Without citing a source, avid Apple hardware leaker Sonny Dickson in a pair of tweets on Friday said the upcoming beta's so-called Theater mode will be accessible via a "popcorn-shaped" icon in Control Center.
What, exactly, Theater mode accomplishes or how it works is unclear, but the name suggests a set of device settings suitable for use in a movie theater. For example, users might want to quickly disable system sounds and haptic feedback, block incoming calls and messages, and reduce initial screen brightness during a movie.
Apple owns a number of patents describing similar system settings modifications, dubbed "enforcement policies," some of which date back to 2012. Unlike the manually activated Theater mode hinted at in today's rumor, Apple's IP describes a location-aware solution that triggers customized phone settings automatically based on a phone's GPS position and cellular triangulation.
Beyond the vague Theater mode rumor, Dickson claims the first iOS 10.3 beta version will be seeded to developers on Tuesday, Jan. 10.
That date lines up with AppleInsider site analytics, which shows a recent spike in visits from devices running software provisioned as "iOS 10.3." After initial and scattered hits a few months ago, visits from iOS 10.3 devices have become more frequent in the past week.
Apple's current mobile operating system version, iOS 10.2, launched earlier this month with new emoji characters, tweaks to Music on iPhone and the company's new TV app. Most recently, Apple released the second beta version of iOS 10.2.1 to public testers last week with minor bug fixes and performance improvements.