Last week, Apple took the wraps off its next big update for the iPhone and iPad: iOS 9.
With iOS 9, which will be released to all current iPhones and iPads in September, Apple wants to make your iPhone more stable and easier to use and catch up with Google’s Android in some key areas, rather than adding a bunch of flashy new features.
At the same time, iOS 9 lays the groundwork for some new things we may see in Apple’s future iPhones and iPads.
We caught up with some iOS developers that have access to the trial version of iOS 9 to see what they think of it so far.
Here are some of the key takeaways:
- The split screen feature for the iPad is a big deal. Developers seem to be excited about it, and think it can be really important for Apple’s future. Erez Pilosof, the founder of Hop, which makes an email messenger app, thinks this split screen mode will be crucial if Apple does decide to launch a larger iPad like previous news reports have indicated.
- Apps are getting more efficient. In iOS 9, app bundles will be much smaller than before, which means that you’ll be able to download apps quicker and more easily without using as much data, says Andreas Blixt, the co-founder and CTO of the video messaging app Roger who also spent five years as a software engineer at Spotify. This is especially important in areas with limited access to the internet. “It’s going to make a big difference in a lot of countries,” Blixt said.
- iOS 9 still doesn’t work well with third party keyboards. While developers and iPhone owners alike are excited that Apple has improved the shift key in the iOS 9 keyboard, there’s still a lot of work to be done, said Ouriel Ohayon, the CEO and co-founder of Appsfire, a native advertising network for mobile apps. In the first beta for iOS 9, third party keyboards such as Swype and Swiftkey are crashing and don’t work well, he says, so you still have to rely on Apple’s built-in keyboard. “They’re just broken,” he said. “[I was] disappointed and frustrated to find that it’s not fixed. The keyboard is one of the most important features in an operating system.”
- It could mean a bigger iPad. Some developers thought the new features in iOS 9 will pave the way for new hardware designs later this fall. The split screen functionality would be a necessary feature for an iPad with a larger screen.
- Look for Force Touch in the next iPhone. Apple also added support for its new Force Touch technology in iOS 9. It’s a new type of touch screen technology that not only detects where you’re pressing on the screen, but how hard you’re pressing. Force Touch is already present in the Apple Watch and new MacBook, and many are speculating that it will appear in the next iPhone, too. Blixt is excited to play around with this capability to see what types of new features it will bring to the iPhone. “I imagine you’ll be able to do things like Force Touch push notifications to perform an action,” he said. “So I think that’s going to be a really big deal.”
- Playing catch-up with Google. “It looks like it was a lot of refinements and improving on what iOS 8 already brought,” said Ohayon of mobile ad network Appsfire. “A lot of things seemed to be improvements or little catch ups with Google,” he said. For example, Apple made Siri more intelligent in iOS 9. Rather than just answering your questions, Siri integrates with Apple’s apps like the Calendar and Maps to offer more contextual answers to your queries — similar to what Google Now has been doing for years.
- It’s not a big change from iOS 8. iOS 9 is more of an incremental improvement rather than a big overhaul like iOS 8 and iOS 7, says James Thomson, an independent iOS and Mac developer that created a calculator app for the iPhone called PCalc. But that’s a good thing for developers, because it doesn’t mean they will have to make big improvements for their apps. Plus, consumers won’t have to wait for their favourite apps to be updated so that they work well with the new platform. “I don’t feel like I have to re-write half my app to add support for it, which is certainly how iOS 7 and iOS 8 both were,” he said.
Overall, iOS 9 isn’t a radical departure from what iPhone users are already experiencing with iOS 8, but Apple has caught up to Google in a few key areas and seems to be laying the foundation for its future products.
But, when asked what the “killer feature” of iOS 9 is, most developers I spoke with couldn’t give a single clear answer.
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