After beta testing the update since January, Apple today is rolling out iOS 11.3 for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. The new version has a slew of additions, including new Animoji characters for the iPhone X, improved ARKit for more advanced augmented reality, and the ability to turn off processor throttling for iPhones with aging batteries inside.
That last feature is the result of a hailstorm of criticism and bad press that Apple faced when it was discovered that iOS automatically slows down peak processor performance in some iPhones to prevent unexpected shutdowns. The controversy forced Apple to issue a public apology, and now customers will be given the option to disable all throttling no matter how old their iPhone’s battery is.
This comes at the risk of a user’s iPhone powering down if the battery can’t provide sufficient power for some intensive processor tasks. Replacing an iPhone’s battery is the best way to maintain peak performance and avoid throttling altogether. The ability to toggle throttling on or off only applies to the iPhone 7 / 7 Plus, SE, 6S / 6S Plus, 6 / 6 Plus for now. But all users with an iPhone 6 or later will see a new battery health screen that will recommend if a battery needs to be serviced.
iOS 11.3 also introduces four new Animoji for iPhone X owners: a lion, bear, dragon, and skull are joining the existing lineup.
For augmented reality, ARKit has been improved to allow AR apps to extend the mixed-world experience to vertical surfaces like walls and doors. That’s in addition to the horizontal surfaces (floors, tables, countertops, chairs, etc.) that were already supported. ARKit is also smarter about recognizing “irregularly shaped surfaces like circular tables.”
Also new is a Health Records section inside the Health app, giving patients quick access to their medical records (from supported doctors and care centers) directly on their iPhone.
Continuing its strong stance on security and privacy, iOS 11.3 (and macOS 10.13.14) include a new privacy icon that shows up whenever Apple is asking for your personal information — such as your Apple ID password — so that you can easily verify that the request is legitimate and not spoofed.
And then there’s Business Chat, which allows select businesses to communicate with customers directly in the Messages app instead of over social media, email, or by phone. It’s launching in beta today, and you’ll probably see some big-name companies announce support for Business Chat fairly soon.
Aside from all this stuff, iOS 11.3 also includes a number of bug fixes. One that I’m very happy about pertains to Apple’s Smart Keyboard for the iPad. If yours has been randomly disconnecting at times, the company seems to have fixed that. Somehow the problem was related to captive Wi-Fi networks (like those at coffee shops). Weird. But it was super annoying, and I’m glad it’s supposedly been fixed.
A couple significant features — Messages in iCloud and AirPlay 2 — that appeared in earlier betas have been removed from the final version of iOS 11.3. It seems they still just aren’t ready for an official release. Those omissions mean that Apple’s HomePod speaker won’t be able to do multi-room playback or stereo pairing in the immediate future, and we still don’t have the convenience of keeping our message history in iCloud. Unfortunately, the wait continues for both.