When you call “Hey Siri,” you want to know your phone is listening to you. But with the new proactive intelligence in iOS 9, Siri will start to anticipate your desires before you even have a chance to ask. That’s just one of the many new features of iOS 9, which launches Wednesday as a free update if you have a compatible device. Rather than adding a ton of new features, Apple used this update to focus on refining the experience of using your device.
We got a sneak peek of everything at Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference in June and have had some time to play around with the iOS 9 public beta, but now iOS 9 is ready for the masses. This time around, Siri can use your location, time, app usage, and connected device data to forecast your needs. Several built-in apps got either updated substantially (Maps, Notes) or replaced entirely with more exciting alternatives (Wallet, News). And iOS 9 also brings two-apps-at-once functionality to the iPad.
What devices will it run on?
Any device that can run iOS 8 will run iOS 9, including:
iPhone 6 Plus
iPhone 6s Plus
iPad 3rd generation
iPad 4th generation
iPad Air 2
iPad mini 2
iPad mini 3
iPad mini 4
iPod Touch 5th generation
Give me the water cooler version of everything that’s new in iOS 9.
Apple has massively improved and expanded several essential built-in apps and services. Most notably: Siri is now running on steroids, and Maps finally added mass transit info. Furthermore, Apple’s built-in Passbook app has been replaced with the Apple Pay-powered Wallet app, and the stagnant Newsstand has been replaced by News, a personalized reading app. iOS 9 will also give the iPad several new functionalities, like Split View and Picture-in-Picture, for helping power-users get stuff done—especially if they’re working on the soon-to-be-released iPad Pro.
What about security updates?
iOS 9 brings a couple of new security features that should help keep your data safe if your iPhone or iPad fell into the wrong hands: Six-digit passcodes by default, instead of the four-digit default passcodes we use now, as well as native two-factor authorization whenever you try to sign in from another device.
I’m considering going from Android to iOS. Is there anything in this release to help convince me?
Apple has created an app called Move to iOS app designed specifically to convert Android users. Move to iOS offers a quick and seamless way for Android users to transfer their contacts, message history, mail accounts, calendars, photos, videos and free apps to their new iPhone. It even adds a list of paid apps you bought for your Android phone to your Wish List in the App Store.
Will this update affect my battery life?
Yes, it should—but in a positive way. Apps and key features in iOS 9 have been made more efficient to preserve battery life by one hour, Apple claims. How? The iPhone’s built-in sensors are used to determine when the device needs to light up and when it can remain dark. Taking it even further, you can enable the all-new Low Power mode when your battery is running low—Apple says it can make your iPhone last up to three extra hours.
Three extra hours of battery life? How?
Low Power mode doesn’t interfere with Bluetooth or Location Services. Instead, it’s all behind the scenes: Low Power mode throttles the GPU and CPU to optimize for battery life over performance. It stops apps form running or updating in the background, so you won’t get new email until you open your email app, for example. The only real functionalities that are completely disabled during Low Power mode are Airdrop and Continuity.
Can I schedule Low Power mode to come on automatically during a certain time?
No—Apple built Low Power mode to kick in as a last resort, not something your device should go into every day. Think of it as your backup for crazy-busy-no-charger-in-sight sorta days. Your device will ask you if you want to go into Low Power mode when you are at 20 percent, and again at 10 percent. You can also activate Low Power manually, and it’ll automatically turn itself off when you’ve charged your battery past a certain percentage.
Incorporating intelligent assistance
Siri on steroids? Explain.
In addition to getting a redesign, Siri is now smarter than ever. You can use Siri to search photos and videos stored on your device by date, location, and album title. Siri can also take into account what you’re doing on your iPhone at any given moment to create contextual reminders. For example, if you’ve found the perfect hotel for an upcoming vacation, you can simply tell Siri to “remind me about this” and Siri will create a reminder linking directly to the webpage you were viewing on Safari at the time you set the reminder. Apple has also given Siri the power to provide you with “proactive assistance.”
What is “proactive assistance”?
Siri can now take into account your location, the time of day, recurring activity, usage patterns, the app you are viewing, or other connected devices to better anticipate your next move and surface relevant actions and information—and it can do all this before you even have the chance to ask or type in a query. When you plug in your headphones, for example, Siri will suggest to start playing the music playlist you typically listen to during that time of day. Or when you connect your iPhone to your car’s CarPlay or Bluetooth stereo, Siri will ask whether you want to resume listening to the audiobook you’ve been enjoying during recent commutes.
Do I have to launch Siri every time I want assistance?
No. The thing about Siri’s new “proactive” approach is that it’s better integrated with native apps to work in the background and serve up the most relevant information. For example, Siri simultaneously taps into your Calendar events and uses the location, routing, and traffic info in Maps to send you a notification when you should leave for an appointment to make it there on time. Similarly, when you receive a call from a phone number not in your Contacts, Siri can check your Mail messages for that number, in an attempt to identify it for you.
Why should I care that developers now have Spotlight search API?
iOS 9 has a more robust Spotlight search engine that will surface deep links to your downloaded apps right in the search results. For example, if you search for the name of a food in iOS 8, you’ll get any mentions of that food in your email, plus results from the Web and Wikipedia—but in iOS 9, your results could include recipes from Yummly or other food apps you have installed, and tapping it provides a deep link into that app so you go right to the recipe you want. Apps like Vevo, YouTube and Vimeo, will allow you to play a video directly in the search results.
Improving built-in apps
Maps finally includes mass transit directions. What took so long?
In order to make mass transit directions in Maps as accurate as possible, Apple surveyed individual public transportation stations to compile its own transit data. Apple says the data is so precisely mapped that it can help you figure out the best public transportation route right down to which entrance to use to enter a subway station. Transferring trains at huge stations like Times Square in New York will be easier than ever since the transit directions will tell you which way to walk to catch your next train.
Can I use Maps’s new transit directions in Columbus, Ohio?
No, not yet. Maps’ transit directions are only available in the following U.S. cities: Baltimore, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. Internationally, Maps will bring public transit directions to Mexico City, London, Berlin, and Toronto, as well as 300 cities in China.
Anything else new with Maps?
In iOS 9, Maps also incorporates a Nearby feature that showcases more information from local businesses, including whether they accept Apple Pay.
Did any other Apple apps get a big improvement?
Note-taking apps may not be the flashiest, but iOS 9 gives Notes enough bells and whistles to compete against Evernote and Microsoft’s OneNote. In Notes, you can now use your finger to sketch. You can also take a photo without having to leave the app to make your Notes more visual. In addition, URLs and maps show up as graphical links. Notes can also turn any list into an interactive to-do checklist, giving you the ability to cross off different items one by one. Lastly, Notes is now a destination in iOS 9’s Share sheets, so you can compile webpages from Safari, directions from Maps, or attachments from another app right into your Notes.
What’s happening to the Passbook app?
In iOS 9, Passbook gets replaced with a brand-new app called Wallet. You will still be able to store your Starbucks card, concert tickets, and boarding passes in your Wallet, just like you could store them in Passbook.
So then why change the name to Wallet?
Wallet is also the home of Apple Pay. You will be able to store credit cards and rewards cards from various retailers in your Wallet, including Kohl’s, Walgreens, and JC Penney.
Are all major payment services now onboard with Apple Pay?
Yes! In addition to supporting transactions conducted by Visa, MasterCard, and American Express, Apple Pay will add Discover cards this fall.
How many businesses accept Apple Pay in the U.S.?
According to Apple, more than 1 million locations already accept Apple Pay. The number is expected to continue to increase as Square prepares a new mobile payment reader that will be equipped to take Apple Pay transactions.
Is Apple Pay ever going to expand internationally?
Why did Apple replace the Newsstand app with News?
Publishers complained that the Newsstand app buried their content, so Apple came up with a more dynamic solution: A Flipboard-style reading app called News.
What publications can I read using the News app?
Over 50 publications have teamed up to join Apple’s News, including Time, People, Vogue, Wired, Vanity Fair, Cosmo, ESPN, The New York Times, CNN, and Bloomberg.
How will News stories look on my device?
In order to keep a consistent design and visual identity, Apple has released a News Publisher app to help publishers create content specifically for News. Publishers will be able to tinker with layouts, typography, photos, videos, and animations to create the most compelling content for News.
What happens to my recurring magazine subscriptions on the now-defunct Newsstand app?
The newspaper and magazine apps that were previously stored in Newsstand will remain on your iPhone with any recurring subscription intact. The apps will show up in a folder called “Newsstand,” which acts as any other app folder on your device.
Boosting iPad productivity
Are there any new QuickType shortcuts?
iOS 9 introduces formatting buttons to the QuickType bar so that you can italicize, copy/paste, or add attachments with just a tap. Another cool way to select and edit iPad text on iOS 9 is to simply place two fingers on the touchscreen to turn into into a trackpad that you can use to select text by dragging. Furthermore, third-party apps can customize the shortcuts that appear on the QuickType toolbar, so that you can have all the important buttons right at your fingertips.
I heard that I can now have two iPad apps open at the same time. How does that work?
There are three ways to view and interact with two apps simultaneously on an iPad in iOS 9. First, we have Slide Over, where you can choose a second app to open up as a pinned sidebar on the right. Second is Split View, where two apps take up half of the screen. Finally, Picture-in-Picture lets you watch a video or chat on FaceTime while having another app running in the background. The video screen becomes a smaller window that you can drag and resize. You’ll need an iPad Air, iPad Air 2, iPad mini 2, iPad mini 3, or iPad mini 4 for Slide Over and Picture-in-Picture, and an iPad Air 2 or iPad Pro for Split View.
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Oscar writes about iOS, mobile culture and digital music. He also hosts 'The iPhone Show' from Macworld's San Francisco HQ.