iPhone and iPad users will see a variety of new device capabilities arrive with the release of iOS 11.3 this spring, Apple said today. They include new tools for chatting with businesses and for monitoring battery health and power management.
The latter capability is something Apple had promised after news emerged late last year that it was throttling the performance of older iPhones with aging batteries.
Other coming features include improved support for augmented reality (AR), four new animated emoji characters, and a Health App update for viewing medical records.
The developer preview of iOS 11.3 is available today to iOS Developer Program members, and a public beta preview will be released later. A final release, which will roll out this spring, will be free to Apple customers with iPhone 5s devices and later models, as well as to users with iPad Air and iPad Pro devices, and more recent iPad, iPad mini, and iPod touch models.
Performance Tools To Come with Later Beta
While not yet available in today's iOS 11.3 beta, Apple's planned updates for battery and performance monitoring will let users view information on the battery health and power management behavior of their devices. It will also allow them to turn off the dynamic power management feature introduced in 2016.
Rolled out with iOS 10.2.1, that feature automatically and dynamically slows down processor performance to smooth out peak power demands in devices with older batteries. Apple said it introduced the feature to prevent older devices from shutting down unexpectedly, but its quiet rollout -- and the inability of users to opt out -- led to widespread criticism as well as at least 15 class action lawsuits.
Apple apologized for its handling of battery and power management in December, noting that it would reduce the price of iPhone battery replacements and also come out with new tools to provide greater transparency into battery health.
In addition to monitoring performance, the battery tool update coming out with iOS 11.3 will advise users if their batteries need servicing. The new battery features will be available to customers with iPhone 6 or later devices, while opting out of dynamic power management will be available to users with various models of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 7.
Business Chat, Health Records, Improved AR
Another new feature arriving for iPhone and iPad customers this spring is Business Chat. To be integrated into Apple's Messages tool, Business Chat will let users handle a variety of interactions with participating companies, ranging from customer support and appointment scheduling to paying for purchases with the help of Apple Pay.
Apple noted that the new chat feature "doesn't share the user's contact information with businesses and gives users the ability to stop chatting at any time." Among the companies that will support Business Chat when it comes out are Discover, Hilton, Lowe's, and Wells Fargo.
iPhone and iPad users will also find it easier to access medical data from participating healthcare organizations. The new Health Records tool in the Health App will let users view notifications for lab results, check records on medications and conditions, and more. All the data provided through the tool will be encrypted and passcode-protected, Apple said.
With iOS 11.3, Apple will also be introducing four new Animoji characters -- a lion, a bear, a dragon, and a skull -- and upgrading the augmented reality capabilities of its ARKit tool. Those AR improvements will enable users to place virtual objects on virtual surfaces and integrate two-dimensional images into three-dimensional AR experiences. For example, users could view virtual, interactive exhibits in museums or animate images in movie posters, according to Apple.
Other new iOS 11.3 features will include music video streaming through Apple Music, a new Video group and top-story improvements in Apple News, expanded software authentication for HomeKit, and updated Advanced Mobile Location support for use when calling for emergency services.