iOS 10.3 arrives with APFS support in tow

Owners of iDevices can rejoice today, for there's a new iOS release out and about. The update is labeled version 10.3 and includes a host of minor enhancements along with a big-ticket technical feature: the introduction of APFS (Apple File System), the company's replacement for the venerable HFS+, in use since 1998 on Macs and iDevices. Just like with iOS 10, owners of iPhones from the 5 onwards, fourth-generation iPads or newer, iPad Mini 2s or newer, and sixth-generation iPod Touch devices can all install the update.

All iOS devices running version 10.3 will move over to APFS automatically. Be warned that due to this conversion, the update install time will take a bit longer than usual. Although there isn't a single big improvement stemming from using APFS, Apple probably wants to get the filesystem on the road to pave the way for future features and updates. For the technically-inclined, APFS offers plenty of modern filesystem features: disk encryption, metadata integrity checks, and improved resilience in the event of crashes. Perhaps more interestingly, APFS supports file clones (storing only the different data between two versions of the same file) and disk snapshots. The snapshot functionality in particular should prove a great boon for backup and maintenance tasks. Ars Technica has a great writeup on APFS if you want to go into the nitty-gritty.

On a more user-facing level, the Settings menu got a few touch-ups. The Apple ID login info is now centralized with the rest of iTunes and Family Sharing settings, along with a list of devices under that account. Many users are reporting that they have a little more free space after the update, though that can probably be ascribed to how APFS reports available storage. There's now a "find my AirPods" feature that will show you the last known location of your easy-to-lose earbuds and optionally play a sound on them to help track them down.

Siri got a handful of improvements to its third-party integrations. You should now be able to pay and check the status of bills with some payment apps, schedule rides with booking apps, and checking your CarPlay-compatible car's status and fire up its lights or horn. There are also a handful of other miscellaneous fixes. You can check out the release notes here.

Comments closed
    • caconym
    • 3 years ago

    The only Armor-Piercing Fin-Stabilized file system out there.

    • derFunkenstein
    • 3 years ago

    [quote<] Be warned that due to this conversion, the update install time will take a bit longer than usual. [/quote<] I'd kinda quit paying attention to iOS updates, so when I updated my phone yesterday and it took forever, I wondered what was going on.

    • Ultracer
    • 3 years ago

    “iOS 10.3 arrives with APFS support in tow”. Read that again 😛

      • tipoo
      • 3 years ago

      I read it again and don’t get what’s wrong

    • tipoo
    • 3 years ago

    This must be one of the largest, most aggressive rollouts of a brand new file system out there, eh? It’s millions of devices. You could always get yourself newer and more esoteric file systems on Linux, but I mean by a single controlled body.

    Cool stuff. Looking forward to it on macOS and HFS+ can bit rot in hell.

      • blastdoor
      • 3 years ago

      So far, doesn’t APFS only provide checksums for metadata, not all data?

      I’ve read the rationale is that they think the ECC used by SSDs is good enough. I have no idea if that’s true, but my Time Machine backup is on rust, not an SSD.

      But still — it’s a big upgrade, and definitely sounds like an improvement!

        • synthtel2
        • 3 years ago

        As someone who had an SSD silently bitrot, I’m skeptical of Apple’s theory.

          • cygnus1
          • 3 years ago

          Agreed. An SSD is going to write whatever is sent to it from the host. If there’s a failing stick of RAM that has a stuck bit in a range that’s being written to disk, you’re hosed. Doesn’t matter what ECC the SSD has.

          I suppose their logic is the ECC is good enough on SSD’s that are in unmodified systems that Apple sells….

            • blastdoor
            • 3 years ago

            Yeah…. I think that’s their logic.

            Maybe that applies to iOS devices (although the RAM problem you describe is still relevant, and sfaik Apple doesn’t use ECC RAM in iPhones). But it sure doesn’t apply to Macs, particularly when people follow Apple’s advice and backup their Macs to an external hard drive using Time Machine.

            Having said all that… it’s not at all clear to me how serious bit rot is. I once tried to read through a study conducted in a server context, but I couldn’t figure out how to translate the lessons learned there into a device like a Mac or iPhone. For any given person, what is the probability that they are going to irretrievably lose important data because of bitrot, and how does that risk compare to other risks that we tolerate (or don’t tolerate)?

            I’ve also tried asking people in different contexts about issues like ECC and bit rot. Some people say you only need to have ECC if you’re running a nuclear power plant. Others view it as a much more serious problem. It seems that ZFS fans view it as a serious issue because they are able to detect when it has happened, but they typically don’t clarify if the bit rot they’ve detected had any real world consequences (was a photo lost? Or was one pixel’s color changed in an imperceptible manner?)

            I’ve been using computers for a long time and offhand I cannot think of an instance in the last 15 years in which I have tried to open up a file on an Apple device and found that it was corrupted and unusable. I do remember corrupted files from the 90s and before. I have had cataclysmic system failures in the last 15 years in which a device was totally hosed (but I always had a backup, so no data was lost).

            I guess that, all else being equal, I’d rather that APFS had checksums for data because, well, the benefit > 0 and if the cost is = 0, then clearly go for it. But the cost isn’t = 0, and it’s not clear to me how much greater the benefit is than zero. So I don’t know whether Apple made the best decision here or not. I tend to give them the benefit of the doubt, though…. they aren’t dummies, and they tend to strike good pragmatic balances with stuff like this.

            • tipoo
            • 3 years ago

            That’s what the Apple engineers said, the error rate was low enough that a consumer wouldn’t have an error in a device’s life. And absolutely the cost is non-zero.

            However I do still wonder if they couldn’t have been selective. Error checking my (well, I don’t have one, but if I did) Apple Watch? Nah, of course not. Error checking on a 24/7 Mac Pro with 128GB RAM and a 2TB SSD (ZFS has found data corruption on multi-million dollar storage arrays; I would be surprised if it didn’t find errors coming from TLC)? Yes please, no one is likely to miss 16 bytes per 4KB (>1%) of their device space and a few thousand CPU cycles.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 3 years ago

      [quote<] HFS+ can bit rot in hell[/quote<] One thing we can all be relatively certain will happen. 😆

      • cmrcmk
      • 3 years ago

      I understand that the iOS ecosystem is the most controlled and thus easiest to roll this out to. But it’s also therefore the least interesting to roll APFS out to.

        • blastdoor
        • 3 years ago

        I would rather not live in interesting times when it comes to my filesystem, thank you very much 😉

          • cmrcmk
          • 3 years ago

          Fair point.

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