iOS 11.3: Get your iPhone and iPad ready for the biggest update yet

Here's what you need to do to make sure that your upgrade goes smoothly and you don't lose any data.

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If you're the sort who will want to pull the trigger on upgrading to iOS 11.3 -- which will likely be soon -- the moment it's released, there are some steps that you should take so you don't end up in a world of hurt.

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When will iOS 11.3 arrive?

Word is it will land tomorrow, coinciding with Apple's "Let's Take a Field Trip'" event.

How will you get iOS 11.3?

The recommended way is to tap Settings > General > Software Update and carry out the refresh from there.

Alternatively, you can connect the iPhone or iPad to a PC running iTunes and do the upgrade from there.

What devices can run iOS 11.3?

If you're running iOS 11, then you can get iOS 11.3. If you're still running iOS 10, read on.

iOS 11 is supported on the following devices:

  • iPad Air
  • iPad Air 2
  • iPad Pro
  • iPad mini 2
  • iPad mini 3
  • iPad mini 4
  • iPod touch 6th
  • iPhone 5s
  • iPhone SE
  • iPhone 6/6 Plus
  • iPhone 6s/6s Plus
  • iPhone 7/7 Plus
  • iPhone 8/8 Plus
  • iPhone X

This means not all devices that run iOS 10 can run the iOS 11.3. Specifically, the following are not supported:

  • iPhone 5
  • iPhone 5c
  • iPad 4

So, the oldest Apple devices that can support iOS 11 will be the iPhone 5s and iPad Air.

What's new in iOS 11.3?

There's a lot:

  • On the battery and performance front, Apple is offering users access to more battery diagnostic information. It's far from perfect, but it's a start, and can be found at Settings > Battery > Battery Health (Beta). Note that this feature applies only to the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone SE, iPhone 7, and iPhone 7 Plus.
  • Messages is getting a Business Chat feature to allow iPhone and iPad users a way to to chat directly with businesses such as Discover, Hilton, Lowe's, and Wells Fargo through the normal Messages app.
  • iOS 11.3 also features an array of AR (augmented reality) improvements, allowing virtual objects to be placed on vertical surfaces and non-square surfaces.
  • New Animojis (if you're still into that sort of thing): A lion, bear, dragon, and skull.
  • The Health app gets password protection and the ability to pull data in from various medical institutions.
  • iCloud Messages finally brings a way to sync messages between your iOS and macOS devices.

Remember that things can -- and do -- go wrong!

Before you go hog-wild, throw caution to the wind, and start upgrading, be aware that there are risks. Things can go wrong, stuff may be broken, and you may lose data. Plenty of iOS launches have been marred by bugs and problems, so with that in mind, it's a good idea to have an up-to-date backup, because making a fuss isn't going to bring back your lost photos or documents.

You can either create a local backup using iTunes, or backup to iCloud by going to Settings > iCloud > Backup, and then turning on iCloud Backup.

Keep in mind that unless you're willing to jump through hoops and do things that Apple frowns upon, going to iOS 11.3 is a one-way trip, so you might want to let other people to go ahead of you just in case there are gotchas.

You ignore backups at your peril!

How good is the latest iOS 11.3 beta?

Hmm. I don't really comment on beta code, because, well, it is beta code, after all. That said, with the release of iOS 11.3 now imminent, the state of the latest beta does offer us some clues as to what the final release will be like.

And, right now, that latest beta feels shaky at best. While the release feels pretty good in terms of stability, performance wise things don't feel all that good. I'm seeing lags and frame drops on a regular basis across a wide variety of devices, and overall responsiveness still leaves a lot to be desired. Right now, it's hard to tell whether this is down to diagnostic and debugging code still in the iOS beta or some wider performance issue that will affect the final release.

Spring clean your iPhone or iPad

Chances are that your iPhone or iPad has accumulated a lot of detritus over the months and years, so what better time to get rid of it than now.

While iOS 11.3 doesn't need as much free space to install as some of the earlier releases of iOS, getting rid of apps that you no longer use -- or perhaps have never used -- makes good sense.

Know your passwords

Following the upgrade, you'll need to enter your iCloud password in order to be able to reconnect to all your data and photos. If you don't have this close to hand -- remember, having it on the device you're upgrading isn't all that convenient -- then this might be a good time to do that.

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Also, if your iTunes backup is encrypted, then remember you'll need that password if something goes wrong!

If you're still running iOS 10, prepare yourself for the "Appocalypse"

The end is nigh for all 32-bit iOS apps, so if you've not already upgraded to iOS 11 and are still relying on older apps, it's time to find alternatives.

For some time now, Apple has been warning iPhone and iPad users that legacy 32-bit apps may slow down their devices, but with the recent release of iOS 10.3, Apple has escalated things by making it clear that the end is nigh.

You can check installed apps for compatibility using the built-in checker tool (you need to be running iOS 10.3 or later for this to work, but not iOS 11).

You can find that by clicking: Settings > General > About > Applications.

From there, you'll get a list of all the 32-bit apps on your iPhone or iPad that won't run on iOS 11.3. If you're lucky, you won't have any apps listed, or the apps that are listed will be old stuff that you forgot you had installed and no longer use.

However, if an app that you are relying on is listed, then you need to get ready for its demise.

Is it better to upgrade or wipe the device and start from scratch?

It's a lot less hassle to just upgrade a device, because you get to keep all your apps and settings.

However, devices that I have wiped and reloaded a new iOS onto, and then installed and re-setup all my apps and such, feel faster and seem to suffer from fewer problems (such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi issues). However, wiping and reloading the apps and data is pretty big hassle, and it's probably more work than most want to undertake.

Should I wait a while before doing the upgrade?

There will likely be an update or two to iOS 11.3 coming down the pike over the weeks following its release, so you might want to wait for the dust to settle and for any last-minute bugs to be squashed before making the leap, especially if you rely on your device.

If you don't like dealing with bugs, holding back for a few days might be the wise thing to do. If you like to live on the edge, smash that update button as soon as Apple makes iOS 11.3 available (but don't say I didn't warn you).

Also, if you use your device in a BYOD setting, make sure you get the OK from the IT department before upgrading, in case you're unable to access the network or data you need.

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