The stress-free guide to using iOS 9.3’s new features

What the best features are and where to find them...

Apple, iOS, iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Notes

Apple shipped iOS 9.3 yesterday, and there are some interesting new features to explore – here’s what they are and where to find them.

What’s inside?

Key improvements in the latest iOS upgrade include:

  • Night Shift
  • App recommendations in Health
  • Password and Touch ID protected Notes
  • Better News recommendations
  • iCloud for Books gets PDF sync

There are also a range of education-focused features, CarPlay improvements and some improvements in Apple Watch and Apple TV, but these are not covered within this article.

Compatible devices

The following devices are compatible with iOS 9.3:

  • iPhone SE, 5s,
  • iPhone 6,
  • iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus
  • iPad mini 2, 3, 4, Air, Air 2 and Pro (9.7 inch and 12.9 inch

Night Shift

What is it? Night Shift is Apple’s system level feature that eliminates blue light from your display when using it at night. The science behind this is that the elimination of such light should help you get a better night’s sleep.

Where is it? You’ll find controls for Night Shift in Settings>Display & Brightness. The feature uses geolocation so it kicks in at night time, but you must enable this by tapping Night Shift in that screen, enabling Scheduled in the pane that appears and then choosing Sunset to sunrise (or a custom schedule) in the From/To field. You can also set how warm you want the display to appear when Night Shift kicks in.

App recommendations in Health

What is it? With thousands of available apps, discovery remains a real challenge for developers. Apple is attempting to improve this by offering up app recommendations within its Health app. The app also lets you monitor your health achievements as measured by an Apple Watch.

Where is it? In practice this feature’s a little less intuitive, though it does make some logical sense. In order to access app recommendations you must launch Health app and tap ‘Health Data’. Where recommendations are available (and not every category has available apps) they are shown in the relevant category.

It works like this: When in the Health Data list choose Fitness and then choose ‘Steps’. You’ll experience a brief delay before a carousel view that shows available apps for Tracking Steps appears. In every category, this is where you will find available apps if any are available.

Password and Touch ID protected Notes

What is it? You can now lock Notes. This prevents others accessing your notes across your devices.

Where is it? To do so when writing a note tap the Share icon (the little square with an arrow pointing North), and choose Lock Note from the options you find there. You’ll be asked to create a password for all your locked notes (don’t forget to use a password you remember and a hint you know the answer to). You can also choose to use – or not use – Touch ID to protect your Note.

You can also set locked notes in Settings >Notes>Password, using the same mechanism.

A couple of other features you may not have seen before include Save Media to Photos and the capacity to keep a device only ‘On My iPhone’ account. Notes can also now be sorted by date, creation time or alphabetically and can be seen in landscape mode. (This might also be a good place for Proactive to automatically offer the most frequently accessed Notes).

Better News recommendations

What is it? Apple has been hiring editors to help run news topic sections while also improving the algorithm that chooses stories.

Where is it? These features don’t require much input from you. As you browse items in the News feed you’ll see recommended stories grow more tightly attuned to your needs. The human element means you’ll see good stories you (or the robots) may otherwise have missed.

iCloud for Books gets PDF sync

What is it? You can now sync ePub, iBooks Author books, PDFs with iBooks and iCloud, making them available across all your devices.

Where is it? The first time you run iOS 9.3 (or OS X 10.11.4) you’ll be prompted to set iCloud sync up, though you may also need to enable iCloud Drive. Once you’ve enabled the feature any supported items you put into your iBooks library will be made available across all your devices through iCloud. Books purchased from Apple are also available but are not synced the same way. NB: Items you choose to sync via iCloud will count against your iCloud storage limits.

3D Touch

If you use a 3D Touch iPhone do take a moment to test your apps for 3D Touch support, many Apple and third party apps have added new useful shortcuts within iOS 9.3. (3D Touch the Settings app icon, for example).

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