iOS 9.3 beta shows off new features to reduce eye strain & streamline navigation

Multiple Apple Watches can now be paired to your iPhone. Yay...?

iOS 9.3 isn’t quite ready for public consumption yet, but Apple has released the first beta to developers. As usual, most of the changes are minor tweaks to improve native apps. The News app is better at tailoring its stories to match your interests, the CarPlay features shows nearby points of interest, and Siri has learned some new languages. Among the incremental improvements, there are a couple of major new features that might tempt you to try out the beta.

On OSX, Windows, and Linux operating systems I use an application called f.lux, which reduces eye strain by adjusting the colour of your display to match the sunlight outside. It genuinely improves my sleep and I wish it was available on all devices. Apple has included the same feature natively in iOS 9.3, calling it “Night Shift”. Your iPhone will use GPS and the time to estimate light levels outside and adjust your screen colour accordingly.

Image © Apple

3D Touch shortcuts have been added for more native apps on the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. By pressing harder on some apps, several useful options pop up. Pressing the Settings icon harder now provides shortcuts for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, battery, and setting wallpaper. The App Store has extra shortcuts such as updating all apps and viewing purchased apps. The new 3D Touch shortcuts are available for many native apps including Compass, Health, Stocks, Weather, and the iTunes Store. It’s likely that most of these won’t be used often but a few are very welcome, especially the App Store shortcut to update all apps.

There are new features for using iOS in education. If teachers have a collection of iPads to share out to a classroom, students can now log in to any of them and get access to all their own content, then log off at the end of the class. This gives the iPad some of the functionality that has helped make Google’s Chromebooks so successful in US schools.

Image © Apple

Most of the other changes are improvements to native apps. The Notes app now allows sensitive notes to be password protected. Many 3rd party alternatives on the App Store already have this functionality and I’m surprised it took Apple this long to add such a basic feature.

Perhaps the most surprising feature is that you can now pair multiple Apple Watches to your iPhone. I’m not sure how many users will find this useful but your iPhone will automatically connect to the Apple Watch you’re wearing and using. Do you only wear the solid gold one for special occasions?

iOS 9.3 is only in its first beta so any of these features could change over the coming months. Most of the changes are minor, or additions that Apple really should have implemented long ago, but Night Shift feels like a standout native feature that will actually improve your experience using iOS. Even if you are just using it to read Twitter in bed.

Main image © Dariusz Sankowski