iOS 8.3 on iPad Air: Impressions & Performance

Yesterday, Apple issued a new iOS 8.3 update for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch that delivers a new Emoji keyboard, tons of enhancements and a laundry list of bug fixes for iOS 8 problems. It’s a substantial update for the iPad and we want take a look at how the iOS 8.3 update is performing on the iPad Air. This is our early iPad Air iOS 8.3 review.

Earlier this year, Apple released the iOS 8.3 update into its beta program for developers. The initial iOS 8.3 beta release confirmed an upcoming arrival for iOS 8 powered iPhones, iPads and iPod touches though it did not confirm the public iOS 8.3 release date. Apple only confirms iOS release dates when they are revealed on stage next to new hardware.


In the weeks that followed the first beta, Apple released several other iOS 8.3 betas in an attempt to squash potential problems and ensure a smooth transition from iOS 8.2. The iOS 8.3 beta also featured the first iOS beta open to the public. Yesterday, after four iOS 8.3 betas, Apple delivered the update that many iPhone and iPad users have been waiting for. iOS 8.3.


As expected, Apple’s new iOS 8.3 update is a big one. It brings a ton of bug fixes for iOS 8 problems and it also delivers a number of enhancements to overall responsiveness, a new Emoji keyboard, some notable changes to Siri, and a whole lot more. The update is the biggest since iOS 8.2 and it’s arguably Apple’s biggest update to iOS since iOS 8.0.


As many of you know, incremental updates like iOS 8.3 have the potential to have a huge impact on performance. iOS 8.0.1, for example, killed Touch ID and cellular data on the iPhone 6. That’s why we take a look at these smaller updates. We want to provide you with feedback and clear vision as we push away from the initial release.


After some preparation, I installed Apple’s brand new iOS 8.3 update in an effort to provide you iPhone and iPad users with some initial impressions of Apple’s new software. These impressions don’t serve as a final review but they will help those of you who are straddling the fence about whether to install the company’s latest iOS 8 upgrade.

Here are my early impressions of iOS 8.3 on iPad Air.

iOS 8.3 Installation

I installed the iOS 8.3 update on the iPhone 6 and iPhone 5 the second that Apple released it to the public. The iPhone 6 installation took a lot longer than your average iOS update and the iPhone 5 iOS 8.3 installation process was an absolute nightmare. The iPad Air iOS 8.3 installation process? Flawless.

After struggling in the morning, I decided to wait a few hours before installing the iPad Air iOS 8.3 update. The decision paid off. The update, which is a little over 200MB, took about 15 minutes from start to finish. That includes download time and installation time. I honestly can’t remember the last time a major iOS update finished that quickly. It just goes to show the benefits of waiting a few hours, even a day or two.


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If you do run into installation problems, and you might, try performing a force reboot on the iPad Air. To do this, hold down the power button and home button at the same time and you should be good to go. If that doesn’t work, you’ll probably want to try installing the update through iTunes. It’s not as fluid but it’s an alternative to the OTA download process.

iOS 8.3 Features

Apple’s new iOS 8.3 update comes with a ton of bug fixes and security enhancements. It also comes with some new features. The biggest changes are found in the redesigned Emoji keyboard. If you’ve downloaded iOS 8.3 already and you’ve sent out a message, you’ve probably already seen the change. If you haven’t, the slideshow below will give you an idea about what to expect.

iOS 8.3 vs iOS 8.2: What’s New in iOS 8.3

New iPhone Emoji in iOS 8.3

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New iPhone Emoji in iOS 8.3

Apple adds over 300 new iPhone emoji in iOS 8.3. There are new Emoji like the Apple Watch and a new Mac, but most users will focus on the addition of more family choices including more kids, families of two men or two women and now there is an option to change the skin tone of many emoji.

Read: How to Use New Emojis


With this update you can tap and hold to choose the skin tone of an emoji icon for many emoji options and then tap to pick the color option. Tap and hold on a new color option to make it the default.

The iOS 8.3 emoji keyboard for iPhone now offers continuous scrolling so it is easier to scroll through the emoji options and find the ones you want.

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There are a number of other changes on board the iPad Air iOS 8.3 update and the slideshow will give you a better idea about what to expect from iOS 8.3 and its change log. The emoji keyboard is the biggest change and while it’s going to take some getting used to, I think it’s a much better layout than what Apple employed previously.


iOS 8.3 on iPad Air: Performance

I’ve spent several hours with iOS 8.3 on iPad Air. Before getting into the early review of performance, I should note that mileage is going to vary from device to device, person to person. That is to say, I probably don’t have the same apps installed and there’s a chance that I use Google Chrome, LTE, or my home screen more than you do. So, consider this a general guide as you try to decide whether iOS 8.3 is worth installing on your iPad Air.


While I’ve heard some horror stories about app performance on iOS 8, I haven’t run into any major problems myself. I also don’t have every single app on the App Store downloaded so keep that in mind.

What I can tell you is that I haven’t run into any problems with the 100 or so applications on my iPad Air. I won’t list all of them here but Slack, Asana, Instagram, Twitter, Dark Sky, Google Chrome, Google Hangouts, YouTube, and Spotify are behaving after making the move from iOS 8.2 to the new iOS 8.3 update. My hope is stability holds.

Now, keep in mind, I monitor my applications like a hawk. I install bug fix updates the day that they come out and I’m very proactive whenever I do run into a problem. Reinstalling an application can help and I suggest doing just that if you run into issues after moving to iOS 8.3. If you can’t seem to fix the problem on your own, get in contact with the developer.

iOS 8.3 Battery Life

iOS 8 has treated the iPad Air well. I haven’t run into any of the weird battery drain issues that I’ve seen iPad users complain about after every single incremental iOS 8 update, iOS 8.3 included.

I’ve been using the iPad Air a ton over the past 24 hours and I haven’t noticed any strange battery discharge when the device is in use nor have I seen any battery drain when the device is in standby. It’s still delivering the same high quality battery life that I’ve grown accustomed to over the past year and some change.

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As I’ve noted many times, battery life complaints are common after major iOS updates and I’ve seen tons of people complain. Even iOS 8.2, a major bug fixer, hurt the battery life on some iPad models. I just didn’t notice anything.

I don’t think people complaining about battery drain issues are crazy. So, in response, I’ve outlined a number of strategies to get better battery life on iOS 8.3. Have a look at those if you install the iOS 8.3 update and you start noticing issues with your battery. Some of you might run into trouble but I expect a majority of you to come out of the iOS 8.3 update without any battery issues.

Wi-Fi, Bluetooth & LTE

I don’t own the LTE version of the first-generation iPad Air so I can’t speak to LTE connectivity. What I can tell you is that both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are working fine after jumping to iOS 8.3.

I’ve been able to pair the device with a number of different Bluetooth devices including speakers and headsets and my lifeblood, Wi-Fi, has been working fine. iOS 8.3 delivered a number of fixes for Wi-Fi problems so it’s not surprising to see stable connectivity 24 hours after the iOS 8.3 update’s arrival.

Bugs and Issues

Let me preface this by saying that while iOS 8 has been buggy on the iPhone, I haven’t run into the same problems on either the iPad Air or the iPad mini. iOS 8 has been excellent, at least for me.

Thus far, I haven’t run into any major iOS 8.3 problems to speak of though it does appear that some iOS 8.3 problems are plaguing iPad and iPhone users. I just haven’t seen any, at least not yet.

Large, hero level problems are typically pretty easy to spot and I haven’t run into anything catastrophic yet. The Touch ID App Store issue is probably the only thing that I’ve seen that’s at that level and I don’t have Touch ID on my iPad Air.

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Smaller issues are a lot harder to spot and it could be days or weeks before I notice something. So far, I haven’t run into anything of significance though again that could change as we push away from the release date as the iOS 8.3 update starts to settle.


iOS 8.2 was fast and fluid on the iPad Air. iOS 8.3 feels a little bit sluggish in the hours after the install. I’ve seen this before immediately after an iOS update so I’m not going to go into panic mode just yet but it’s certainly a little frustrating especially because the iOS 8.3 change log features improved performance for app launch and app responsiveness.

It’s not a huge difference but it does feel a little clunky, a little slower than normal. My guess is that it will probably settle after a few days. This exact thing happened with an earlier iOS 8 update and I wouldn’t be surprised if the same thing happened here. Something to keep in mind if you also notice some slowdown after installing the iOS 8.3 update.

Should You Install iOS 8.3 Today?

If you’re dealing with major iOS 8 problems that you can’t seem to fix, you probably want to go ahead and install iOS 8.3. The update delivers a ton of bug fixes for iOS 8 problems and there’s a very good chance it will fix your issues.

If you’re doing just fine on iOS 8.2 or below, my advice is to wait a few days before installing. Yes, I know the new emoji keyboard is tempting but you’ll want to be careful not to wreck the experience on your slate. Gather more feedback, research your options, and then come back to the iOS 8.3 update. It’s not going anywhere.