Apple Releases the First Beta of iOS 10.3

My friends in Slack notified me that iOS 10.3 had been released while I was in the middle of nowhere, so I’m sure you’re all aware of the highlights. As with past iOS x.3 releases, this is likely to be the final push for this major version of iOS before the release of iOS 11. So, it makes sense that it comes with some pretty big changes.

Andrew Cunningham, Ars Technica:

For starters, it adds AirPods to Find My iPhone to make them easier to find if you lose them, which, given how small they are, is bound to happen to AirPod owners eventually.

Cunningham points to an assortment of additional user-facing updates, like being able to schedule rides with Siri for a future time instead of immediately, CarPlay improvements, and enhancements to HomeKit.

There are also, of course, some great new developer APIs. Two in particular intrigue me: an app review prompt, and changeable app icons. Jim Dalrymple explains the first:

When you are prompted to leave a review, customers will stay inside the app, where the rating or review can be left for the developer. It’s easier for customers and the developers still get their reviews.

Apple is also limiting the amount of times developers can ask customers for reviews. Developers will only be able to bring up the review dialog three times a year. If a customer has rated the app, they will not be prompted again. If a customer has dismissed the review prompt three times, they will not be asked to review the app for another year.

Best of all, according to John Gruber, developers won’t be able to work around these limitations in the future by using a third-party app review prompt:

The new APIs will be eventually be the only sanctioned way for an iOS app to prompt for an App Store review, but Apple has no timeline for when they’ll start enforcing it. Existing apps won’t have to change their behavior or adopt these APIs right from the start.

Everyone knows how irritating it is to be prompted to review an app, but developers also know that it works, even if it’s clunky. It’s good to see an officially-sanctioned solution.

And, yeah, developers can now set a different icon for their app without issuing an update. When the icon changes, it will display a confirmation so that users will know what to look for. Beyond obvious aesthetic updates, I’m struggling to see a use case for this. It’s not a bad thing; I’m just intrigued by the introduction of this API and what it might mean.

iOS 10.3 also lacks a few rumoured features. Cunningham, again:

According to the list of features Apple told us about, iOS 10.3 doesn’t include a fair number of features that the rumor mill has previously suggested it would include. There’s no mention of the vaguely described “theater mode” that was making the rounds last month, nor have any changes been made to iPad or Apple Pencil-specific features as some early rumors suggested. iOS 10 hasn’t been as good for the iPad as iOS 9 was, and basic things like the Split View and app switching UIs could stand to be refined; there’s also still not a public version of the multi-user feature that Apple started testing in classrooms in iOS 9.3. Any big iPad-specific features will need to wait for iOS 11, at the earliest.

After a lacklustre year for iPad users, I anticipate iOS 11 will be a big release. There’s a lot to be done for that platform.

Update: “Theatre Mode” will apparently make an appearance in WatchOS 3.2.