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iPhone6_PF_SpGry_5-Up_iOS8-PRINT-2Apple released iOS 8.3 to consumers today, the latest major update for its mobile operating system that brings a ton of changes to iPads, iPhones and iPod Touches. This is easily one of the largest updates the company has rolled out since the launch of iOS 8 last year, and it includes performance improvements, new features and bug fixes.

IMG_0033Most notable among the bunch of changes is a new emoji keyboard. Users now scroll horizontally through the list of available emoticons, rather than flip through different tabs. (There’s still a set of tabs at the bottom of the keyboard for quick navigation.) As GeekWire reported earlier this year, this update also adds more than 300 new emoji, including skin tones for the hands and human faces available for use.

The first time someone taps on one of the emoji that’s capable of coming in different shades, a pop-up menu will show up allowing them to select from the variety of different icons. After users select the shade they want (or choose yellow to match the emoji smiley faces) subsequent taps will just insert the icon. To change the shade, people just need to tap and hold on the icon to get the pop-up menu back.

Speaking of keyboards, third-party keyboards are supposed to have received a performance bump with this update, though it’s not exactly clear what that entails. Anecdotally speaking, SwiftKey now pops up a whole lot faster for me when I open the Spotlight search function, so that may be part of the changes. Enterprise users will be happy to know that this update improves the reliability of installing and updating enterprise apps on iOS as well.

IMG_0031People who are sick and tired of having their messages to a group split into another group with the same people in it are also in luck – one of the bug fixes included in iOS 8.3 is supposed to prevent that from happening, at long last.

This is a fairly large update, clocking in at over 250 MB on both my iPhone 6 and iPad Mini 3. To install, go to Settings > General > Software Update on an iOS device, or connect the device to iTunes and select “Check for Updates.” As with any iOS update, it’s worth waiting for a time that the device can be out of commission for 20 minutes or so, just to avoid any problems. Also, make sure you have a current backup, just in case something goes sideways.

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