Apple recently released the iOS 9.3 beta and it is chock full of new features. Here's what business professionals and educational institutions need to know.
On Monday, Apple released the beta version of iOS 9.3, despite the fact that iOS 9.2.1 is still in beta as well. The move is nothing extraordinary for Apple, but this latest release brings with it a host of new features that affect users across the enterprise.
As you'd expect, iOS 9.3 has updates to the Health and News apps, along with several new apps for its CarPlay platform. Additional updates to Wallet, Photos, and new languages for Siri round out the standard features.
One of the standout general features was the introduction of Night Shift, that cuts down the amount of blue light users have to see when looking at the screen as the sun goes down, similar to the software f.lux. Some studies have shown that blue light exposure can disrupt sleep.
Outside of these features, Apple introduced a few other tools and features that business users and educators will find particularly useful. Let's take a look.
Business and productivity features
For starters, new Quick Actions that make use of the 3D Touch capabilities in the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus give users easier access to connectivity options for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, as well as options for wallpaper and battery.
Avid users of Notes will find that there is a new capability to lock notes created in the app using a passcode or Apple's Touch ID. This means you can brainstorm certain sensitive company ideas with less fear that they may be seen by unsanctioned eyes. Users can choose which notes to lock and which to leave open, and there are new features to help you better organize the notes in iOS9.3 as well.
For productivity hounds, the App Switcher got haptic feedback in the latest iOS beta, meaning you'll get a physical response when you switch from one app to the other. When the app switcher is opened, users get the "peek" of what is available and can utilize the force touch pressure to see more.
Apple's latest mobile OS is so focused on education that they built an entire webpage, called the Education Preview, to explain the updates. The focus on education takes place through four key aspects:
- Shared iPads for students
- The new Classroom app
- Apple School Manager
- Managed Apple IDs
The Shared iPads feature is exactly what it sounds like--students can log in to different devices, using the same Apple ID, and access all of their content and materials. Older students can use a photo login feature, while younger students have the option of using a PIN.
The Shared iPads feature is very similar to what Google did with Chromebooks for Education, and could be Apple trying to win back some of the education market share the iPad lost to Chromebooks toward the end of 2014. Google has seen massive Chromebook deployments in education, and Apple wants a piece of the pie.
The Classroom app is a sort of "teaching assistant" app that allows educators to open a specific app on all student devices simultaneously, as well as view or share the student's screen and reset student passwords in the classroom to take some of the burden off of IT.
Apple School Manager is a web-based admin portal that allows the user to manage accounts, purchase content, handle MDM enrollment, and build courses for for certain classes.
Finally, Apple announced a new type of Apple ID called they Managed Apple IDs. These new Apple IDs allow students to quickly store and retrieve documents in iCloud and make use of other education features such as iTunes U. According to the education site, admins can "easily reset passwords, audit accounts, create IDs in bulk, and create customized roles for everyone in the district." Those are hard core enterprise features that education IT leaders are likely to welcome.
And, while the site did specify that Managed Apple IDs were designed for schools, they show a lot of potential for use in enterprise business organizations as well.
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