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Apple’s iOS 9 – the latest iteration of its operating system for iPhone and iPad will arrive this fall
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 2015, it was expected that iOS 9 would not come with any significantly new features, but instead focus on stability and quality. Federighi noted the former by reporting battery life efficiencies and security upgrades but also revealed that there would be improved intelligence throughout the OS – and Siri would be playing a major part.
Siri, intelligence, proactivity & search
During the WWDC keynote, 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. It’s even location-based and can do this when you’re at the gym if that’s where you tend to listen to music.
This proactivity has also been added to the home screen. Users on iOS 9 will be able to swipe right on the home screen and find a series of predictive actions from Siri, such as people to call, familiar apps to launch or actions to take, saving the user from searching through contacts, or hunting down an app to open. In part, this has borrowed and replaced the ‘app changer’ view – which is what users see when they double press the home button. Instead, the recent contacts segment has been annexed and added to the Siri screen, and the app views are now something more akin to the multi-page view in Safari.
Speaking of context, if an unknown number calls you Siri tries to add context, by accessing your emails and trying to find out who it might be calling. If it can recognize telemarketers (which is could well do), well, that would be even better.
Spotlight has also widened its reach, and can now search within apps – deep-linking – and it will also make App Store suggestions for your search terms, really opening up new app discoverability based on the user’s needs.
Battery & performance
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. In practice, after playing with iOS 9 on a Developer’s beta, we’ve found that this mode asks the user whether they want to activate it at 20%. It then turns off push emails, and other luxuries like animations, and give the battery icon a nice yellow hue.
Elsewhere, Apple hopes to make the device perform better through security. It will introduce six-digit passcodes (users can keep using regular four-digit codes, but will have to change it back in Passcode Options.) Two-factor authentication will also find a presence in iOS 9, though details on this aren’t entirely clear at the moment.
Native app updates
Firstly, the big news here was that Apple not only updated many of its native apps; it added one. Called News, this new app is set to present news content using Apple content formats to provide a rounded experience for users. It’s set to feature major news sources, blogs, local news, and special interest publications who can all create and submit content.
It works by allowing users to sign up to topics, and specific content providers; by the looks of things, much in the same way that other RSS readers like Feedly already do.
A side-effect of this new app is that the Newsstand app has gone. The much maligned app, which houses digital publications subscribed too or downloaded from iTunes, has gone, and publications will exist as standalone apps. This should be beneficial to users who will have better visibility of their publications on a device.
Apple’s vice-president of product management and marketing Susan Prescott gave the demo for the new 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.
Another subtle change was that the Passbook app, which helped tickets, flight details and like, will become Wallet. Wallet will house all cards, storecards and more. It’s in response to the widening reach of Apple Pay, which was announced at WWDC to be heading to UK. Apple said that 70% of credit and debit cards in the country were preparing for Apple Pay, and 250,000 locations in UK would be offer Apple Pay on launch – more than when the payment technology first launched in the US.
Back to the familiar native apps; Apple revealed its Maps app would get some significant changes, including Transit – a map that would concentrate fully on helping those on public transport to navigate.
Notes also gets a significant update – drawing, formatting, images and more are now available, bringing the app up to speed with the majority of third-party word-processing apps.
The Settings app is now searchable, making it much easier to navigate, while a scrubbing bar has been added to Photos making it easier to find and skim through pictures. Elsewhere, the Music app got a significant update in the form of a brand new streaming service – Apple Music. Read all about that in detail here: Apple announces Apple Music streaming service.
And the rest…
Elsewhere, apps and information merge to create a more unified operating system. Federighi demonstrated this by noting that the Calendar could now include driving directions, and time to a destination. Contacts are also easier to manage in iOS 9, 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.
In direct response to an issue that most likely slowed iOS 8 adoption last year, Apple will also be reducing the space needed on the iPhone to update down from 4.6 GB to 1.3 GB. It does this by using a new technique called ‘App Thinning’, which means the phone only downloads the parts it needs for its own model by slicing the app into ‘app variants’. This could have an impact on third-party apps too – soon developers could trigger the downloading of new components only as the user needs them.
Further good news is that Apple maintains compatibility – i.e. if your phone is able to run iOS 8, it will be able to run iOS 9.
The new full-point release will be available to the general public for free in the fall (likely towards the end of September), but for the first time users can sign up to a public beta which will be available from July.