Apple’s latest mobile OS has landed, and we’ve been using it a lot. Mostly, we’re very happy with it. And, be honest, you’re probably going to upgrade anyway, assuming your iOS kit is compatible.
We’re now going to say why we think that’s a very good idea, highlighting some of the gems we’ve found while using iOS 9. And then we’ll contradict ourselves by having a good old moan about its bad bits. That section at least should keep the Android mob happy. Onwards!
The Lovely Bits of iOS 9
1. The Spotlight/Siri double act is fab
Drag down on a Home screen and Siri suggests apps to launch — and it gets smarter the more you use your device. But swipe left of the first Home screen and you get all sorts of wide-ranging results for searches, which can now delve into third-party apps. A touch more intelligence wouldn’t go amiss (‘curry’ returning Indian restaurants rather than just electrical retailer locations, for example), but it’s a great start.
2. No more Newsstand
How we cheered after upgrading on seeing Newsstand was a normal folder. Finally, we could put our magazine apps wherever we wanted. Which means we might actually remember to read the things now.
3. The download isn’t insanely huge
As noted in our handy making room article, iOS 9 only needs 1.3 GB of space to install, rather than the gargantuan 4.6 GB its predecessor demanded. This is a very good thing and means way more people will actually get to use iOS 9, rather than their iPhone or iPad complaining they need to delete a bunch of stuff first.
4. The keyboard’s pretty great
Just like on Android, iOS’s keyboard keys now display in lower- or upper-case, depending on what you’re typing. Even better, two-finger drags on the iPad keyboard turn it into a trackpad. Better still, connect a physical keyboard and a long-press on Command brings up shortcuts for the app you’re using, and Command-Tab gives you a Mac-like app switcher.
5. Notes is actually worth using
In iOS 8, Notes was rubbish. In iOS 9, it comes across like a cheap knock-off of Paper. Still, that’s a big improvement, and we rather like the way in which you can add doodles, checklists, formatting and lovely tappable links.
6. Siri’s got a lot smarter
Your iOS device isn’t quite the robot from Ex Machina just yet, but Siri now has extra smarts. It can dig out photos by date and location, set reminders based on where you are, remind you at a time of your choosing about content you’re currently reading, make conversions and serve up sports results.
7. App thinning is already a boon
We’re not going to stop complaining about Apple selling 16 GB devices, but at least it’s doing something about app bloat. We’ve already seen a couple of apps utilising app thinning and shaving hundreds of megabytes off of their binaries. The full release of thinning has been delayed, but it should make a big difference (especially to smaller devices) when it arrives. Perhaps we didn’t need to order that new 128GB iPhone after all…
8. The back button is bliss
If you’re in an app, tap a link, and suddenly find yourself in Safari, the carrier info at the top-left of the display is now replaced by a back button. It’s fiddly to press, but nonetheless a speedier way to return to where you started than faffing about with the task switcher.
9. Multitasking is mostly fab
From picture-in-picture to two-up displays on iPads, Apple’s finally recognising that not everyone always wants to focus on only a single app. We like being distracted from what we’re supposed to be doing, dammit.
10. Little improvements are everywhere
Everywhere you look, refinements are apparent: notifications are now chronological; menu buttons are bigger and have rounded edges; there’s an ‘unplayed’ tab in Podcasts; you get widgets for Find Your Friends and Batteries; and you can search Settings.