Apple has announced the latest full iteration of its iPhone Operating System – iOS 9.
The new full-point release will be available to the general public in the fall, but for the first time users can sign up to a public beta which will be available from July.
iOS 9 was unveiled by Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, Craig Federighi, at the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco on June 8. It was expected that iOS 9 would not come with any significantly new features, but instead focus on stability and quality. As such, Federighi noted that battery life, and security upgrades would be the focus, as well as adding intelligence throughout user experience.
In fact, it was this intelligence that proved to be the biggest upgrade to the iPhone’s capabilities – and Siri would be a big part of it.
Federighi noted that 1 billion requests were now made to Siri every week and that in iOS 9 it would be 40% more accurate, and 40% faster. Siri will also receive a UI upgrade, and can access more corners of the iPhone, including the display of photos from the iPhone’s library and it can now also take reminders.
This reminder functionality will also go further – you can tell Siri to remind you about something you’re looking at on the screen, and Siri will automatically set this up.
Part of this intelligence also included proactivity of the virtual assistant’s part. The iPhone can now take note of your routines – such as whether you listen to music in the morning and offer a ‘now playing’ screen as soon as a user plugs in their headphones.
Elsewhere, apps and information merge to create a more unified operating system. Federighi demonstrated that the Calendar could now include driving directions, and time to a destination..
Contacts are also now easier to manage, and the iPhone can proactively provide information. If an unknown number calls the phone, the phone can now look in email inboxes and can now suggest who might be calling based on the information within.
Search has also received upgrades and can perform video searches of video websites like Vimeo and YouTube. Results will include descriptive cards, with a play button so users can play from the search result. This new Search API also allows for deep linking directly into apps, which means when launching other programs, users can be taken directly within in the relevant section, while also using back functionality to go back to what they were doing before.
Federighi powered through the updates, but there was little more of substance. Though he took pauses for cheers from the crowd, they didn’t always materialize. However, though this upgrade wasn’t dazzling, theses everyday improvements will significantly improve the fluidity of the iPhone.
One of the key reveals of iOS 9 was that there would be a brand new native app – called News. Using Apple content formats, major news sources, blogs, local news, and special interest publications could all create and submit content.
Users could sign up to topics, and specific content providers much in the same way that other RSS readers do, by the looks of things.
Apple’s vice-president of product management and marketing Susan Prescott gave the demo for the news app and ran through the set up, including selecting content based on recommendations, and topics. She showed the design, which could include animations, and inline photo galleries. She talked about the stories being built in Apple news format, but it’s unknown how much work will be required from the side of the content provider, and how these publications’ ad models would fit into this approach.
News will be rolled out in alongside iOS 9 initially in the United States, UK and Australia.
Always a hot topic, Apple has acted to increase battery life based on “real-life use cases”. In iOS 9, users will gain one hour of “typical use” on one charge of a typical iPhone.
iOS 9 will also feature a Low Power Mode which can extend for up to 3 hours. Though what users would have to sacrifice in order to access this mode wasn’t revealed. Whether it will be any better than putting the device into Airplane mode if yet to be seen.
Further app enhancements
Federighi went on to address further corners of the iPhone, noting improvements elsewhere, including:
Photos – a scrubber bar has been added to quickly switch through photos.
Notes – a toolbar has been adding with formatting options, including checkboxes. Users can now also put photos in their notes, as well as drawings. Sharesheets also lets users add links into notes. All this can now be synced via iCloud onto iPad, iPhone and Mac.
Maps – acknowledging that Maps mostly focuses on drivers, Apple now wishes to change this approach and has created a map just for those using public transport : Transit.
As usual iOS offers slightly different functionality for iPad users. For many people the iPad is their primary computer, said Federighi, so Apple would be elevating iPad experience “to a whole new level”.
Firstly, there would be a new Quicktype keyboard. This will enable users to use two fingers to operate the iPad like a laptop trackpad. They can now cut, drag, and then paste, increasing speed when it comes to word processing.
There was also a demo of the new ‘Multitasking’. This allows users to double tap on the home button and interact with full screen previews of apps. A new split view was also demonstrated, meaning that users can now work concurrently in two apps on the screen at the same time.
Video interaction has also been introduced. Federighi demonstrated that users could now tap a video, and it would pop out into a smaller screen on top of the app of screen the iPad is currently on. Users can then move the video box around, resize it, and work on things underneath while it plays in the background.
Further enhancements have also been made to the various APIs Apple offers its developers, which included additional metrics in HealthKit, further support for things like window shades, sensors and security systems in HomeKit – all accessible outside of the home via iCloud. CarPlay will now support apps by the car manufacturer so drivers don’t have to leave the CarPlay experience, while in the future drivers won’t have to take their phones out of their pockets and plug it in to utilize CarPlay.
Finally, an update to Swift, Apple’s programming language was announced. Swift 2 was revealed to be Open Source, receiving by far the biggest cheer of the whole event, reminding us that though the announcements are of keen interest to Apple’s customers, this truly is an event for the developers.
iOS 9 will be available immediately for a developer beta, from July in a public beta, and in the fall for everybody. The amount of space needed for the new iteration has also been drastically reduced – down to 1.3 GB compared to the 4.6 GB required for iOS 8.