News: 20 Cool New Features in iOS 11.3 for iPhone

20 Cool New Features in iOS 11.3 for iPhone

While iOS 11.3 doesn't have as many new features as iOS 11.2, there's still a lot to love about Apple's latest update for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch. The beta is available right now if you want to check out all of these newbies firsthand, but either way, we've got everything you should know about right here.

Apple released the iOS 11.3 beta on Jan. 24, just one day after iOS 11.2.5 was released to the public after 41 days of beta testing. If you want to be a part of the beta, you can join as either a developer or a public beta tester. If not, you can still all the goodies listed below, and we'll continue to update this post as new features appear throughout the beta program.

1. Messages on iCloud Is Finally Here

After waiting over 4 months, Messages on iCloud seems to finally be making its way to Apple devices. In the iCloud settings page, you can toggle on "Messages," then open up the Messages app to see the welcome prompt. In previous betas where it appeared briefly, you would toggle on "Messages on iCloud" in the Messages settings. If you plan on using this feature to sync with your Mac, you'll need to be running macOS 10.13.4 beta 1 or higher.

2. There Are 4 New Animoji (iPhone X Only)

Aside from the 12 already included, there are now 4 more Animoji characters, all of which have a global feel to them, indicating that Apple wants to keep international users happy. There's a dragon, bear, skull, and lion, which pair well with China, Russia, Mexico, and Africa, respectively.

3. You Can Check Battery Health

While this wasn't included in the first beta, it did make an appearance in beta 2. You can visit "Battery" in your Settings app to see a new battery health indicator, called "Battery Health (Beta)," which will show you your battery's maximum capacity and well as its peak performance. It will also recommend that your battery be serviced if needed.

4. And Turn Off Power Throttling

Also in beta 2 is the tool for disabling the power throttling that Apple has secretly implemented since iOS 10.2.1. This throttling happened as a result of weak batteries that could trigger unexpected shutdowns. While shutdowns should not happen, overall device performance takes a hit.

So, if you'd like to speed up your iPhone while chancing a few shutdowns if you're in need of a new battery (see above new feature), you can toggle this off in the Peak Performance Capability section in the new "Battery Health (Beta)" tool. If your iPhone is being throttled, you can tap "Disable" to do just that. It will remain disabled until further shutdowns happen.

This is only available for the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone SE, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. Apple has included hardware fixes for the iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and X that don't require this option, but those devices can still view the data available in the battery health tool.

5. Your Health Records Can Appear in Health

If you already love the Health app, this might make you love it even more ... if your medical providers participate in the program. If you're one of the lucky ones that visit participating clinics and medical institutions, you'll be able to see medical data such as records, allergies, visits, known conditions, immunizations, lab results, medications, upcoming procedures, and more. To try it out, go to "Health Records" in the "Health Data" tab, hit "Get Started," then select your provider from the list that pops up, and log into your account.

In beta 1, Health Record accounts and data are not synced to Health in iCloud. This results in data from the device not syncing to other devices. Workaround: Remove and then add the iCloud account on the upgraded device to restore Health data.

— Apple iOS 11.3 beta 1 release notes

6. You Can Control Music in Multiple Rooms with AirPlay 2

Another feature we've been waiting over 4 months for is AirPlay 2. It showed its face a few times before in previous betas, but this time things are looking good. Right now, it only supports multiroom playback with Apple TVs that are running tvOS 11.3 but will eventually support the HomePod and compatible speakers. You can control the rooms in the Home app and via the Control Center.

Update: The iOS 11.3 beta 3 version removed all traces of AirPlay 2, and it hasn't come back yet, so there's no telling if it will be ready for prime time once iOS 11.3 gets its public release.

7. There's More Privacy Awareness

A new icon will appear whenever Apple requests your personal information, which shows Apple's effort in being more open about the type of data they collect and when. More importantly, it seems to be an attempt at preventing phishing attempts for your iCloud password. The "Privacy" icon in the Settings app has also changed from gray colored to blue to match this new icon.

Apple believes privacy is a fundamental human right, so every Apple product is designed to:

  • Use on-device processing wherever possible.
  • Limit the collection and use of data.
  • Provide transparency and control over your information.
  • Build on a strong foundation of security.
— Apple

8. Your Call to 911 Will Tell Them Where You're At

Another new feature adds support for Advanced Mobile Location (AML), which will automatically send your current location when making an emergency call or using Emergency SOS where AML is supported. This fixes a huge issue since it's hard for emergency service providers to find your location otherwise unless you can audibly tell them, which is not always possible.

9. ARKit 1.5 Supports More

While this isn't a feature you can turn on or see the results clear as day, it is something developers can take advantage of when making their augmented reality apps with ARKit. The new 1.5 version supports vertical surfaces such as walls and irregular-shaped surfaces such as circular tables. Resolution is also 50% higher and auto-focus works.

ARKit 1.5 showing off a poster being turned into an interactive AR experience. Image via Apple

10. Apple Music Will Get Music Videos (Coming Soon)

If you subscribe to Apple Music, you will eventually be able to stream all of the music videos you want without any ads. It's not yet known if this feature will include all music videos currently found in iTunes, but you'll be able to make music video playlists featuring "the hottest new videos, the classics, or ones from [your] favorite artists," according to Apple.

11. iBooks Is Now Called 'Books'

This one seems to come out of nowhere. Why would Apple rename iBooks to just Books, especially when the corresponding macOS beta still calls it iBooks? Even the Books settings for iOS can't seem to make up its mind, with "iCloud" being mentioned as well. It could have something to do with an iBooks overhaul that Apple seems to be planning, but it's not super obvious yet.

Update: The fourth beta for iOS 11.3 changed the name back to iBooks, so we're not sure what name it will have once iOS 11.3 hits public release.

12. There's More Info for App Updates

In addition to the all of the notes developers provide for their apps when an update becomes available, there is now version numbers and file sizes listed at the bottom of each app update. This is a nice addition since you can tell exactly which version it is and whether or not you want to take up that much space or not right now.

13. And You Can Finally Sort Reviews

One of the biggest issues with the App Store has always been the reviews section — you could never really tell why certain reviews were showing first. Now, iOS 11.3 solves this with a way to sort reviews by most helpful, most favorable, most critical, or most recent.

14. The App Switcher Is Faster (iPhone X Only)

Thanks to iOS 11.3, it's a lot faster when you swipe up from the bottom of the iPhone X to access the app switcher. You might not notice the change at first, but once you realize it's faster, you'll never want to go back.

iOS 11.2.5 (left) vs. iOS 11.3 (right) at 0.25x speed. Image by Dallas Thomas/Gadget Hacks

15. Face ID for Purchases Explained Better (iPhone X Only)

Users not used to a Side button that does almost everything can sometimes get confused when the "Double Click to Install" or "Double Click to Pay" animation came up on the screen when using Face ID to install an app or pay for something. A lot of users were tapping on the screen, not clicking the Side button. In iOS 11.3, Apple has made it more clear what you need to do with an additional animation that says "Confirm with Side Button" in the details popup at the bottom.

16. Apple News Got a Few Changes

In an odd change, "News Top Stories" in Apple News is now something you need to tap on from the "For You" tab to see everything together. Otherwise, it's just in a carousel up top with the headline only, no pictures. Also, there is supposed to be a new "Video" group "to stay up-to-date on the most important videos of the day," but we haven't seen how that works just yet.

17. You Can Delete Individual Game Center Friends

Previously, you could only "Remove All Game Center Friends" from the "Game Center" preferences in the Settings app. Now, you can tap on "Friends" from the same menu and delete them individually instead. It makes a lot more sense this way, and I'm surprised Apple hasn't already done this already.

18. You Can Use Face ID for 'Ask to Buy' (iPhone X Only)

If you have Family Sharing set up and enabled the "Ask to Buy" feature on a child's iPhone, whenever that child tries to buy something from the App Store (including in-app purchases), iTunes, and iBooks, even if it's free, they won't be able to do so unless you approve the request on your iPhone.

However, if you have an iPhone X, you couldn't use Face ID to approve those requests before. Instead, you'd have to type in your password, but in iOS 11.3, you can finally use the convenience of Face ID.

Images by 9to5Mac/YouTube

19. The Calculator Is Back in Proper Form

This is by far the smallest feature on this page, but it's interesting nonetheless. Back in iOS 11.1, the Calculator app developed a degenerative disease that caused it to lag considerably, making fast calculations impossible. Apple cured the disease in iOS 11.2, but the animation on the operator symbols (e.g., the + sign) got kicked to the curb. However, the animation is back in all its glory in iOS 11.3.

20. Business Chats Will Open for ... Business (In the Spring)

Business Chat was teased at WWDC back in June and has been all but forgotten about since. However, it will be making an appearance in beta form as soon as iOS 11.3 hits the public "this spring," according to Apple.

When it does become available, you'll be able to communicate directly with businesses in the Messages app. Eventually, any companies can hop on board to support this feature, but it's starting with a few select businesses such as Discover, Hilton, Lowe's, and Wells Fargo.

You will be able to contact any of the aforementioned companies directly in Messages, and the chat options will also be accessible from Maps, Siri, Search, and the company's own website and/or app. In a Business Chat, you will be able to talk to a representative, schedule appointments, and make purchases using Apple Pay.

Cover photo, screenshots, and GIFs by Justin Meyers/Gadget Hacks (unless otherwise noted)

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