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Apple launches iOS 8.3 with new emoji characters, wireless CarPlay & more

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Apple on Wednesday issued the final release of iOS 8.3, adding features such as new emoji characters, Siri improvements, and wireless CarPlay support, alongside a multitude of bugfixes and minor interface tweaks.

The update's new emoji picker organizes icons into categories, adds more family options, and lets people pick from several different skin tones. It also incorporates new flags and characters for the iMac, iPhone, and Apple Watch.

Siri upgrades include new accents and languages, and the ability to make calls using an iPhone's speakerphone. Wireless CarPlay support allows an iPhone to connect to a dashboard unit without a Lightning cable, while features like movie showtimes and sports scores are now available to users in Brazil, Denmark, India, Netherlands, New Zealand, Russia, Sweden, Thailand, and Turkey.

Several built-in apps have been tweaked. Passbook for instance now divides Apple Pay content from Passes, while Messages can optionally separate threads from contacts and unknown senders, or automatically report spam. The spacebar in iOS' built-in keyboard has been stretched out, and an App Store setting lets users turn off password requirements for free downloads.

Behind the scenes the update includes "improved performance" for many different elements, such as Wi-Fi, Messages, Control Center, Safari tabs, third-party keyboards, and launching and using apps.

Release notes detail dozens of bugfixes. Some of the eliminated problems include Wi-Fi and Bluetooth disconnections, screen rotation issues, Maps failing to appear in CarPlay, and glitches with enterprise and accessibility support. With the release of both iOS 8.3 and OS X 10.10.3, Apple also notes that iCloud Photo Library is out of beta.

The update is available for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch through iTunes, or as an over-the-air software update. Also available is an Apple TV update with general bug fixes.