Although Apple’s iOS updates aren’t ever something drastic, for some reason I’m always excited about downloading the latest software. There is always one or two features that I really enjoy, and I quickly forget about there rest. This year will probably be no different.
As is now custom in its annual WWDC events, Apple unveiled the latest version of its mobile software, iOS. By now, most people know what an iPhone is and how it works. It’s what’s made Apple’s ecosystem so easy to use. The only major overhaul to happen in the last few years was with iOS 7 in 2013. With that version, we left skeuomorphism for a flatter and cleaner design
After the drastic visual change, Apple has returned to its usual small incremental updates. Last year, iOS received improvements – which is the operative word – to Notification Center, Spotlight, iMessage, third-party keyboards, Family Sharing and quick reply from certain apps. With this year’s version, we also get those improvements to already existing features and some other welcomed ones. This isn’t giant step forward, but one that will enhance the user experience across all iOS devices, and that’s nothing to snooze at.
Siri is one of the focal points for the new software update. As is expected now, Siri improves every year little by little, but this year she seems to have taken a bigger step. You can now as Siri to look up specific photos, such as from trip to Yosemite last December. She instantly bring up the photos taken at Yosemite in December. Apple also a Google Now-esque swipe to the left to bring up information relevant to you such as contacts, apps and news powered by their News app (we’ll get to that later). Spotlight has also gotten more useful and smarter. You can just type Patriots, and Spotlight will give you the score of the last Patriots game. Or you can calculate the tip amounts by typing in the money amount and multiplying it by the percentage you’re looking for. Siri powers all of this by allowing you to ask her for this information, and she will deliver it to you. She also got a face life, with a visual design that was first implemented in the Apple Watch. When you access Siri now, instead of getting the two-tone sounds you get a subtle double-vibrating sing that you’ve access the digital assistant. I can’t tell you welcomed this feature is. Summoning up Siri while you’re in class is one of the more embarrassing thing I’ve don’t constantly and a habit I never stopped. Now that won’t be an issue.
San Francisco Font
In my time using iOS 9, this is the biggest change I’ve noticed. I cannot help but love the new font Apple has introduced. It’s a custom created font from Apple that is called San Francisco. It’s a lot easier to read, and not a brusque as Helvetica Nue was. This is the change most people will notice right way. The lines are straight and not as curvy, but it adds to the readability of text. As was the case with Siri’s new look, this font was introduced in the Apple Watch and made its way to iOS and OS X.
The Note app is one of the more popular ones on iOS. While there have been many other options, such as Evernote, who have long been much more powerful and useful, the native Notes app is still better integrated to iOS. And now it has gained a lot of features to help it compete with the likes of Evernote. My previous notes app was the aforementioned Evernote for its customizability and list-making abilities. Notes has now added support for checklists, sketches and photos. On top of the keyboard is now a circled plus sign that holds all the options you may need: checklists, formatting, photos and sketching. All of these features are presented in a much cleaner manner as opposed to the some times boxy-feeling Evernote checklists. Sketching allows you to draw your own notes with your finger – giving you the option to chose between different styles of pens, pencils and erasers. The overall usefulness of Notes has drastically improved.
Microsoft has now touted its Surface line as a laptop replacement due to its multitasking abilities. This is something that has long been missing from the iPad. But not anymore. iOS 9 brings new multitasking abilities for the iPad that include Split View, Slide Over and Picture in Picture. Split View (only available on iPad Air 2 or later) allows you to use two apps at the same time side by side. You can have Mail opened on one side while you use Safari on the other side. True multitasking finally on the iPad. Slide over allows you to slide over about a fourth of the way and use any app on top of another. So, lets say you’re using Notes and you want to look up an important date from WWII – just slide over from the right and look for Safari and search D-Day date. The difference from Split View is that you can’t use two apps at the same time and you can only use the miniature (in size only) version of the app on top of it. On the iPad Mini 2, it’s essentially the width of an iPhone 5/5s. Picture in Picture lets you continue playing a video (Netflix, YouTube) when you exit the app on a smaller frame in the homescreen or any other app. You can move around the picuture anywhere on the screen and even hide it to the left side, just leaving a slight tab for you to pull it back out. Theoretically, using Picture in Picture and Split View will allow you to run three apps at a time. iOS 9 brings a lot of power to the iPad, which is need with the impending release of the iPad Pro. On the iPhone side, we only got a new multitasking panel makeover. The card layout now looks like a Rolodex instead of continuous windows.
Apple’s new Flipboard competitor aims to bring you news from many different sources. Whether it be Vogue or ESPN, this new app channels all the news of the day right to you. I didn’t really use this app that much as it is just another Flipboard-like app that brings you news. Nothing we haven’t seen before. It’s useful, but there are alternatives out there that do exactly what this app does. The only exciting thing Apple introduced the Apple News Format, which will make new a whole lot more elegant. But sadly, most publishers haven’t adopted this yet.
Maps, iCloud Drive, CarPlay, Footprint, etc.
- Maps finally got transit directions. Something that has sorely been missing from the native iOS Maps app. Good Maps has long been ahead of Apple Maps, but this new addition is welcomed.
- A new iCloud Drive app has been added to iOS 9. Before, you had to log into iCloud through Safari to view your iCloud Drive information. Once you download the new software version, you are prompted to add the iCloud Drive app to your homescreen.
- CarPlay is making its way to the masses with integration coming in the new 2015 models from many different car makers. It’s no wonder CarPlay is integrated to iOS 9 with the ability to hook up your iPhone to that new car you have been eyeing.
- The digital footprint of iOS 9 has drastically been decreased by Apple. Last year, there were many horror stories about downloading iOS 8 and people had to delete hundreds of photos and videos just to acquire the new update due to the size of it (4.58GB). The new update has a tiny footprint of 1.3GB, which means you won’t have to delete all those pictures from your trip to Disneyland three years ago.
- iOS 9 also brings a new Low Power mode to extend battery life. This on top of the improvements to the overall battery life, with tweaks to the proximity sensors and software, should increase your battery life by about one hour. For me, battery lasted me about the same as with iOS 8.4.1. I take off my phone at around 3:30 AM and it lasts me up until I hook it up at night at around 8:30 PM. The battery usually stands at 20%. I haven’t had to use Low Power mode yet – once I have, I’ll update this post.
- The keyboard now has lowercase letter. A small improvement that goes a long way.
The function of iOS 9 is not to deliver a brand new experience but to enhance an already refined one. The primary goal here is to stabilize your experience on your iPhone and in that, the new software succeeds. With the new multitasking features, your iPad is now more powerful than ever. The Siri improvements make your iPhone more useful along with the myriad of improvements to the keyboard, Notes and font. I give the iOS 9 a grade of 8.5. Some points where it still lack is the lack of widgets on the home screen, customizability and proper (although not needed) multitasking on the iPhone – such as Samsung has on their phones – but these are gripes Apple will never listen to. For the time being, this new update is a great improvement.