Apple Releases iOS 9.3 with a Number of New Features and Improvements

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Apple has today released iOS 9.3, bringing a number of new features, improvements, and bug fixes to the iOS 9 operating system.

For blind and low vision users, Apple has made further progress towards addressing the accessibility bugs still present in iOS 9.2.1.

As we always stress at this point, it is impossible for us to test all devices, apps, and use cases. So, it is entirely possible that we have overlooked some changes, regressions or improvements. With this in mind, we would greatly appreciate your help in ensuring that the information on this page is as complete and accurate as possible. If you spot any accessibility-related changes in iOS 9.3 that are not listed in this post, please do let us know in the comments.

Accessibility Bugs Fixed in iOS 9.3

  1. The bug where VoiceOver would occasionally take 3-5 seconds to respond after swiping to move focus appears to have been resolved.
  2. During a phone call, VoiceOver once again behaves as expected after hiding or revealing the keypad.
  3. The Settings app no longer crashes when attempting to make changes in Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > Signatures.
  4. Support for the Smart Beetle braille display from HIMS has been improved.
  5. In the News app that was introduced with iOS 9, the horizontal scrolling bars which display suggested channels and topics now work better with VoiceOver.
  6. The bug where VoiceOver focus would occasionally jump to the Status Bar when swiping through the main area of the screen appears to be less prevalent, but it does still very occasionally happen.
  7. When using Touch Typing Mode, a triple-tap of the Shift key will once again set the Caps Lock to on.
  8. Audio iMessages now work more consistently and reliably with VoiceOver.
  9. VoiceOver users can once again write and submit reviews to the App Store.

Accessibility Bugs Possibly Fixed in iOS 9.3

  1. Some of our team report that they are no longer experiencing sluggishness when using the Siri voices with VoiceOver. Others, however, are still experiencing this issue.

Accessibility Bugs Introduced in iOS 9.3

  1. You may find that VoiceOver will switch to use another voice whenever it needs to announce punctuation. It was initially believed that this problem was specific to users who had Alex as their only active TTS voice. However, people have subsequently reported that this behavior can also be seen when using other voices.
    A quick and simple test to see if you are likely to encounter this behavior is to go to a text field on your device so that the onscreen keyboard appears. Now switch to the punctuation keyboard. If VoiceOver continues using its default voice when you touch any of the punctuation keys, then it’s probably safe to assume that you will not see this problem.
    If you are effected, we have found a temporary workaround, and that’s to add a second instance of your preferred TTS voice to the VoiceOver language rotor. The result will be that you now have 2 language options on the rotor, both of which should in theory be the same. However, in our own testing, the newly added one appears to work as expected, whereas the ‘default’ instance on the rotor will demonstrate the behavior described above.
  2. In the Health app, the lists of recommended 3rd party apps which are displayed in various locations are not accessible with VoiceOver.

New for VoiceOver Users

  • When in an app, a 4-finger swipe to the left/right can be used to switch between open apps on the iPhone and iPod Touch.
  • When navigating the Favorites tab in the native News app, VoiceOver will now provide feedback on the number of feeds/channels that are displayed by announcing “x of x” after its name.

Changes in Behavior

  1. The speech rate of the Alex voice has been tweaked to bring it more inline with the other TTS voices. Thus, upon updating to iOS 9.3, users may find that Alex’s speech rate appears slower.
  2. For those who use the Native News app, VoiceOver no longer announces the number of new articles after refreshing. Whereas it would previously announce “x new articles,” it now simply says “new articles.” We have had this checked, and it appears that the number of new articles is no longer displayed visually on the screen, so this change should be treated as expected behavior rather than a new bug with VoiceOver.

Other Changes

Unusually for Apple, the company gave a preview of some new features and changes coming in this release:

This latest iOS release adds numerous innovations to the world’s most advanced mobile operating system. There are improvements to a wide range of apps, along with great new additions to CarPlay. iOS 9.3 may even help you get a good night’s sleep. And you’ll find a preview of new features that will make using iPad in schools easier and better for students and admins.

New 3D Touch Quick Actions

Users of an iPhone 6s or 6s Plus will find that there are new 3D Touch Quick Actions for several of the native iOS apps--including Weather, Settings, Compass, Health, iTunes Store and the App Store. For example, the Weather app’s Quick Actions allow you to see the weather at your current location or for saved locations, whilst the Settings app now offers Quick Actions for accessing Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and Battery options.

Notes Become More Secure

The native Notes app has also received some welcome updates:

Now you can secure the notes that contain your most personal data — such as financial details, medical info, or website logins — with a password or fingerprint. You can also sort notes by date created, date modified, or alphabetically.

News Becomes More Personalized

Apple has improved its News app to make the content presented match your interests.

The articles in For You are now better tailored to your particular interests. And to help you discover new Favorites, For You suggests trending topics and Editors’ Picks. When a story contains video, you can play it right from your feed. On your iPhone, you can view everything in landscape. And when you check for updates, the latest stories appear much faster — so you can catch up on the day’s events quickly and easily.

The Health App Makes it Easier to Collect, View and Share Data

Apple’s Health app now gathers and displays more information and suggests third-party apps which will help you to collect data.

It’s simpler than ever to find third-party apps to track your health and wellness. Categories such as Weight, Workouts, and Sleep have a new slider menu that reveals great apps you can easily add to your Health dashboard. The Health app also now displays your move, exercise, and stand data, as well as your goals, from Apple Watch. So you can see all your health metrics in one place and easily share your data with third‑party apps.

More Power and Features for Educators

Educators will be pleased to see that iOS 9.3 brings a number of new classroom-oriented features, including shared iPads for students; a new Classroom app; an Apple School Manager; and improved Apple ID management.

You can now Pair with more than one Apple Watch

With iOS 9.3 and watchOS 2.2, the iPhone is now able to pair with more than one Apple Watch.

New Languages for Siri

Siri has been updated to now include the following languages: Malay, Finnish and Hebrew.

Night Shift

Night Shift is a new feature that's designed to automatically cut down on the amount of blue light an iOS user is exposed to at night by shifting the display to use more yellow tones.

Apple’s Preview page explains Night Shift thus:

Many studies have shown that exposure to bright blue light in the evening can affect your circadian rhythms and make it harder to fall asleep.


Night Shift uses your iOS device’s clock and geolocation to determine when it’s sunset in your location. Then it automatically shifts the colors in your display to the warmer end of the spectrum, making it easier on your eyes. In the morning, it returns the display to its regular settings.

Night Shift settings are located in the ‘Display & Brightness’ section of the iOS Settings app.

How to Update

iOS 9.3 is available via Over-the-Air Update (Settings> General> Software Update) or from iTunes on the Mac or PC. As always, we would encourage you to make a backup before installing this update.

Once you have updated, be sure to come back and let us know what you think of this release.

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#51 Work around.

Excellent job of digging around to find that. Appreciated.

#52 More info about the update

Club AppleVis Member

I found this article with some more detailed release notes for iOS 9.3, including some accessibility improvements that have not been listed here as of yet.

Mac Kung Fu: iOS 9.3: All the little things (how many have you already spotted?)

As for the keyboard equivalent for four-finger swipes, Command-Tab and Command-Shift-Tab have always done this, at least on the iPad. Of course, the four-finger gestures have also been around on the iPad for a long time - Apple just added the gestures for the iPhone and iPod Touch. I only have an iPad, so I cannot test the keyboard shortcuts to see if they work on other device types.

#53 A little bug

I think i've found a little bug which though small is a bit annoying.
Using the UK english Daniel voice, if you type the word "now" into an iMessage reply text field, then either review the word with the insertion or speak the entire field, the word is pronounced as "know" as if there is a silent K.
If you review backwards with the insertion, the word is often pronounced correctly, but when reviewing forwards or speaking the field it is always pronounced incorrectly. I haven't checked to see if this bug occurs in any other text fields yet. Also, after sending, the iMessage still reports the word incorrectly.
I'm using an iPhone 5S, which does by the way seem much faster after the update.

#54 Very dissapointed with IOS 9.3

Hi, all. I have the update installed, and while there are no new issues, I'm very discouraged and frustrated to see that nearly all of the bugs I've been reporting ever since IOS 8 was released are still alive and well. I even joined the public beta this time, hoping that if I used that forum to once again report these issues, something might be done to fix them. Unfortunately, this doesn't appear to be the case, and even the strange audio issues which started showing up in IOS 9.2 are still around. Audio just cuts out for a second or so every 10-15 seconds; it's most noticeable in games like hanging with friends or Trivia Crack Kingdoms, but I've heard it happen other places as well. I'd be willing to believe it was just my phone, but I've heard similar audio glitches on co-workers' phones. Anyway, I have unenrolled from the beta program since being a part of it didn't seem to make any real difference. Maybe I'll try to send messages to again, but I've been doing that and calling their accessibility hotline for the past year every few months, and it just doesn't seem to be doing any good. I'm glad that so many of you are happy with the update. As I said in the beginning, it works fine here, but it just annoys me that so many little quirks just keep failing to get fixed.

#55 Share your frustration to an extent.

In the main, I've no significant complaints, but I absolutely share your sense of frustration with the little quirks. I politely reported the issue with Safari 3 times since 9.2 and had confirmation that it is an active problem and a reassurance that it would be addressed, and yet it remains. Ultimately trivial, but a small bug that could be simply fixed you'd think without too much exertion.

I suppose it all comes down to prioritizing new features in this update and the level of reports about specific bugs, as always.

#56 autolock

No, the autolock bug isn't fixed. Super annoying. Is this a voiceover bug? I have called apple support about it and even gotten my phone replaced, and it still doesn't autolock reliably even though it's set to thirty seconds.

#57 try setting auto-lock to 5 minutes...

try setting your auto-lock to something like 5 minutes. See what happens if you do that and if you still experience the bug, write to and let them know your findings.

#58 Regarding the comment about

Regarding the comment about the 5s being faster, I've notice mine is.

#59 Four Finger Gesture Questions

I've an iPhone 6 Plus. I tried the four finger gesture. It is not working for me. Is this gesture available for certain models? How can I make this feature work better? I can swipe between my apps in the app switcher using a single finger swipe left or right.

#60 App Store Review bug

Previously you couldn't write an app store review.
In the release notes of iOS 9.3 under accessibility Apple mentions that the bug has been fixed in iOS 9.3

#61 Night Shift

One person who posted to this thread said that Night Shift would not be good for them as they only have light perception.

Regardless of how much you can actually see, blue light before sleep is bad for the brain as it has a stimulating effect causing you to remain in a restless state of wakefulness.

In short, regardless of how much vision you have, having Night Shift on will lead to longer and peaceful sleep.

#62 RE: Four Finger Gesture Questions

Hello JTran2013:

I use an iPhone 6S. The four-finger gesture works for me. Here is what I do... Instead of placing the tips of my fingers on the screen, as with all other gestures, to perform the gesture, I found that if I place the flat of my fingers on the screen, as if I'm being fingerprinted, and then swipe to the right or left, it works fine. It's not a very big gesture. You will know that you arte successful when you hear the two or three small beeps when it changes into another app. VO also announces something within the new app when it switches, too.


#63 Slight Bug in News

One thing I have noticed is, when reading articles in Apple News, occasionally VoiceOver will begin to say "use the rotor to access headings" after every paragraph. This is a hint, and I have hints turned off. This should therefore not be spoken. Other than that, I haven't noticed any new bugs.

#64 Hello all!

Hello all!
I am still having the bug where if you are replying to a message outside of the messages app there is a dictation echo. Also the bug where the time is wrong on this particular screen is still prevalent. I have already reported these bugs to Apple is anyone else having these issues? Thanks!

#65 four-finger swipe gesture in iOS 9.3

I can't get this gesture to work at all on my 6S. When I called Apple accessibility they said there was no such gesture. Is there something I must turn on to make this work? Thanks.

#66 four fingger swipe

Nothing needs to be turned on. Make sure all four of your fingers are on the screen. I do a horizontal swipe. I read someone does a vertical swipe but, it doesn't work for me. The gesture does exist. I had to make sure my pinky was on the screen in motion with the others, it wanted to do it's own thing. A sound is make when the app changes.

#67 4 finger swipe

Hello Veronica!
I also have the iPhone 6 S and I am able to perform this gesture by swiping left and right between apps. However it takes a little working with it. Please let me know if I can help further thanks!

#68 Four Finger Gesture

I had the same problem and I've the 6 plus. One of my friends explained to me how to do this gesture.
Try opening three apps. For example, i opened Messages, Mail, and Safari. I switched to the app switcher and I picked the last app to the far left which was Mail. Once I was in the Mail app I placed my four fingers on the screen and swiped my fingers to the right . This switched to the Messages app. It finally works for me.
Hope this helps!

#69 Another 4 finger swipe thought

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

For me, rather than trying to use my little finger, I have found that using my thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers is more comfortable. For some folks, that might be easier...

#70 Something else about the four finger swipe

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

I just listened to a David Woodbridge podcast about the four finger swipe gesture. He mentioned that the gesture only works if you are already inside of an app. It does not work from the Home Screen. That would likely explain why some folks have had such a tough time getting it to work. Now that I know it, it does appear to be true.

#71 bluetooth

Anyone has problem with Bluetooth headset? Still having same issues in which when get a call it goes to speaker and not to Bluetooth. Same when I make a call.

#72 IOS 9.3 Withheld for Older Devices

I haven't exhaustively read through the posts, but thought I'd mention the news items I've seen saying that Apple has pulled the 9.3 update for some older devices because of authentication issues. I was trying to install the update on my IPhone 5S and it kept failing to validate, so I did a quick search and found the various articles. I'll just have to wait until Apple releases the fixed version.

#73 the speed of Alex

To those who complain about the speed of Alex, there is such a simple solution! Use a higher rate. Unless you are at 100 percent, and you find it too slow, the heck with whether it is at 35 or 70 percent. If it is too slow, increase it until it is to your liking.

#74 I have no problem with the new update

That's interesting that you mention that IOS 9.3 was pulled for some older devices. I also have an iPhone 5S and I had no problem downloading the update, and I was able to enter my Apple ID password just fine.

#75 I have iOS 9.3

I already installed iOS 9.3 on my iPhone 5S and I am not experiencing any issues with it. So if apple pulled iOS 9.3 for older devices and I already have it installed on both my iPod touch (5th generation) and iPhone 5s, what am I supposed to do because I can't downgrade back to iOS 9.2.1. Also, I am not having any problems with using VoiceOver. It works perfectly.

#76 Just keep doing what you're doing

If you aren't having any problems, do what I do, just keep working with it as you've done since you installed the update. I'm not saying that I'm right or wrong, but that's my own personal advice

#77 Attempting to upgrade from 7.1, but can only get to 9.2

Like the title says: I've been happily on 7.1 for years and have never had a problem, but thought I'd upgrade for security reasons, and because it seems the rest of the world has moved on - i.e. developers aren't supporting older versions anymore.

However, after the upgrade, I was brought to version 9.2.1 and can't seem to go any higher. I thought that perhaps after I got to 9.x I would then be offered an upgrade to the latest 9.3, but have waited almost 12 hours now and nothing has changed.

Any advice on how I can force an update, or force the thing to scan for updates, etc?

Thanx much.
-- Rich

#78 Outch

OK, just posted a question asking why my update only took me to 9.2.1 instead of the hoped-for 9.3! I guess you can ignore that post, as this post seems to answer my question!

Damn! I've been happily on 7.1 for years and loved it. Now, just my luck, as soon as they announce a version that seems to have many of the accessibility bugs fixed, I can't get the latest version!

#79 question for Fatima.Hamoud10

If you aren't having any problems with 9.3, why are you even thinking about going back to a previous version of the firmware, or am I missing something in your message? Just curious. Thanks.

#80 I wasn't thinking about

I wasn't thinking about downgrading back to iOS 9.2.1. I heard that some users were experiencing some problems on their iPads when they were completing the update but I guess Apple has released a new build that fixes the problems with activation lock. I like iOS 9.3 so much because it has lots of new features. My iPhone and iPod touch were not affected so the update is working perfectly. One of the features that is missing from the update is the Apple news app. Does anyone know when the news app will be available in Canada?

#81 for RJC

Hi, RJC. You never did mention what kind of device you're using, iPhone, iPad, etc. Apple just released another build of iOS 9.3 that fixes some of the problems people were having on older devices. The only way I've found for the phone to look for a new update is to reboot your device and try checking again. Be sure that the settings app is out of your app switcher before you do this, t least for me that's what always does the trick. Plus this is a regional update, so it may take some time to get to you if you're just now upgrading. I'm also interested that the version you got was 9.2. Very interesting indeed.

#82 Still Can't Install 9.3

Well this is odd. Back when 9.3 was first announced, I got a notification on my IPhone 5S that 9.3 was available. I selected to install it overnight while on power. However, the following morning, nothing had happened. I assumed that this was because Apple had pulled the update.

My IPhone still shows the 9.3 update being available. Indeed, in the Software Updates dialog, it shows it has been downloaded. But whenever I try to install it, I get as far as agreeing the license terms, and then the installer says it's failing to verify the update because my IPhone is no longer connected to the Internet. I know this isn't true, because I was browsing with Safari at the same time and that was working fine.

I also connected to ITunes, and was prompted there to install the new 9.3 update. Because I'd already selected to install overnight that day, I dismissed the prompt, not wanting to download it twice. However now, when I connect my phone to my PC, ITunes says that 9.2.1 is the latest version, even when I click the Check for updates button.

Perhaps Apple hasn't yet got around to releasing the 9.3 fix for older devices in the UK yet. But it's starting to feel like something's a bit wrong, because the 9.3 original update was available almost immediately after I saw the post here.

Is there a way to remove the update that has been downloaded to my IPhone but not installed yet? Maybe that's confusing things.

#83 Apple strikes again!

Again, Apple shows that they are not the greatest as many people like to believe.

according to my iPhone, the current version of iOS is 9.2.1, not 9.3.

hahahahahahaha! What a joke!

#84 Emoji

Did anyone else find the heading of the Emoji keyboard and then swipe through to find the one you want? i can't do this after updating. I have to find an emoji, which inserts it, and then swipe through. Also, I use Alex, and the K siri voice is used for Emojis for some reason. This has been happening for quite some time now.

#85 try rebooting your phone

Try rebooting your phone and make sure the phone is connected to Wi-Fi, if possible. That should do the trick. If that doesn't work then I'm not sure but it should reach you eventually. It took a while but 9.3 got to me eventually and it works great.

#86 Already Tried Rebooting

I've already tried rebooting, including holding both power and home buttons. I have even now deleted the update download from my phone. Now both my IPhone and ITunes say that 9.2.1 is the latest version.

I can only assume that the "fix" for the 9.3 prang on older devices still isn't rleased, and so Apple are still withholding the 9.3 update from my device. If it has been released, then it's taking far longer for the fix to reach me than the original release did.

#87 Yes I also noticed this bug

Yes I also noticed this bug as well!!! It is quite frustrating!!! I was wondering if it was just me thanks!!!

#88 About the emoji comment

Hello! Just saying that my previous comment was about the Emoji problem! I wasn't sure if that was clear or not thanks!

#89 Older Device Fix

According to some UK papers, the fix has been released. So I'm bemused as to why I'm still unable to update my IPhone 5S. I'm still being told by both my phone and ITunes that 9.2.1 is the latest version.

#90 Have you tried restoring your

Have you tried restoring your phone? if you do that it should detect the new version, hopefully after restore you can then try updating, also if you had ios betas installed that might be part of the problem? I steer clear of betas, so much fiddling around with updating them archiving backups etc.

#91 No Betas

I've never had any beta versions of anything on my phone. I did wonder about restoring, but because it backs up every time I connect, I'll have to go back several instances to find one before the update was released I guess, since there will be several backups which include the current state where I've been connecting to ITunes to find out if the new version is available yet.

#92 Fix May only be For IPads`

`Looking at a few more articles, it could be that the fix that has been released so far is only for IPads. There are suggestions that the IPhone fix still isn't available. I wish Apple would be more explicit and give a continual status update, like pretty much every other service provider out there.

#93 Ap Store

Club AppleVis Member

So Apple claims it fixed the review bug where you couldn't submit an app review. However, I have found this to be untrue. I went to review an app, gave the review a subject, entered my review, selected the rating, then went to hit the Submit Review button. However, the button was dimmed. Nothing I did let me get past this screen. I even tried doing it with Voiceover turned off. Guess it's not fixed after all.

#94 Has anyone noticed

Has anyone noticed a new version of iOS 9.3 on their iPhone, iPad or iPod touch? The reason I am asking is because when I was using both my iPod touch (5th generation and iPhone 5S today, a dialogue box popped up on the screen saying something like "A new version of iOS 9.3 is ready for your iPod." The same thing happened on my iPhone 5S. So I just reinstalled it on both of my devices. I guess that's the new build of iOS 9.3 that fixes the activation bug.

#95 Yes, I've Just been Prompted with a New Update

It seems like the IPhone and IPod fixes for 9.3 have been released now. I'm downloading it as I write.

#96 Re: Dictation OverlaprE

This bug whereby VoiceOver speaks back while you are dictating text has been around since iOS 9.2.

I have written to about this. Their suggestion was to perform a three finger double tap to silence speech before starting dictation and then do the three finger double tap to turn speech back on again when finished dictating.

I don't consider this an acceptable solution since it is awkward and we shouldn't have to do this.

From observations, I have also seen that the problem can be minimized by lowering the speech volume of VoiceOver, but again, I don't consider this an acceptable solution.

I am hoping that other users write to Apple accessibility support to make sure this problem gets fixed soon.


#97 Describing bugs just briefly

It would be really helpfull if people wrote just a few words on bugs they find. E.g. I have no idea about what the auto-lock is even though I have my phone set to auto-lock, so I should experience the bug.
If I new what it was, and it happens on my 6plus, I could report it to Apple.

#98 VO loses place in mail list 9.3.1

I experience after 9.3.1 that if you from inbox or a folder in mail, goes into a thread to read the mails, and go back out into the list of mails in the folder, VO loses the correct place in the list. It will jump about 10 to 15 items higher up in the list, meaning that I have to go through mails I already have looked at once. This is reported to Appple.

#99 A great update.

I have installed iOS 9.3.1 and I can say it is a very good job from the iOS team. The settings app opens so quickly and I don't know, but I believe that the battery is lasting a little longer, especially when leaving the phone alone for many hours. In iOS 9.2, when I woke up and looked at the battery status, it used to drain 4 or 5%. While now, it drains 2%. I am not facing the punctuation issue. I use Daniel high quality and never heard of this issue before. An issue that has not been fixed is audio ducking in music app. The music volume is not decreased when I touch the screen or when I change the track's position. Pausing or turning off voiceover will fix the issue.
I love the fact that they decreased the spead of Alex. That is not a problem because you can change the speed in the roter section by even 1%, but Alex does not deserve 869 MB because the pause between sentences is so tiny that you may not notice when the sentence starts or ends.