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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Submitted by Joseph Westhouse on Monday, March 21, 2016

I've experienced the bug where Alex will switch over to the UK English voice (I'm in the US but I just prefer the British voice); I am running iOS 9.2.1 - so this is not a newly introduced bug.

Submitted by MarkSARCH on Monday, March 21, 2016

hi to all who are waiting for the newer iOS version apple has released iOS9.3 just couple minutes before 12:00 Pacific time
according to Macrumors the version is out I just updated using iTunes from Mac XX

Submitted by Darrell Hilliker on Monday, March 21, 2016

Audio messaging is, finally, a reliable feature that works as advertised for VoiceOver users.

I have been beta testing iOS 9.3 for quite some time now and have been able to send every audio iMessage I have recorded. That certainly has not been the case in previous iOS versions.

Submitted by Toonhead on Monday, March 21, 2016

As the subject line says, the update finally showed up so I'll be updating as soon as possible. This is a big update, at just about 300 megs in size. holy wow!

Submitted by Lielle ben simon on Monday, March 21, 2016

Hi! i am very glad to see that siri supports in hebrew. it works very cool.

Submitted by Darren12 on Monday, March 21, 2016

Overall, a nice update. Noticing a new clicking sound when hitting the home button when exiting an app, which I quite like. Touch ID protection for notes will be very useful. Only small gripe is that the behavior when going back a page in Safari, where you are thrown back to the top of the page instead of your original destination, still persists. This is something I've reported countless times since It's introduction and I'd personally love a fix.
A splendid update however.

Submitted by tunmi13 on Monday, March 21, 2016

Hi its Tunmi,

I managed to upgrade to iOS 9.3 Public Beta 7, then deleted the configuration profile, rebooted my device, and now I can get the actual update, not beta. I'm staying away from beta once and for all.

Submitted by tunmi13 on Monday, March 21, 2016

Hi its Tunmi,

I managed to upgrade to iOS 9.3 Public Beta 7, then deleted the configuration profile, rebooted my device, and now I can get the actual update, not beta. I'm staying away from beta once and for all.

Submitted by Holger Fiallo on Monday, March 21, 2016

Could not make a recording. I got how many seconds but when I tap to listen nothing. Using speaker, iOS 9.3 and iPhone 6. Anyone can help? Do not know this is a bug or aam doing it wrong. I brought the phone to my face to record and push away.

Submitted by Troy on Monday, March 21, 2016

I've been beta testing 9.3 for a while and it works as expected. I was wondering about the new clicking sound when pressing the home button within an app so I would assume that is a feature and not a bug.

Submitted by Darren12 on Monday, March 21, 2016

Have to say, the multitasking 4 finger gesture is insanely useful on the phone. Love it.

Submitted by Tim Hornik on Monday, March 21, 2016

A bug that has been present since the earliest public betas of iOS 9 is still present. When using Braille Screen Input in Messages, the Audio Recorder will activate nearly every time. I have reported this in Feedback and emails to Apple Accessibility, and verified it throughout the iOS 9.3 testing and the public release. In times where Braille Screen Input does not activate the Audio Recorder, it sounds like dictation was activated or I lose the ability to use the input method.

Submitted by alex wallis on Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Hi I decided to experiment with password protecting notes and I discovered something rather worrying which I would like to get information from a sighted user on.
I discovered that if I password protect a note then go through my list of notes with VoiceOver the contents of password protected notes is still read as if the lock didn't exist on the note, at least the visible text on screen, of course if you have no extra text in the note the password lock is rendered kind of useless.
so question for sighted users what is shown visibly on screen when a note is password protected if the note has no extra text inside apart from what is displayed on the outside of the note without going in? I am trying to work out if this is a VoiceOver bug or if a very short note with no extra text would also show its information visually on screen.

Submitted by Earle on Tuesday, March 22, 2016

I have been beta testing for quite a while now. I have never had braille input activate audio recording or dictation. Braille input has always worked as expected.

Submitted by dvdmth on Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Club AppleVis Member

The first line of each note becomes the note title, which is displayed in the list of notes. This line will not be protected when you lock it, so that the note can be identified later. Otherwise, if you locked all your notes, you would only have a bunch of notes with nothing but the date and time to distinguish between them.

Therefore, when you compose a note, first type a name for the note, then press Return a couple of times, then type the main contents of the note. When you secure the note, only the first line will be visible in your list of notes, and everything else will be encrypted and cannot be viewed until you unlock the note.

Submitted by dvdmth on Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Club AppleVis Member

I discovered that, if you turn on the invert colors feature, night shift is automatically disabled. The first time you do this, an alert appears warning you that this will happen. This alert only appears once, so I can toggle invert colors on and off without having to see the message every time.

In a way, it makes sense for the night shift feature to be disabled while invert colors is active, since the action of inverting the colors could also cause the color shift to get inverted, resulting in the opposite effect from what is intended by the feature. However, the issue could be prevented by performing the color inversion first, before applying the night shift modification. It's too bad Apple didn't do this, because it means I cannot get the benefits of the new feature if I have the screen inverted.

Submitted by Seanoevil on Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Hi all,

Just wondering how the update runs on an iPhone 5?
Since updating to IOS 9, my poor old iPhone 5 has been noticeably sluggish. I guess that it may be at the point of it's life cycle where I no longer rush to update...
So before I pull the trigger on IOS 9.3, I would appreciate any feedback from those who have already updated.



Submitted by Darrell Hilliker on Tuesday, March 22, 2016

It appears it is not necessary to remove your beta configuration profile in order to download and install the release 9.3 update. I am currently running 9.3 public beta 7, and I am seeing the prompt to update.

Submitted by tunmi13 on Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Where's Night Shift?
I own an iPad Mini and went to Settings > Display and Brightness and there was nothing related to Night Shift. Unless my device is unsupported....

Submitted by treky fan on Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Hi all, after playing around with this new update, I am highly disappointed. First, Alex has change drastically in speech, and I can't seem to get the voice to a rate I like, as everything above fifty percent is to fast, fifty and lower is to slow. What voice and speech rate do you suggest as a replacement for Alex?

Submitted by Nancy Urquilla on Tuesday, March 22, 2016

I recently updated my iPhone 6 and so far I'm not having any major issues. I have a question though, it says that now you can add passwords to secure your notes, how do you do that? I already went into my settings and set up a password but I have not been able to lock any of my notes; not even when I write a new one, it doesn't give me the option to secure it. Is this feature only for iPhone 6 Plus, 6S and 6S plus?

Submitted by Tyler on Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

To secure a note, open it and then select share note>lock note.


Submitted by Tyler on Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

In reply to by treky fan

I too find the Alex speech rate change annoying. After using 40% on iOs 9.2.1, I am now using 55% on 9.3. It's somewhat slower than what I'm used to, but not unbearable like what the new 40% is.

Submitted by treky fan on Tuesday, March 22, 2016

I had my rate set to thirty before the update, and now, I can't stand that rate. I have tried the rate at 55 percent, and still find it slow. Any ideas as to how I can improve Alex or other voices that I can use in place of it.

Submitted by Toonhead on Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Some folks complained that Alex's speech rate was different than all the other voices, and Apple has set Alex up so that it matches up with the other speech rates of the other voices. Yes, some slight modification is required but really, it's not a show stopper. Remember you can add speech rate to your voice rotor and make fine adjustments there. Yes, it is a bit different but think of it this way, at least you have some control over it. Imagine if Apple just picked a voice rate that was good and didn't let you control it. Lets be thankful we have it.

Submitted by Bharat on Tuesday, March 22, 2016

On my Iphone 6, I have the Daniel voice set as the default voice. Whenever in a message i press Space, it is announced not by Daniel but by Samantha. Not only this, the moment i switch to the punctuations bar, all the punctuations are announced by Samantha & the moment it comes to numbers, it begins to announce them in Daniel's voice. It is really weird & irritating. Like suggested in one of the work arounds above,, I have even added UK Daniel Default as one of the voices in the roter but even that doesn't seem to be helping as i notice no change in the issues listed above.

Submitted by claire on Tuesday, March 22, 2016

everytime i attempt to dictate siri/voiceover reads backs the live dictation. this results in a messy dictation as there are a lot of duplicates. is this a new feature?

Submitted by Anna Beige on Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Has anyone figured out the braille display command to swipe right or left with four fingers? I've done some experimenting, but I can't figure it out. It's really useful being able to do it on the screen, but it would be more useful if I could also do it when I'm using my braille display.

Along the same lines as the braille display question, has anyone found out if there is a blue tooth keyboard command for the 4 finger left/right swipe gesture? This is probably my favorite new feature, and works like a dream on my iPhone 6 S from the screen. I hope it can also work from a blue tooth keyboard as well.

Submitted by Clare Page on Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Hi! I installed IOS 9.3 on my iPhone 6 yesterday evening my time, and I can say I'm satisfied with it so far; I had to speed Alex up and re-download the enhanced versions of the French and German voices I use, but those extra steps to get my VoiceOver voices how I want them are definitely not deal-breakers. As I can see very little on the screen, not much more than the Apple logo when my phone starts in fact, I won't be useing Nightshift, but hopefully that'll be useful for low vision IOS users. I have only typed in the Messages app once since updating to 9.3, and I had no problems with dictation kicking in or accidentally switching to audio messaging: nor have I had the problem where the punctuation is said in the default voice while typing using another voice. To end on a positive note, the four-finger swipe to switch between apps is definitely a bonus when I have several apps open at the same time, so I'm very pleased Apple thought of adding that.

Hm, I figured since that's how you switch from app to app on the mac that it might work. I'm not sure how to do it on iOS, then.

Submitted by Edward Alonzo on Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Hello everyone try O chord and OW chord, to switch through apps. Perhaps that will work. I think that is the commands to switch through pages when on the homescreens.

Submitted by Edward Alonzo on Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Hello everyone, I think the issue is, when the setting for raised to speak is on, and settings, and someone uses braille screen input, when you put your left hand down to write dots 12 and three on the screen, it thinks that your face is against the phone and activates the audio message sending mode. I have found the disabling this feature makes braille screen input work more reliably with out activating the audio message feature.

Submitted by tunmi13 on Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Safari is much more stabilized. At least, for me in iOS 9.3.
I remember they fixed that downloading issue in iOS 9.2.1, where if you downloaded an app, sometimes it would say that the app is done installing, but when you double tap on it instead of opening it says
. So I'm happy they fixed that.

Submitted by Greg Wocher on Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Hello all,
Ever since the update puncuation is being spoken in a different voice than my default. This happens in any app I am in. This even happens when I am typing something. My default voice is the Male Siri U.S. voice. I have restarted my phone and it still persists. In my rodar I have my default, Samantha, Daniel and Karen as my voices. Is anyone else seeing this? I am in the U.S. and I am using an iPhone 6 plus.

Greg WOcher

I have also experienced voice over using another voice over for punctuation after updating to 9.3. I am using the default samantha voice and live in ireland. I had to change the language in languages and regions from ireland to united states to fix mine.

Submitted by Rafal on Tuesday, March 22, 2016

I’ve updated my devices and I find the update quite nice. Although I had to reinstall the high quality voice for the Polish language on one device. The 4-finger swipe to switch between open apps is really nice and it works when fingers are put either vertically or horizontally. Someone's reported me that their iiPhone 5s works even faster after the update but I haven't observed that.

Submitted by Toonhead on Tuesday, March 22, 2016

For you guys having punctuation issues, please write to and let them know, just like you did hear about the punctuation issues you're having. It doesn't seem like it, but I assure you, they really are listening to people's comments and bug reports. They may not be able to fix every issue, remember no software is truly bug-free. But letting them know is always a good idea. Hopefully these issues will be fixed in the next update. I can tell you guys for sure that I'm nnot experiencing the punctuation bug.

Submitted by treky fan on Tuesday, March 22, 2016

I don't know if anybody else has noticed this, but I have audio ducking as one of the options in the router. When I tried to turn audio ducking off yesterday, voiceover didn't tell me that it had been turned off, and it also doesn't indicate if it has been turned back on either.

Submitted by Morgan Watkins on Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

It may be my imagination, but I am currently convinced that my use of a Bluetooth keyboard with my iPhone is much snappier with 9.3. I use a Bluetooth keyboard with my iPhone for many hours a day, as I use the combination of a Logitech Keys-To-Go Bluetooth keyboard with my iPhone 6S Plus as my primary workstation. I am delighted with the responsiveness. So far, 9.3 is working very well.

I did notice that one pesky bug that has been present for a while with Bluetooth keyboards is still in 9.3. When inside of a text edit field, the Option-UpArrow is supposed to move up towards the beginning of the text field by paragraph. It has not worked properly in many apps for a couple of iOS versions. Nowadays, it only goes to the top of the current paragraph. Option-DownArrow is supposed to moved down through a text field by paragraph, which it does, but it now cycles back to the beginning in many apps after it reaches the end, which is not an expected behavior. For me, I regularly run into the bug as I edit large documents in apps where this behavior can be seen. However, there are a few apps, including Pages and Mail where these keys still work as documented. It is not a show-stopper, as there are other ways to get around in a large text field, but it is a bit of a pain when I am writing a long document. I will keep my fingers crossed that the bug gets fixed in the near future.

I would also like to find the Bluetooth keyboard equivalent of the four-finger swipe to move between applications.
I will hope that the Command-Tab mighte end up in that role as it would certainly be very convenient. And, since I am wishing for things, I think it would be handy if VoiceOver would tell me what app I have just switched to when using the four-finger swipe. Even a Settings check box to enable that bit of info would be useful.

So far, a thumbs-up for iOS 9.3!



Submitted by Elena Brescacin on Tuesday, March 22, 2016

I may have found a bug into health app.
On the new feature mentioned in this post, the one which lists apps related to parameters to monitor, you do not manage to get a single app.
For example:
1. go to the "health data" tab (do not know the english translation, it's the second tab)
2. double tap on Sleep, and then on sleep analysis
3. Flick till you hear, sleep monitoring apps. VoiceOver will read something as:
Sleep cycle alarm clock, get. Sleep better, get. Beddit, get.
These are three suggested apps for sleep monitoring, and they should be in a list of separate apps, allowing you to get them one by one. Well, if you double-tap there, the app store does open, but shows just the last one, Bed it.
This is a bug present also in other lists, for example in Spotify's radio stations list, I really would like to warn Apple about this but I really do not know, developer-side, which kind of list type control it is and why it annoys VoiceOver. With such an effect on OSX, I could have interacted with the list and the elements could show regularly up. But iOS doesn't!

Another bug I have found, is an old friend, let's say.
If you open a web form on Safari, and focus a text field, then switch to Braille screen input, you can't. Braille screen input is not there. And, of course, if keyboard is turned off, input braille screen allows you to switch among rotor controls.
But it should work, I found no workaround for this, I am forced to use the standard keyboard when compiling Safari modules. Well, I am quite skilled on it and have no problems but not everyone is.
Then, Always on Braille screen input, I've found that in some cases, the old problem of confirmation Keys being disabled while typing with braille screen input, still occurs.
For example: go to app store and write a review using braille screen input. Having compiled all fields, then, you reach the Send button, and it's disabled. You must find the workaround of pressing spacebar and then the Send button works!

Submitted by OldBear on Tuesday, March 22, 2016

In the Health app, after the number of steps taken, VoiceOver announces an image attachment of some sort before stating the daily average. It says, attachment png crisp very dark file image. It doesn't announce anything like an image if I go through it by character.
Don't know that it's a bug, but it wasn't there before the update.

Submitted by Ohad on Tuesday, March 22, 2016

hello all. after some digging, I found a useful workaround for this annoying bug.
what this bug basically means is that whichever voice you use to read texts with the "SpeakScreen" feature, reads the punctuation with voiceover, no matter what voice you set as the default in voiceover (except for some particular voices).
what you need to do in order to fix this, is to set the voice you want as the default in voiceover, as the default voice also for the "SpeakScreen" feature.
go to settings > General > accessibility > speech > voices, and set the english voice to whichever default voice you set in voiceover.
This seems to solve the problem, hope it helps...