Apple’s latest version of its mobile operating system, iOS 9, is now available. It brings a whole host of tweaks and changes. While the differences may be subtle, they'll affect how you use the iPhone. In this tutorial, I’ll show you some of the many changes that iOS 9 brings.
Devices That Support iOS 9
Most modern iDevices can handle iOS 9—though the older they are, the more likely they are to be slowed down by it.
Any iPhone newer than a 4s, iPad newer than an iPad 2, and iPod Touch newer than the 5th generation can run iOS 9.
Some Visual Tweaks
The first thing you’ll notice when you upgrade your iDevice to iOS 9—or purchase one that comes with it installed—is that things look slightly different. The main reason for this is Apple’s new system font, San Francisco. Created by Apple for their own devices, it is subtly different to Helvetica Neue Light which was used in iOS 8.
San Francisco is still a san-serif of similar weight so the changes aren’t too marked, things will just look a little different around the OS, in Apple’s default apps and in any third-party apps that use the system font.
As well as the font change, the keyboard looks completely different: rather than just uppercase characters, it now shows the case of the characters you’re typing. If you’re typing lowercase characters, that’s what you see on the keyboard.
The App Switcher has also been given a visual overhaul. Rather than a continuous carousel, it appears more like a deck of cards that can be swiped through. The biggest difference is that you now swipe the opposite direction to look through recently used apps.
The Notification Centre has also been changed up. Now, by default, all notifications are sorted by most recent first, rather than grouped by app. If you want to return things to how they were in iOS 8, you can do so in the Settings app.
iCloud Drive File System
For the first time, Apple is providing some sort of file system on an iDevice. When you install iOS 9 you’ll be asked whether you want to add the iCloud Drive app to the Homescreen.
This app gives you access to your iCloud drive’s file structure. It has been available on the desktop OS X since Yosemite, but marks a big change for iOS. It’s now easier than ever to access files on both iDevices and Macs.
Another handy tweak to iCloud is that, from the iCloud Drive app, you can attach files to messages or emails. This makes it a lot easier to send files from an iDevice.
Low Power Mode
Eight iPhones later, battery life is still an issue. It’s next to impossible to use a smartphone during the day and have any meaningful amount of battery remaining at 7 pm.
With iOS 9, Apple has introduced a Low Power Mode. When the iPhone’s battery drops to 20%, and again when it drops to 10%, you will be offered the option to turn it on. Once you charge the iPhone back up to 80% battery, Low Power Mode automatically turns off.
Low Power Mode preserves battery by dimming the screen, removing visual effects, and stopping a lot of background processes like automatic downloads and app refreshing.
Features like 4G, 3G and GPS are still available. It should make an iPhone last a few hours longer, as long as you don’t use it too heavily.
You can also turn on Low Power Mode any time you want by telling Siri to do so.
A Smarter Siri and Spotlight
Siri has been given a whole host of improvements, including a dedicated Spotlight Search screen.
Now, back in iOS 9, when you swipe left on the Homescreen, you get the Search screen. Based on which apps you normally use and who you generally talk to at a particular time of day, Siri will offer intelligent suggestions.
Apple has now given third-party apps access to the search APIs. If you enter something into the search bar and it appears in a third-party app that supports search, Spotlight will show it.
Both Siri and Spotlight’s ability to understand natural language has been greatly improved in iOS 9. Search terms like, “show me photos from last week”, will return all the pictures you took the previous week.
Siri is now integrated with Apple Music. If you say, for example, “play the Red Hot Chilli Peppers”, Siri will open the app and start playing them.
Another handy new feature of Siri is the ability to set contextual reminders from anywhere. If you want to be prompted to respond to a specific email in an hour or when you get home, with the email open you can tell Siri, “remind me about this in an hour”. She’ll create a reminder that includes a link back to the relevant email.
The Hey Siri feature is now available at all times. In iOS 8, Hey Siri only worked when the iDevice was charging. Now it works all the time.
People who’ve tried to use their iPads productively have been clamouring for multitasking features for a while. Apple is never one to offer a feature before they’re ready and, with iOS 9, they finally feel confident they can do multitasking well.
There are three different kinds of multitasking. Slide Over, Split View and Picture in Picture. Multitasking only works on recent iPads; Slide Over and Picture in Picture will work with anything newer than an iPad Air or iPad Mini 2, while Split View requires an iPad Air 2 or iPad Mini 4.
Slide Over is a way to quickly access another app without leaving the current one. Swiping to the left from the middle right edge of the screen brings up a small window to a previously used app.
It’s perfect for responding to messages, sending tweets, or other wise doing quick tasks.
Split View is a way to use two apps at once, for example, if you want to reference something in one app while working in another.
With one app open, drag or tap app divider to open a second app. Only some apps support Split View.
Picture in Picture
Picture in Picture lets you continue to watch a video, or carry on a FaceTime call, while you do other things on an iPad. To access it, press the Home button while viewing a video.
It will scale down to a window that can be moved around the screen.
Public Transit in Maps
Apple Maps got a lot of bad publicity when it launched. It’s improved hugely over the last few years but still lacked one key feature: public transit directions.
With iOS 9, they’re now available directly in the Maps app rather than requiring a third-party option.
The new Maps also has a useful Nearby feature that recommends local business that are near where you are.
Better Notes, News and Other Apple Apps
The preinstalled (and unremovable) apps provided by Apple have been shaken up. The Notes app has been completely overhauled, Find My Friends now comes preinstalled, Newsstand has been removed and there’s now, if you’re in the US, a News app.
Apple’s Notes app has long lagged behind third-party apps like Evernote. In iOS 9, that’s no longer the case.
You can now embed maps, photos, sketches and even webpages within a note. You can also create simple checklists and bulleted lists. They all sync with iCloud to your other devices.
The US only News app provides articles from a selection of partners like the New York Times, Buzzfeed, CNN and ESPN.
Loads of Small Things
There are also countless little changes you’ll notice while using iOS 9.
- All your selfies now have their own album in the Photos app.
- Plugging in headphones activates the most recent music app.
- You can now search the Settings app.
- Apple Pay can be accessed from the Lockscreen by double-clicking the Home button.
- There’s a system wide back button that will return you to the previous app.
- Different kinds of third-party apps, like content blockers, are now allowed.
Plus plenty of other small changes.
Behind the Scenes Tweaks
As well as all the things you as a user will see in iOS 9, Apple has introduced changes to how things run behind the scenes.
- Apple claims that iOS 9 should give users an extra hour of battery life.
- Update packages are now far smaller.
- The OS makes more efficient use of the CPU and GPU.
- There are some improved security features.
- It also introduces a number of new APIs for third-party developers to make use of in their apps.
Upgrading to iOS 9 is an easy decision. It’s a logical development from iOS 8 and brings with it an array of useful new features. While there are some visual tweaks and minor changes, there are a number of serious additions.
Low Power Mode is a great way to extend an iPhone’s battery life. The iCloud Drive app finally gives the iPhone a file system. Multitasking and public transit are features people have requested for years.
If you’ve any questions about the changes in iOS 9, please let me know in the comments. I’ll be happy to answer any queries you have.