrElectrifyer

Posts: 3960; Member since: Oct 21, 2014

That's the problem with non-Android users, they tend to call every Android feature a gimmick/useless, contouring to what apple thinks is good for them like a bunch of sheeps. Then when the same thing comes to their iDevice a few years later, perhaps with a different name, they're proud of it and find it "cool"/"amazing"/"useful" and begin crediting apple as "doing it right"/"the inventor"/"innovative" like a bunch of hypocrites...

12. AlikMalix unregistered

Mr electrifryer, would you say it's fair if we put it this way: First there are ideas which more frequently android manufacturers add to their Devices or UI than Apple. There are also countless jailbrake and root developers that also contribute to the features and functions that Google and Apple add to their respective platform throughout time. Apple as of late adds features that are found on android and jailbreak community already. Android also adds features already found on iOS and root community. Google and android manufacturers put their spin on new features and Apple puts their spin on same features. Most often apples features get the public attention even though they're not the first. Short version: android gets features and ideas from outside, then little later Apple adds some of these to their iOS. People like apples version of these ideas/features. Is that a fair assessment?

14. MrElectrifyer

Posts: 3960; Member since: Oct 21, 2014

All of the above is fair besides the last sentence. More like Apple advertises their version of these ideas/features much better that the others, making more users aware of it's uses, thus more liking it, some even going as far as calling it Apple's idea.

16. AlikMalix unregistered

Sure, that's also true... would you go as far as agreeing that Apple does do some features better than others? if so which features do you like better on iOS than on Android (even if that feature was inspired by Android version)? I'm not trying to trick you or anything... just want to find a common ground with you... (it's gonna be my new thing) Screw fanboysm..

22. MrElectrifyer

Posts: 3960; Member since: Oct 21, 2014

There are certain features I miss from my iPhone, including the clipboard management; shake to undo typing/deleting/paste/cut. I still haven't seen an equivalent of it on Android. But I'm managing with an app that provides clipboard history and also text-to-speech support (Mime-O). There's also the visual voicemail integrated into the dialer app. Google is just making that available as of Android 6.0 in their phone app. I've just been getting a basic alternative via MMS, not as convenient nor cool as having it integrated into the dialer app with a clean/neat UI, but it does the basic job. Other than that, everything else had a better (read more feature-packed or more convenient) alternative for me on my OnePlus One...especially as I can set more advanced apps as the default for various situations.

24. AlikMalix unregistered

I wish apple allowed me to move photos in the photo app into folders instead of making a shortcut copy when you move it to a folder and keep all in the camera roll folder. I wish apple would make a phone with an s-pen equivalent For a long time I was jealous of the "ok google" in MotoX, but apple first gave us while it's charging only (unless initiated already), and only later gave us "hey siri" at all times. I want apple to add Low Power Mode to Control Center and remove AirPlane mode (or allow me to add and remove these things at will) I wish apple went a step further with new notes and let us draw on text and photos (not just on a blank area) I have to use another app for that... I wish apple releases Facetime and iMessage to Android (like google does with their services) - I need to video chat with all android customers, and it's too cumbersome to "envite" with alternatives... I honestly dont care for split screen on the iphone, and multitasking is really well designed on iOS.. I never cared for widgets (the most popular android features as far as i'm concerned) and have not installed one to date: the only one I'd like to have is my Bank to always display my bank account amounts widget, but it's pretty quick to access my Bank info now with Fingerprint instead of typing in password... never cared for custom keyboards either... There are a few more android features I like - but I cant think of them now... Oh... and Google is more generous with their cloud than apple -- Apple needs to step it up...

15. submar

Posts: 713; Member since: Sep 19, 2014

Apple borrow many thing Maps custom keyboard nightshift live photo split view news wallet picture in picture low power mode and many more

17. AlikMalix unregistered

Can you make a list like that for features Android borrowed from Apple?

23. submar

Posts: 713; Member since: Sep 19, 2014

it is up to oem generally

4. cnour

Posts: 2305; Member since: Sep 11, 2014

which has been with lags on android for years.

11. AlikMalix unregistered

If I was an android users: i'd have to wait about a year to even be an android user. I'd have to wait another year to have an App Store. I'd have to wait at least about 3 years years or more to use a stable, lag free phone. If I was android user, I'd have to wait for another company to implant a feature so that my android pay is accepted in more places than McDonald's and Walgreens, I'd have to wait for updates all my life, I'd have to deal with bloatware. If I was an android user I'd had to wait for my device to support imbedded FP sensors, forcetouch, and so on. And if I was an android users I'd still be waiting for app permissions, 64bit ecosystem, more ram and cores to deal with useless high resolution that I never asked for, I'd still be waiting for Google stores everywhere that I can bring my device and ask a real person who speaks English with any questions. If I was an android user - i'd be canvassing tech sites forced to spread my propaganda why my higher specs are better because I got no real world proof that they matter and that antutu scores are now considered unreliable.

19. Slowpoke

Posts: 23; Member since: Sep 30, 2015

You are absolutely correct, Apple should quit copying Android for a multitude of good reasons. For one, iUsers barely know how to use a phone let alone enable a nite time dimmer. They will forget how they turned it on and then exchange their phone at a genius bar because the screen now logs awful in the daytime. Apple should immediately stop adding new features to keep things simple. Android is there for those who know how to do more than say; "Hey Siri, what is zero divided by zero".

20. AlikMalix unregistered

I gave you a thumbs up, slowpoke... I see you're working extra hard today to earn those...

25. Slowpoke

Posts: 23; Member since: Sep 30, 2015

Thank you

5. Wiencon

Posts: 2278; Member since: Aug 06, 2014

Also it seems to finally let users hide app icons: So far it seems like dev only thing but it would be strange to put this code without letting users take advantage of it. Maybe in another beta. Yes fandroids, you can laugh now

7. vincelongman

Posts: 5748; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

No need for my Apple folder any more! Now please allow me to uninstall their bloatware And add an app drawer so I can have a decent home screen without needing to jailbreak

13. AlikMalix unregistered

Apple has no third party preinstalled apps or software. Only their own - half of which can be removed in the restrictions menu - albeit not all that I would like to be removed. But, without bias, how's app drawer different from creating a folder for apps on iOS?

30. LetThereBeLight

Posts: 116; Member since: Nov 20, 2014

@AlikMalix About app drawer or app folder. You cannot set to go to app folder by one touch I mean like home button. I really like desktop on android and I was really hated there was no such thing on ios. Anyway the widgets are very useful. You can set also one touch toggles like wifi on/off alarm on/off and quite many many more... I tried to like ios but those limitations killed the "smart" experience for me, like cannot use fully functional third party dialer with t9 search or the itunes sync or no back button means there are always a back or ok or cancel somewhere different position usually on the top to be hard to reach etc... so much weird stuff... One question without bias. how 3d touch is different from long press? I guess there could be more level of menu by pressure level and of course some game could use it but can anyone tell me is it really something?

6. oozz009

Posts: 520; Member since: Jun 22, 2015

That's all pretty sweet but there is something that Apple could had done better with iOS 9.3, and that's security! They just added fingerprint (or passcode) use for the notes app (which is really cool) but they din't do that for the photo app!!! What's that about?? The photo app needs that feauture just as much, especially when their "hide" photos feauture does not even hide the photos at all, it simply puts them in a folder that's called "hide" and where everyone can access without struggling.... iOS 9.3 is still in beta so I hope Apple wakes up and fixes this before the final version.

21. AlikMalix unregistered

100% agree... I use a 3rd party app to secure some photos, but the native photos app with Fingerprint security option would be awesome..

28. oozz009

Posts: 520; Member since: Jun 22, 2015

Same here, I'm also using a third party app since I have no other choice. But thing is, I should not have to do that, Apple can easily do the same thing that their doing now with notes and add the same feauture to the fotos app. However, I have a feeling that they will purposely make us all wait till iOS 10 before they make that happen. At least it's going to be on 2016:D

8. vincelongman

Posts: 5748; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

Secure notes is awesome Google needs to add that to Keep

18. AlikMalix unregistered

Apple needs to add it to photos just as well... I use an app to secure some photos - but it'll be nice to have that for the native photos directory...

10. darkkjedii

Posts: 31597; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

This looks to be a nice update. I watched a video by "everything Apple pro", and it's nice. I look forward to trying it out.

29. oozz009

Posts: 520; Member since: Jun 22, 2015

WOW!!! Phone Arena is filled with spams! I just found two more!

31. oozz009

Posts: 520; Member since: Jun 22, 2015

Hmmm... it appears the spam was removed. Good job PA!

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