Apple releases iOS 9.3 with Night Shift Mode, protected Notes, new 3D Touch goodies and more

ios 9.3 night shift toggle control center

After testing it with registered developers and public beta testers, Apple today released the iOS 9.3 software update for the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. A major new software update, iOS 9.3  is now available on all iOS 9-comptaible devices in Settings right General → Software Update and brings several headline new features along with a bunch of under-the-hood tweaks and enhancements.

Some of the big new features of iOS 9.3 include Night Shift Mode, passcode or Touch ID protection of your notes, enhancements in News and Health apps, as well as important enhancements for iOS in the classroom such as managed Apple IDs, multi-user support on iPads and more.

Night Shift Mode

Available via a dedicated toggle in Control Center and in Settings → Display & Brightness → Night Shift, Night Shift Mode reduces the amount of blue light emitted by your device’s screen, which allows your eyes to relax so that falling asleep is easier.

iOS 9.3 Night Shift mode teaser 001

Night Shift Mode can be enabled manually or automatically, in which case iOS 9.3 uses your device’s clock and location services to determine when it’s sunset in your location. It then automatically shifts the color of the display to the warmer end of the spectrum, which makes it easier on your eyes.

Or, schedule it and cherry-pick the times when iOS will enable and disable Night Shift Mode. This mode is unavailable when an iPhone is in Low Power Mode.

Here’s Andrew’s iOS 9.3 walkthrough video.

New 3D Touch shortcuts in stock apps

Apple has expanded 3D Touch in iOS 9.3 by adding new Home screen shortcuts and in-app Peek and Pop gestures to its own apps like Settings, App Store, iTunes, Stocks, Weather and Compass. For instance, the Settings app now provides access to popular toggles like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and Battery right in the 3D Touch shortcut menu.

iOS 9.3 3D Touch App Store Home screen shortcuts iPhone 6s screenshot 001

You can now go to the your Purchased section or Update All apps by pressing the App Store’s icon on the Home screen and selecting one of the new shortcuts. Within the App Store app, Peek and Pop gestures are now supported to preview apps.

The Compass app has gained its very first shortcut menu with two options—Start Level and Start Compass— while Calculator now lets you Copy Last Result.

As a quick refresher, we’ve covered 3D Touch shortcuts and gestures in stock apps like MessagesSafariMailMusicCameraMapsPhone, Reminders and iBooks.

Support for pairing multiple Apple Watches

Using the companion Watch app in iOS 9.3, it is now possible to pair multiple Apple Watch devices running watchOS 2.2 or later to a single iPhone. Apple was criticized for limiting Apple Watch pairing to a single device so this new feature should be good news for those who happen to own multiple watches, like developers and rich people.


Notes protection

iOS 9.0’s much improved Notes app gets even more useful on iOS 9.3. Users can now create a passcode to secure notes that contain sensitive data, or protect their notes with Touch ID. Once created, a passcode or Touch ID can be used to lock individual notes in order to protect them from prying eyes.


Also, notes can now be sorted using date created, date modified or using the alphabetic sort option, and media from notes can now be saved to your photo library.

Health improvements

Health data types such as Weight, Workouts and Sleep now make it easier to find compatible apps by means of a new slider menu. More importantly, Health now integrates move, exercise and stand data, along with goals, from your Apple Watch so you can see all your health metrics in a single place and share them with other apps.


Even more personalized News

Apple’s news-reading app, News, brings improved recommendations with suggested trending topics and Editors’ Picks right in the For You section. Moreover, stories can now embed videos which can be played in-line. News now works in landscape mode on iPhones and improved caching makes the latest stories appear much faster.


New Music and Maps features for CarPlay

CarPlay, Apple’s platform for the connected car, has received improvements pertaining to Music and Maps apps. CarPlay’s Apple Maps app now supports the Nearby feature to help you find gas, parking, restaurants, coffee and other points of interest.

iOS 9.3 CarPlay teaser 001

As for Apple Music, CarPlay owners can now browse their personalized New feed and the For You section with songs, artists, and albums handpicked by experts.

Improved classroom experience

iOS 9.3 brings multi-account support to iPads that are used in the education environment, allowing student to log in to any iPad with a four-digit passcode and personalize the device with their own settings. Upon logging into their iPad, student can instantly access all their apps, books and documents.

iOS 9.3 Education Preview

To support the new education features, school administrators can now create Managed Apple IDs using Apple School Manager. A brand new web app, Apple School Manager is the place to manage Apple IDs, apps and devices, build and distribute new courses and more.

Teachers, on the other hand, can take advantage of the new Classroom app to guide students through a lesson, see their progress and keep them on track with features like Screen View, Remote Control and more.


In addition to the big features, iOS 9.3 packs in a number of small, meaningful improvements. For instance, the software brings support for the Wi-Fi Calling feature to Verizon customers, allowing them to place and receive phone calls on the Verizon network through a Wi-Fi connection.

There’s also a carrier update for T-Mobile users to solve an issue which prevented apps from loading over a cellular connection. iOS 9.3 unbricks devices affected by the January 1, 1970 bug and prevents users from moving the time on December 31, 2000 past 7pm to prevent the bug entirely.

Moreover, in the stock Photos app you now duplicate a Live Photo as a high quality still photo, your Wallet items have shortcuts to corresponding apps, PDFs sync via iCloud in iBooks, data usage numbers are available for the Wi-Fi Assist feature and accessory firmware updates can be deployed via the iPad Pro’s Smart Connector.

iOS 9.3 is also available at

iOS 9.3 release notes

New features, improvements and bug fixes in iOS 9.3 include:

Night Shift:

  • When enabled, Night Shift uses your iOS device’s clock and geolocation to determine when it’s sunset in your location, then it automatically shifts the colors in your display to the warmer end of the spectrum and may even help you get a better night’s sleep.

Notes improvements:

  • Protect notes that contain your most personal data with Touch ID or a passcode
  • Sort notes alphabetically, by date created, or by date edited
  • When sketching, quickly bring up a fresh canvas with a two finger swipe, or by tapping the New Sketch button
  • A new checklist button at the bottom of every note makes it easier to create lists
  • Show thumbnails instead of large images and attachments by long-pressing on any image or attachment in a note
  • Choose whether photos and videos taken within Notes are stored only in Notes, or also added to Photos
  • Long-press on an Evernote Export file to import its contents into Notes

News improvements:

  • New Top Stories section in For You highlights the most important stories of the day
  • Discover something great to read in Editors’ Picks, a selection of channels and topics handpicked by our Apple News editors
  • Swipe left on stories in For You on iPhone to quickly share or save or swipe right for more options
  • Play video stories right from For You — without opening the article
  • Read stories and watch videos in landscape orientation on iPhone
  • Change the text size in articles to make reading easier

Health improvements:

  • Related third-party apps for select data types such as weight, workouts and sleep are displayed in the Health app
  • Health dashboard adds support for move, exercise, and stand Activity data and goals from Apple Watch
  • Easy access to Dashboard and Medical ID using 3D Touch Quick Actions from the Home screen
  • Third-party apps now have access to Activity rings and summaries from Apple Watch through HealthKit

Apple Music improvements:

  • Add songs from the Apple Music catalog to playlists without having to add them to your library
  • Watch music videos on iPad in full screen
  • See what’s playing on Beats 1 directly from the Radio tab — without having to tune in
  • Tap the name of the currently playing song in Now Playing to go to the album
  • See which songs are most popular on albums in the Apple Music catalog

Photos improvements:

  • Extract the still image from a Live Photo by tapping Duplicate which will give you the option to duplicate the Live Photo, or just the still image
  • Improved download performance of full size original photos or videos stored in iCloud Photo Library
  • Share Live Photos between iOS and OS X through AirDrop and Messages

iBooks improvements:

  • Adds the ability for iBooks to store your PDFs in iCloud, making them available across all of your devices
  • Adds support for downloading previously purchased audiobooks from the iBooks Store
  • Adds the ability to share your audiobook purchases with any of your family members using Family Sharing
  • New controls for reading Manga more comfortably with faster page turns and simple controls for enlarging text
  • Adds Apple Pencil support to highlight and save your favorite passages for later

Education improvements:

  • Introduces a preview of Shared iPad that enables multiple students to use the same iPad at different times throughout the day
  • Adds support for signing into iCloud with Managed Apple IDs
  • Adds compatibility for the new Classroom app
  • New configuration options to control the organization of apps on the Home Screen
  • New controls to determine which apps to show or hide on the Home Screen
  • Adds support for new restrictions for iCloud Photo Library and Apple Music

CarPlay improvements:

  • Apple Music members now have access to their For You and New content in CarPlay
  • New Nearby screen in Maps to quickly find Gas, Parking, Restaurants, Coffee, and other driving essentials 
  • Siri speaks more concisely when reading back and composing messages in CarPlay
  • Equalized sound levels between different audio sources in CarPlay

Dolby Digital Plus:

  • Adds support for playing video encoded with Dolby Digital Plus audio streams with support for multichannel output using the Apple Lightning Digital AV Adapter

Hardware keyboard improvements and fixes:

  • Enables the use of arrow keys to navigate through lists in Spotlight, Mail and Safari
  • Enables the use of space bar to scroll in Mail
  • Improves performance when using the space bar to scroll in Safari
  • Adds the ability to bring up the software keyboard from the Shortcut Bar when a hardware keyboard is connected
  • Fixes an issue that could prevent unlocking an iPad using the hardware keyboard
  • Fixes an issue that caused hardware keyboards to become unresponsive in captive login pages
  • Fixes an issue that could cause the Messages input field to disappear behind the Shortcut Bar when connected to a hardware keyboard

Other improvements:

  • Maps adds support for getting a highlighted view of destinations and stops for a specific transit line by tapping on it 
  • Maps now displays whether there are multiple transit line options for each route suggestion 
  • Wallet app adds the ability to view the app related to a card or pass in the Wallet app by tapping an icon on the card or pass
  • Apple Pay adds support for signing up for store rewards programs with Apple Pay at point of sale terminal
  • Podcasts adds support for fullscreen video playback
  • Activity app adds a new Workout tab with monthly summaries of key metrics and the ability to filter by workout type
  • Move to iOS now offers app suggestions from the App Store based on apps installed on your Android device 
  • iCloud Storage adds proactive status information and in-app notifications to let you know before you run out of space 
  • Two-factor authentication is now available for all iCloud accounts
  • Support for Spanish (Latin America) system language
  • Siri support for Finnish (Finland), Hebrew (Israel), and Malay (Malaysia)

Enterprise bug fixes:

  • Resolves an issue that could prevent some VPP purchased apps from launching after being updated
  • Adds iCloud backup support for device-assigned VPP apps
  • Addresses an issue that could prevent certificates from installing correctly when updating configuration profiles
  • Fixes an issue for some IPSec VPN configurations that could cause the internet connection to be interrupted after a VPN session was ended
  • Fixes an issue to prevent iBooks from emailing enterprise managed PDFs from unmanaged accounts
  • Resolves an issue for some Exchange users that caused Calendar to send multiple responses to the same invitation
  • Improves reliability for devices connecting to OS X Caching Server

Accessibility bug fixes:

  • Improves 3D Touch reliability with Switch Control Accessibility option
  • Fixes an issue where VoiceOver interferes with speech after dictation
  • Fixes an issue where VoiceOver users could not write a review on the App Store
  • Resolves an issue where VoiceOver becomes unresponsive when receiving a phone call with a Bluetooth headset
  • Fixes an issue where large text was unreadable in Reminders

Other bug fixes, performance and stability improvements:

  • Fixes an issue where manually changing the date to May 1970 or earlier could prevent your iOS device from turning on after a restart
  • Fixes issues that could prevent some iCloud Backups from completing
  • Fixes an issue for some users where Health data was incomplete after restoring from iCloud Backup
  • Fixes an issue where an inaccurate battery percentage could be displayed
  • Addresses an issue that prevented iMessage or FaceTime activation for some users
  • Addresses an issue that could prevent displaying the Phone interface while receiving a call
  • Fixes an issue that enabled overriding restrictions applied to cellular data toggle 
  • Fixes an issue that caused notification settings to appear in the Watch app for apps that were not installed on Apple Watch
  • Improves reliability when using 3D Touch on the keyboard
  • Improves stability of the Phone app when setting up voicemail
  • Improves stability of the Mail app when your device is low on storage
  • Improves stability in Mail while using Mail Drop to send large attachments 

Wrapping up

Additional features are available for developers and system administrators.

Check out Apple’s iOS 9.3 and Education preview pages for more information.

Are you going to upgrade to iOS 9.3? And what’s your favorite feature in this update?