If you update your iPhone to iOS 10.3 today, you’ll likely find that you have an extra gigabyte or more of free storage space available on the phone’s internal memory. For that, you can thank Apple’s new file system, called APFS, which replaces the Hierarchical File System that has been used in one form or another for three decades.
The Apple File System (APFS for short) was originally announced at Apple’s 2016 Worldwide Developer’s Conference and will eventually spread across all of Apple’s product lines, from the high-end MacBook Pro all the way down to the Apple Watch, later this year. In addition to improved storage efficiency, APFS is also made with increased ability to maximize advantages offered by solid state media.
More importantly, the file system was engineered with modern security in mind. “It’s been built with encryption as a primary feature, from the very beginning, as we brought this idea to fruition,” Eric Tamura, a manager focusing on file systems at Apple, said at Apple’s WWDC event last summer.
The previous, decades-old system, is called HFS+. That old system “was designed in an era where floppies and hard drives where state of the art,” Tamura said. “Its original design is almost 30 years old at this point. And the world has changed since then.” Rather than focusing on the portability of large individual files, the emphasis is placed on quickly reading and writing smaller bits of data, which is required for the operation of smart devices.
“We wanted something that was designed and tuned specifically for Apple products,” he added.
Tech editor Stan Horaczek saw a tangible jump in available space on his 128 GB iPhone 7 Plus after the update.
The Verge points out that the added storage has been noticed since the update was in beta form, and has carried over into the final release.
In addition to the new Apple File System, iOS 10.3 also includes other new features, like the ability to use the Find My iPhone app to locate an AirPod headphone that has gone missing. The CarPlay system also gets some updates, including some streamlining of the user interface during popular functions.
To update your iPhone or iPad, open the Settings app, then click General, then Software Update; you can check the local storage you have on your device also under that General menu, by either clicking on About or, further down, Storage & iCloud Usage.