Yesterday, Apple announced iOS 9.3. Although Apple regularly release new versions of their platforms, 9.3 is notable due to the amount of publicity and marketing released alongside the announcement. Undoubtedly there will be bug fixes and performance enhancements, but when it comes to enterprise grade apps, what do the changes mean for app developers?

All About Education

For anyone using or developing apps for iPad in the classroom, iOS 9.3 is big news. Apple have really targeted educational institutions with iOS 9.3, and introduced three major new features.

Shared iPads

Previously, when developing an app for the classroom environment, you had two choices. Develop your own login system and manage users yourself, or have no notion of user accounts and sessions. Now, there is a much more sensible choice. iOS 9.3 introduces the new shared iPads feature. This allows students to enter their Apple ID and information on any iPad the school owns. The iPad then downloads all of their user data and apps. This uses smart caching technology in order to make the experience as fast as possible.

If your enterprise mobile app targets younger users, you don’t need to worry about whether or not they have an Apple ID or have the ability to enter an email address and password. For younger students, Apple has added two new features: - Photo ID, which displays the student’s photo on the lock screen of the iPad. - A four-digit pin option for students who don’t yet have the dexterity type a username and password.

Shared iPad Login Screen on iOS 9.3.

All of this means you don’t need to worry about manually having to create user accounts in your enterprise education apps any more. You can now simply use the associated user to do things like track a student’s progress or award badges and trophies for achievements.

The Classroom App

The new Classroom app allows teachers to check up on student’s progress, remotely install apps included in a lesson plan, and share the work of students on AppleTV using AirPlay. If a teacher likes the look of your enterprise grade mobile app, they can simply use the classroom app to include it in a lesson plan. No more having to install it on 30 iPads beforehand when they get to work on a morning!

The app also gives the teacher administrative control over the iPads in their classroom. They can use the new “screen view” command to see what is happening on the screen of any iPad in real time.

The Classroom app from the education update on iOS 9.3.

If a teacher is ready to use an app, they can use the new “remote control” command to open the app on all of the iPads in the class. This also supports websites and specific pages in an eBook. So if you are building an enterprise education app for the web, that will be supported too! The teacher can lock the iPad to the particular app too, so students don’t become distracted by games and other applications that may be on the device!

Finally, if a student forgets their password, there’s no need to call the IT department and have them reset it. Teachers can now reset passwords directly on their iPad with the classroom app.

Apple School Manager

Apple School Manager is an education based mobile device management system, which allows IT departments to control every iPad in their school. You can set up and manage school specific Apple IDs for teachers, students, and administrative staff. This keeps their Apple IDs separate from their home accounts. You can also purchase apps and books remotely and apply them to all, or a specific group of iPads. The benefit of this is that your institution’s education discount will be automatically applied upon purchase. Not only is this great for schools, but it is great for app developers too. It’s now easier for educational institutions to purchase your apps in bulk!

The Classroom app from the education update on iOS 9.3.

In summary, the changes for education apps are huge. It opens up a whole host of opportunities for app developers, which you can start to take advantage of very soon. If you’re interested in learning more about the the education updates in iOS 9.3, take a look at Apple’s dedicated 9.3 education page.

Other Notable iOS 9.3 Changes

Although Education improvements are the main focus of the 9.3 updates, there are a lot more updates coming to other areas too, such as:

  • Health introduces third party app discovery with smart suggestions across all health categories including workout, weight, sleep, etc. Great if you have a health app to boost your downloads.

  • Night Shift is a new feature that uses the time and geolocation to track sunset times, to move “the colors in your display to the warmer end of the spectrum, making it easier on your eyes.”

  • CarPlay has enhanced Apple Music support, although disappointingly there’s still no way to create custom apps!

  • Notes now supports passwords and Touch ID.

  • Live Photos can now easily be turned into standard photos.

  • Apple Watch gains the ability to sync multiple Watches to a single iPhone.

  • News gains landscape mode on iPhone and more customisation options.

  • 3D Touch supports more Apple apps, such as the App Store, Compass, Health, iTunes Store and Weather.

When is it Available?

As usual, we don’t know yet unfortunately! The developer beta was only released yesterday, and the public beta is about a week away. Our best guess is some time next month. Keep an eye out for that red dot appearing on your settings icon!

If you would like to talk to someone at Throneware about how we can help you to develop an enterprise grade mobile application for education, please contact us or take a look at a case study on one of our education apps, Practice QTS.

All images in this article are credited to Apple.