Back in September 2017, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) announced the newest version of its mobile operating system, known as iOS 11. The new iteration of iOS saw the addition of augmented reality-specific capabilities, a totally redesigned App Store, an enhanced version of Apple's Siri voice assistant, and improvements to Apple Music, Apple Maps, and Apple Pay.
It was a pretty big deal.
Apple generally continuously updates the latest version of iOS in the year following its launch. These updates often include bug fixes, security patches, and even significant feature additions. On Jan. 24, Apple put out a press release detailing all of the new feature additions that'll be coming to the next version of iOS 11, known as iOS 11.3.
But this isn't your average mid-cycle software update. Let's go over the key features, shall we?
AR, Animoji, and batteries
Apple said in its press release that iOS 11.3 will include an updated version of the company's ARKit, a suite of software development tools designed to make developing augmented reality (AR) easier.
This new version of ARKit, known as ARKit 1.5, will apparently include a lot of new functionality such as the ability to "recognize and place virtual objects on vertical surfaces" as well as the ability to "find and recognize the position of 2D images" and then place those images properly in augmented reality applications.
iOS 11.3 is also expected to include additional Animoji, which are emoji that can take on the facial expressions of the user, through the iPhone X's depth-sensing TrueDepth Camera and the Apple Neural Engine embedded in Apple's A11 processor. Apple says that iOS 11.3 includes four new Animoji, bringing the total number of Animoji supported by the operating system to 16.
Somewhat related to that, Apple also says that it's adding a feature called Business Chat to its Messages app, which allows users "to communicate directly with businesses right within Messages."
"With Business Chat, it's easy to have a conversation with a service representative, schedule an appointment or make purchases using Apple Pay in the Messages app," Apple says.
Apple also says that iOS 11.3 includes new features that inform users about the health of the batteries inside of their devices. It will also tell users when the batteries in their devices need replacement. They will be able to see if the performance of their devices is being reduced to "prevent unexpected shutdowns," and they will even be able to opt out of the performance reduction.
What this means for Apple
Ultimately, much of the value that Apple delivers with its iOS-based products is in the software. Indeed, one thing that Apple tends to do better than its competitors is quickly roll out new versions of its iOS operating system to every supported device.
Apple also tends to provide software support for its devices longer than many (if not all) its competitors do, which is widely viewed as a key value proposition for iOS-based devices.
The new features that Apple is including in iOS 11.3 look quite interesting and should meaningfully improve the functionality of all supported devices, though the iPhone X is the biggest winner here since it's the only currently available iPhone that supports the production of Animoji.
This release is unlikely to have much of an impact on Apple's business, but it seems like a solid step forward for Apple's iOS that'll keep users engaged in the platform.
Ashraf Eassa has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple. The Motley Fool has the following options: long January 2020 $150 calls on Apple and short January 2020 $155 calls on Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.