Perhaps the biggest benefit of buying an Apple device over an Android competitor is iOS' far superior cadence and frequency of software updates. Today, vast swaths of iPhones and iPads will gain access to iOS 11.3, an update that Apple says brings new augmented-reality features and the ability to control the power-management functionality that was quietly introduced in a past release.
Apple says the big news is the addition of new computer vision technologies in ARKit that now allow AR applications to find and use two-dimensional planes like floors, walls, and tabletops as surfaces to augment. The company says the view of physical reality through the camera (in an AR application, we presume) has 50% better resolution and supports auto-focus. The company expects that developers will use ARKit to create experiences like interactive movie posters and museums filled with dynamic virtual exhibits.
The real news here, to our reckoning, is the release of controls for Apple's controversial automatic battery management feature that may limit performance on iPhone 6 and newer models. That functionality was introduced in iOS 10.2.1 and reduces maximum performance in an effort to prevent phones with weak batteries from shutting off under load. iOS 11.3 now includes a battery health monitoring tool along with an override for said automatic management. The company has already dropped the price of replacement batteries on affected models to $29.
There's also a Business Chat feature (still in beta and only for the US for now) in the Messages app that provides a new way to communicate with participating businesses. Apple says that some companies in the retail, finance, and hospitality sectors will use Business Chat with their customers. Also, Spotlight, Safari, and Maps search results will provide links for users to transition directly into a conversation with a representative from the selected business.
The iOS 11.3 update also brings new lion, bear, dragon, and skull Animojis to iPhone X users. The new faces can be used to record and send messages, or create karaoke videos. The new release also has a new Health Records feature that lets patients of about 40 participating health organizations view their medical records on their iPhones. Health data is encrypted and protected with a passcode.
Owners of compatible iOS devices can follow instructions here to update to iOS 11.3. The compatibility list includes iPhone models 5S and newer, all iPad Air and iPad Pro variations, iPad Mini 2 and newer, and fifth-generation and newer suffix-less iPads.