iOS 9.3 lets IT admins set an iPhone's homescreen layout, blacklist apps

Apple's forthcoming mobile OS update will give admins new tools to make sure company-issued iPhones are focused on work and not play.

iPhones running the new iOS 9.3 will sports new management features.

Image: CNET/CBS Interactive

New enterprise features in Apple's forthcoming iOS 9.3 will give admins the means to lock down iPhone homescreens with apps of the company's choice.

The new features will give companies greater control over which apps are prioritised on iPhones running iOS 9.3, so long as they are enrolled on a corporate mobile device management (MDM) platform.

Developer Steve Stroughton-Smith drew attention to the new features in Apple's recently updated Configuration Profile Reference document, which details a "home screen layout payload" that "defines a layout of apps, folders, and web clips for the Home screen".

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As Stroughton-Smith summarised: "iOS 9.3 enables MDM to enforce homescreen layouts, black/whitelist apps, and enforce notification settings."

The features are part of the device management controls Apple offers admins to supervise corporate deployments of iPhones, through the use of a device configuration profile.

The new blacklist control for iOS 9.3 joins a long list of "restriction payloads" and will now allow admins to prevent selected apps from being shown or launched. The whitelisting feature will allow admins to select a group of apps that are only permitted to be shown. Admins can also lock down notification settings and disable iTunes Radio.

All in all, the update will offer admins the ability to fine-tune company-issued iPhones to suit a company's needs.

Other management features unique to iOS 9.3 include the ability to whitelist a set of URLs that users can save in Safari. Admins will also be able to specify the text on the lockscreen on iOS 9.3 devices. Apple's example is, "If Lost, Return to..."

Details of the new MDM controls surfaced as Apple released the fifth beta of iOS 9.3. The new release will bring a new Night Shift mode that uses the device's location to determine when to reduce blue light emitted from the screen.

The update also enables multi-user account access for the iPad, a feature designed to attract more schools to Apple's tablet as the company bids for educational users against Google's Chromebooks.

This feature is outlined in the Apple configuration document under an "Education Configuration Payload", which defines how devices are set up for users, groups, or departments within an educational organisation.

Read more about Apple iOS 9

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