I’ve been using an early version of iOS 9, Apple’s next big software update coming to iPhones and iPads, for about a day now.
There’s one thing I’ve noticed above anything else so far — I barely ever navigate to the home screen.
That’s because the new Siri Suggestions screen in iOS 9 has almost everything I need.
Siri Suggestions is a new feature in iOS 9 that “predicts” who you want to talk to, which apps you want to use, and more. You can access it by swiping to the left of the home screen in iOS 9.
A hub for the apps you use the most
Siri Suggestions is essentially a screen that shows you the apps you used most recently and the people you’ve texted or called most recently. This screen also includes news headlines, suggestions for places to visit nearby, and iOS 9’s revamped search engine.
If you’re like me, and you tend to use the same apps repeatedly throughout the day, you can easily get by without having to look at your home screen.
The apps I store on my home screen usually appear in Siri’s list of options anyway, so over the past day I’ve been gravitating more toward the Suggestions screen since it gives me more information than my home screen does.
If I’m looking up directions, or places to grab coffee nearby, I can access all of that from the Suggestions screen without even having to launch an app.
When you click a link from the Siri Suggestions page or choose an app from that page, there’s also a button that takes you right back to the Suggestions screen. So you don’t even have to hit the home button to exit an app if you opened that app from the Suggestions page.
Search and Siri take care of the rest
It’s unrealistic to think you won’t need to use an app that doesn’t appear in Siri’s suggestions. But with the new Search in iOS 9, you’ll find almost anything instantly.
Apple has updated the Search bar so that it’s capable of pulling up apps on your phone, apps in the App Store, content within third-party apps as well as Apple apps, text messages and emails on your phone, contacts stored on your phone, and more.
It can also handle queries without having to launch a web browser, just like Google Now.
Want to know how many ounces are in a gram? You can find that information just by typing it in the Search bar or asking Siri. In the past, the Search engine on your iPhone would provide a web link that you’d have to follow to find the answer.
The big win for search, though, will be the fact that you can search content within apps in iOS 9. It means you’ll be able to track down really specific bits of information stored on your phone without having to remember which app they’re stored in.
This will only be useful if a lot of third-party developers choose to incorporate this within their apps. But if it works well, it could be a game changer for the iPhone. Apple’s Craig Federighi showed this off on stage by searching for “potato,” which pulled up potato recipes from the third-party recipe app Yummly.
This feature isn’t working in the public beta — or rather, it only works when you type in the word “potato.” I tried typing in other foods such as chicken, avocado, and bacon, and it didn’t pull results from Yummly like I expected. And even when I typed “potato”, it pulled up recipes Yummly’s website rather than the app. That’s likely because the software isn’t finalised yet — I’m expecting this feature to work much better when the final version launches in the fall.
I’ve also noticed that after cancelling a search, it takes a little while for the screen to snap back to the Suggestions page. This is also probably because it’s an early version of the software that’s not meant for widespread release yet, so we’ll get a better idea of how it really works in the fall.
Catching up to Android
This combination of showing your recently used apps/contacts with the powerful search in iOS 9 make it incredibly easy to find what you need without going to the home screen.
Apple is catching up to Android in this regard, since Google Now has been able to offer contextual information for quite some time now.
But the home screen is still relevant in Android because you can customise it with whatever you want — weather widgets, the Google Now search bar, sports scores, etc. With iOS, the home screen seems less valuable now that the Siri Suggestions page exists because it only includes apps you use the most.