On Thursday Apple released iOS 11.3, a free update to its mobile operating system that, among other new features and fixes, attempts to ease iPhone battery management.
Late last year, the fruit-themed device maker acknowledged that its iOS 11.2.1 update included a undisclosed mechanism for processor throttling.
The processors in Apple's iPhones, it turns out, can demand a lot of power when presented with computationally-intensive tasks and lithium-ion batteries, as they age, can become unable to meet that demand.
A mismatch in power demand and supply can prompt an iPhone to shut down, so to guard against that, Apple secretly slowed its processors in older model iPhones to accommodate enfeebled batteries.
The goal, it said, was to provide a better experience for customers; the result, once people were made aware that they weren't just imagining how slow their phones had become, was public dissatisfaction and a deluge of lawsuits.
Apple attempted to address the uproar by dropping its price for out-of-warranty battery replacement from $79 to $29, until 2019. It also promised more visibility into battery health, which it has now delivered.
With iOS 11.3, the company is providing users with Battery Health metrics, inside its existing Battery settings menu. The data includes a Maximum Capacity reading for the battery and a label to convey when the battery isn't capable of peak performance and requires service.
The update also makes the performance management feature that curtails power usage visible, but only after an unexpected shutdown occurs – it's initially disabled when the update is installed – and only on the older iPhone models affected (iPhone 6, 7, and SE).
Beyond fixing 43 security flaws – but not the Camera app QR code bug – iOS 11.3 bumps ARKit to version 1.5, thereby allowing developers to create augmented reality apps for iOS that place virtual objects on vertical surfaces (e.g. walls). The last version only supported horizontal surfaces (e.g. floors and tables).
iPhone X users have access to four new Animoji – animated emoji graphics – which is evidently something some people care about.
The iOS Health app has gained a Health Records section, through which patients of almost participating 40 health care institutions in the US can view their health records. Apple notes that this data is encrypted and protected by a passcode.
Coincidentally – and just in time to stand in contrast with the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica privacy debacle – the update brings a revised declaration of respect for privacy that appears after the update.
"Apple believes privacy is a fundamental human right so every Apple product is designed to minimise the collection and use of your data, use on-device processing whenever possible, and provide transparency and control over your information," it says.
Yes, this is the same company that, to comply with Chinese law, earlier this month handed the data and encryption keys for iCloud customers in mainland China over to a Chinese data management firm where Chinese officials can access the data on their terms.
The update brings support for Business Chat within Apple's Message app. Business Chat provides API hooks into customer service platforms like LivePerson, Salesforce, Nuance, Genesys, InTheChat and Zendesk. It allows businesses to respond to questions, schedule appointments, and make payments via chat messages.
There are also a number of other miscellaneous features, such as Apple Music streaming music videos without ads, Apple News enhancements, broader Apple Pay support, HomeKit software authentication, and support for Advanced Mobile Location (AML), which automatically transmits location data during emergency calls in countries where the tech is supported. ®