iOS 9.3 Breaks Apple’s Update Cycle, Doubles Down on New Features

| Analysis

Apple has some big features coming to iOS, but they won't be holding out until iOS 10 is released, presumably some time this fall. Instead, they're coming in iOS 9.3 as a mid-cycle update which isn't Apple's typical modus operandi.

iOS 9.3 is loaded with enough new features to be iOS 10iOS 9.3 is loaded with enough new features to be iOS 10

iOS 9.3 includes a new night viewing mode to reduce the blue cast and shift on-screen colors towards warmer reds. The intent is to help cut down on disrupting our circadian cycle so we sleep better.

Individual Notes can be locked so no one can see them without your passcode, it's easier to find content in News, Health finally shows your Apple Watch activity, and CarPlay gets some nice enhancements, too. The new knock it out of the park feature? iPad multi-user support for schools.

There's more, but this is enough to give you an idea how big iOS 9.3 is. That's a pretty significant feature list for an iOS point update, and multi-user support—something that's always felt like a pipe dream—is something you'd expect to see in a full upgrade, like moving from iOS 9 to iOS 10. It's available in beta now for developers, and hopefully for everyone else soon.

Considering how much Apple is throwing into iOS 9.3, it looks like the company either had a lot of features they wanted to include in iOS 9's original release but couldn't, or CEO Tim Cook wants to keep the mobile operating system moving forward as quickly as possible to better compete with Alphabet's Android OS.

It also means we could be in for some really big surprises when Apple previews iOS 10, presumably this spring at its annual Worldwide Developer Conference. It's also possible Apple isn't holding back big features for major OS updates any more, and iOS 10 won't have as many blockbuster improvements compared to previous iOS upgrades.

Even if iOS 10's feature announcements aren't bigger than iOS 9.3, that's OK. If we're looking at a faster feature release cycle so we don't have to wait a year at a pop for cool improvements, good for us. Apple just needs to balance those releases so it doesn't look like major iOS updates are hollow and lackluster.

I'm holding out hope for some stellar surprises in iOS 10—big enough that they stand out even with the feature additions we're getting in iOS 9.3. Maybe multi-user support for everyone, and not just schools. A guy can hope.

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iOS X 10.0


iOS 10 or “iOS X,” when things hopefully start to get really good?


I am hoping this is the start of Apple differentiating iOS into phoneOS and padOS. The more they do that the better use they can make of the large screens and more powerful processors.

Rob Bowers

Perhaps Apple will be adopting a subscription model where features (and devices) are added when ready instead of holding them for an artificial “major” release schedule. Doing so would make Apple devices more compelling as we would no longer have to wait a year for new functionality. So much easier to adapt to changing technologies and competition, and flattens the revenue cycles.

Moving to free OS updates removed one of the main reasons for Major OS releases. The carriers are removing the barriers for annual device updates. Perhaps we will start seeing new iPhones coming out on schedules that look more like iPads and Mac?

Maybe iOS 10 will be called iOS X and be the last “major” release?

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