Apple’s iOS 9 is more of an incremental change than a big makeover for the iPhone and iPad.
The additions are subtle, but they’re designed to make everyday tasks a lot easier and more convenient. And, in some ways, Apple is catching up in areas where Android was pulling ahead.
The official update won’t be released until the fall, but Apple is letting the public test drive iOS 9 ahead of its release through the public beta.
It’s not a final version of the software, though it’s close enough to give us an idea of what the finished product will be like.
I only spent a few hours playing with iOS 9 on an iPad, which isn’t really enough time to form a thorough opinion and get a good idea of how it works. But in that short time, I’ve been able to come away with a few conclusions.
iOS 9 is all about search. With iOS 9, Apple is making it a lot easier to get the information you need even faster through search. This is most evident in the main search bar. Being able to type the name of a TV show in your iPhone’s search bar and see whether or not that show is on Netflix before you’re even done typing is extremely convenient.
And little things, like being able to search within the Settings menu, make it easier to find the things you need super quickly. This is especially useful in the Settings menu, which is rather long and can sometimes be cumbersome to navigate through.
Siri is a lot faster and smarter. On my iPhone, which is running iOS 8.4, Apple’s personal assistant doesn’t always hear my requests and she takes a while to load. Using an iPad running iOS 9, though, I get answers almost instantly. I asked Siri to show me photos from July 4, and it barely hesitated.
Although this is impressive, I’m going to have to wait to really see Siri’s full potential. It learns more about your habits over time, and suggests apps, contacts, and nearby places based on your interests. After only using iOS 9 for about an hour, Siri gathered my most frequently used apps, news headlines, and the people I contacted most recently. However, this is one aspect that wasn’t quite right just yet — Apple suggested two people I speak with frequently, but then three other people I barely talk to. This is just a beta, however, so we’ll have to wait to see if the final version is more accurate.
The little things will make iOS 9 great. iOS 9 doesn’t come with flashy features. It’s not going to make your iPhone’s software look or feel different the way iOS 7 did. But a bunch of little things are going to go a long way. Small changes such as the ability to attach more than five photos to an email, breaking selfies and screenshots into their own folders in the camera roll, and changing the shift key so that the letters actually switch between lower case and upper case are going to make the overall experience a lot smoother.
The iPad is getting some attention, and it’s about time. Apple is finally adding multitasking to the iPad — which Android has had for years. With iOS 9, you’ll be able to run more than one app at a time on the home screen and watch videos while you’re using other apps.
It’s especially important for the iPad because Apple needs to give people a new reason to buy it. Sales have been slumping, especially now that buyers are flocking to the iPhone 6 Plus, which has a large 5.5-inch screen. People have less of a reason to buy an iPad if they already have a giant phone, but now Apple is adding new features that make it easier to get things done if you have an iPad. These features worked fairly well, although it’s restricted to Apple’s apps for now. So you can’t run Netflix and Facebook side-by-side, but you can split your screen between your notes and your email.
It’s going to take time to see if iOS 9 actually improves the iPhone and iPad experience in a meaningful way. But based on what I’ve seen so far, it seems like Apple is at least focusing on the right things in this release — like improving Siri, fixing Apple Maps, and making it easier to find things within apps.
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