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OS Updates April 2018: iOS 11.3, Business Chat, New Privacy Settings, Battery Health Beta

A few days prior to April 2018, Apple released updates to all four of its operating systems. Out of the numerous changes, the iOS 11.3 is by far the most notable. It boasts a variety of new features and other changes that come at a midpoint between iOS 11 and iOS 12 (which is anticipated to release sometime in September). There are some other Easter eggs as well, so here’s what’s new:

iPhone Battery Health

With the "batterygate" in the rearview mirror, Apple has reversed the quiet reduction of performance of older iPhone models (starting with the iPhone 6) to lessen the chance of unexpected shutdowns with weak batteries. You find the new Battery Health screen in Settings > Battery > Battery Health, and Apple explains it in detail here.

With your aging iPhone battery, you may see a lower maximum capacity, and if your iPhone has shut down because of a weak battery, the screen will tell you that performance management has been applied. There is also an ability to disable performance management, on the notion that you've come to terms with your device shutting down rather than degrading its performance. Note: Once your device shuts down and is powered back on, the setting will turn on again. And for the hardcore users, if your battery is bad enough, the screen will recommend replacement.

Also note that iPads running iOS 11.3 can better maintain battery health when they’re plugged into power for long periods of time. Be sure to upgrade if you have an iPad that stays plugged in all the time.

Business Chat

The newest feature for both iOS 11.3 and macOS 10.13.4 High Sierra is Business Chat, an Apple service that lets you chat with participating companies directly within Messages. When integrated, a business is now directly reachable through Maps, Safari, or Search/Spotlight. You'll see a Messages button which you can use to start a direct conversation. The messaging feature is a one way street too; only you can start conversations, which eliminates the fear of unwanted solicitation. Business Chat can be a fast way to ask questions, get support, schedule appointments, and even make purchases using Apple Pay.

A few named early-adopters of this feature include companies such as 1-800-Flowers, Ameritrade, Discover, Hilton, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Marriott, Newegg, and Wells Fargo. We stress the label "early adopters" as not all of them seemed to be active out of the gate. This list also includes Apple, which we can assure are active and available to talk.

 

Data & Privacy

 

 

 

We haven’t yet seen this, but Apple says that iOS 11.3 (and macOS 10.13.4) will display a new privacy icon whenever Apple asks for access to personal information, as it might do to “enable features, secure Apple services or personalize an iOS experience.” The icon should be accompanied by detailed privacy information explaining the situation. In an era when every company seems hell-bent on collecting and exploiting our personal data, it’s nice to see Apple increasing the transparency of its data collection practices.

 

Safari

iOS 11.3 tweaks Safari in several small ways that make it easier to use and more secure:

  • Autofill now inserts usernames and passwords only after you select them on Web pages.
  • Autofill now works in Web views within other iOS apps.
  • Safari warns you when you interact with password or credit card forms on non-encrypted pages.
  • Safari now formats shared articles sent via Mail as though they were in Reader mode.
  • Favorites folders now show icons for the contained bookmarks.

Other Improvements

Apple made lots of other minor improvements in iOS 11.3. You can see a full list in the release notes, but those that we find most noteworthy include:

  • iPhone X users get access to four new animoji: a lion, dragon, skull, and bear.
  • iOS 11.3 adds support for the Advanced Mobile Location (AML) standard, which provides more accurate location data to emergency responders when Emergency SOS is triggered.
  • Podcasts now plays episodes with a single tap, and you can tap Details to learn more about episodes.
  • Apple Music now streams music videos uninterrupted by ads.
  • Apple News has improved its Top Stories feature and includes a new Video group in the For You collection.

iOS 11.3’s improvements may not change the way you use your iPhone or iPad, but they’re welcome nonetheless, and Business Chat and Health Records should become more interesting as additional institutions sign on. And, of course, anyone with an older iPhone should check the Battery Health screen right away.