First beta of iOS 11.3 now available to public testers

Apple has made the first beta of the upcoming iOS 11.3 update, seeded yesterday to developers, available for public beta testers. Those in the Beta Software Program can download 11.3 from Apple’s website or via iOS’ over-the-air update mechanism.

Announced on Wednesday, iOS 11.3 is a stout update that brings a number of new features and improvements to Apple’s mobile platform including new Animoji characters, enhancements to the augmented reality ARKit framework, and more.

Here’s our hands-on video of the update:

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And here’s a breakdown of the major improvements:

  • Battery health & power management—Users can go to Settings → Battery to check out battery health, see if the battery needs to be serviced or turn off the new power management feature that dynamically manages maximum CPU performance to prevent unexpected shutdowns that was first introduced in iOS 10.2.1. Battery health and service recommendations are available for iPhone 6 and later. CPU throttling is available for iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone SE, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. Both features will be coming in a later iOS 11.3 beta release.
  • 4 new Animoji—The Messages app brings four new animated 3D characters to spice up your conversations and Animoji karaoke videos—a lion, dragon, bear and skull—for a total of 16 different Animoji characters capable of tracking your facial expressions.
  • ARKit improvements—ARKit 1.5 is now available to developers with several enhancements, including the ability to recognize and place virtual objects on vertical surfaces like walls and doors. ARKit also boosts your view of the real world through the camera with 50 percent greater resolution and support for auto-focus for an even sharper perspective.
  • Expanded health record integration—Access your encrypted medical records from multiple providers in one place within the Health app, receive notifications for lab results, medications and much more.
  • Business Chat—Announced at WWDC 2017, a new Business Chat feature allows users to communicate directly with businesses, as well as schedule an appointment or make purchases using Apple Pay, right within the stock Messages app.
  • Apple Music—You will soon be able to stream all the ad-free music videos you want in the Music app. Watch the latest videos, the classics or ones from your favorite artists back-to-back in new music video playlists.
  • Apple News—Stay up-to-date on the most important videos of the day with a new Video group in the For You section and enjoy improved Top Stories.
  • HomeKit software authentication—Without requiring a special chip from Apple, accessory makers can now add HomeKit support to existing accessories with a simple firmware update.
  • Advanced Mobile Location (AML)—iOS 11.3 can automaticallysend your current location when making a call to emergency services in countries where AML is supported.

Apple says iOS 11.3 will be released to the public in the spring.