Apple teases iOS 11.3 with new Animoji, big improvements

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iOS 11.3 ARKit
Augmented reality will be even better with glasses.
Photo: Apple

Apple today offered fans a preview of a big iOS 11.3 update coming this spring.

Alongside 16 new Animoji characters for iPhone X owners, the update will bring big improvements to ARKit and Messages, the ability to view battery health on all iOS devices, music videos for Apple Music, and lots more.

New ARKit experiences

ARKit has been blowing us away since making its debut in iOS 11. It’s never been easier for developers to create stunning augmented reality experiences. And with ARKit 1.5 in iOS 11.3, they’re going to get even better.

ARKit can now recognize horizontal surfaces, like tables and chairs, and place virtual objects on vertical surfaces, like walls and doors. It can also more accurately map irregularly shapred surfaces, like circular tables, Apple says.

Advanced computer vision techniques lets ARKit recognize the position of 2D images, such as signs and posters, then integrate them into AR experiences. It paves the way for apps that bring movie posters to life and can fill a museum with interactive exhibits.

Apple has also made it so that the view of the real world through an iPhone or iPad camera now has a 50 percent greater resolution and supports auto-focus for a sharper perspective.

New Animoji and Business Chat

iOS 11.3 brings a whopping 16 new Animoji to iPhone X, including a lion, bear, dragon, and skull. But there’s another new Messages feature you don’t need an iPhone X to enjoy.

iOS 11.3 Animoji
The new Animoji in iOS 11.3.
Photo: Apple Apple

It’s called Business Chat, and it makes it easier for iPhone and iPad users to communicate with businesses. You can use it to talk to customer service representatives, schedule appointments, and even make purchases with Apple Pay.

Discover, Hilton, Lowe’s and Wells Fargo will support Business Chat at launch, Apple says.

Battery and performance improvements

Following the iPhone throttling debacle, iOS 11.3 will let you view the health of your iPhone or iPad battery in the battery settings menu. It will also tell you if your battery needs to be serviced, and allow you to choose increased performance over better battery life.

This feature will be available on iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone SE, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone 7, and iPhone 7 Plus.

Health Records

iOS 11.3 brings Health Records to the Health app, making it easier for users to view medical data from multiple providers whenever they need it.

iOS 11.3 Health Records
Health Records in the Health app.
Photo: Apple

“Patients from participating medical institutions will have information from various institutions organized into one view and receive regular notifications for their lab results, medications, conditions and more,” Apple explains.

As you might expect, Health Records data is encrypted and protected by a passcode.

Additional features for iOS 11.3

Alongside all of the above, iOS 11.3 will bring music videos to Apple Music. This will include the latest videos from the hottest artists, as well as all the classics. What’s more, you’ll be able to enjoy them back-to-back with music video playlists.

Apple News is also getting a new Video group, making it easier to stay up-to-date. HomeKit is getting software authentication, allowing developers to add HomeKit support to existing accessories while protecting privacy and security.

iOS 11.3 launches this spring

iOS 11.3 will be available to all this spring. A developer beta will rollout later today, followed by a public beta preview in the coming weeks. “Not all features will be in the beta releases,” Apple says.