As expected, Apple used its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) 2015 keynote this evening to introduce iOS 9, the next generation of its iPhone and iPad operating system.
Building upon the core of iOS 8, this autumn's upgrade introduces a bevy of improvements, many of which will likely impact users in their day-to-day lives. True, iOS 9's enhancements are in most cases tweaks rather than massive additions, but they seem like smart, useful ones.
From big upgrades to Siri and search to split-screen multitasking on iPad and the low-power mode, these are the big changes coming with iOS 9.
1. Siri takes the initiative
Do you actually use Siri? What should've been a smart assistant ended up being a bit of a nuisance for some users, with her errors and inconsistencies sullying Apple's well-intentioned plans. But Apple says that Siri's error rate has decreased 40% over time, and with a revised interface in iOS 9 comes new tricks.
With the new Proactive Assistant functionality, Siri acts a bit more like Google Now, learning from your habits, location, the time, and other elements to suggest apps you might want when you might want them. It can start up Music as soon as you plug in headphones, or suggest driving directions when you get into your car. Siri will also suggest apps and contacts via Spotlight, and deliver caller ID suggestions for unknown calls based on what it finds in your email.
2. Search gets smarter, too
As noted above, Siri suggestions are now integrated in Spotlight searches - but that's not the full extent of how search and Spotlight are made more intelligent in iOS 9.
The biggest enhancement is deep linking with apps. Developers will be able to use the API to let users search for things within the apps on their devices, all from Spotlight search. You'll be able to tap to jump right into the app for the thing you've searched for, and then bounce back when you're done. Easy in, easy out. Now that's smart integration.
3. Split-screen comes to iPad
It feels like we've been talking about this for ages, but split-screen support is finally coming to iPad. The functionality comes in three different flavours: Split View, SlideOver, and picture-in-picture. SplitView is exactly what it sounds like: two apps running side by side, each using 50% of the frame, with drag-and-drop functionality available between them. However, this particular function only works on the iPad Air 2 and surely whatever's ahead.
Luckily, the others also work on the iPad Air and all the iPad mini models. SlideOver lets you pull in compatible apps (like, say, Twitter) to use 30% of the screen while your main app is fully functional on the larger portion of the display. And picture-in-picture is exactly what it claims to be: video feeds that take up just a small portion of your iPad screen while you use apps below.
4. Maps gets transit directions
Here's another finally that we've been awaiting for some time: transit directions are coming to Apple's Maps app, letting you see routes, scope out train and bus arrival times, and get directions that span multiple transportation types.
It'll roll out first in 20+ cities, including London, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington DC, Berlin, and Toronto, with more cities to be added before long. And the listings within Maps will also be more detailed, even pointing out which stores take Apple Pay. Naturally.