Apple has described iOS 9, much as Google has Android 6.0 Marshmallow, as an update that brings tweaks and refinements to improve the overall performance and usability of the operating system. Of course, there are some new features thrown in for good measure, and Apple has promised a smarter Siri, improved Maps and better multitasking.
Design and tweaks
Aesthetically, you won’t notice much new once iOS 9 is installed. It looks the same as iOS 8, albeit with a subtly prettier San Francisco font (as first seen on the Apple Watch) that replaces the traditional Helvetica seen on iOS devices.
Changes start to appear when you delve further into the OS. Notifications, for example, are now sorted chronologically, rather than being illogically grouped by app. As somebody who uses their iPhone a lot, this little change makes a big difference when it comes to catching up on missed emails and messages. I’m still disappointed that Notifications aren’t cleared when they are in apps, however, and Apple has yet to add an option to clear them all at once.
Multitasking has been given a makeover. A double-tap of the home button now shows your open apps in an elongated card view, not dissimilar to the multitasking view introduced in Android 5.0 Lollipop. This means you can better see what’s going on before choosing to jump into an app.
Another new feature makes it easier to switch back to a previous app, thanks to a small button that appears at the top left of the display.
Siri has many more strings to its bow in iOS 9. Sliding to the left-most menu reveals a list of ‘Siri Suggestions’ filled with your most recent contacts and apps, and headlines Siri thinks you might want to read. At the time of writing, Siri is recommending I read an article about Tony Abbott – so I think it still may need a little work.
That being said, it’s perhaps more intelligent than it gets credit for. Siri doesn’t just know that you’re a fan of Kingdom Rush and that it will be your go-to app. It registers your habits, learning, for example, that you call your mum every Saturday at 1pm, or that you check your emails every morning while commuting. One of our favourite features of iOS 9 is that plugging in headphones automatically fires up your music app of choice, be it Apple Music or Spotify.
Typically, Apple has given some of its own apps a lick of fresh paint in iOS 9. First up, Mail. If you get a phone call from an unknown number and that phone number is in your email, it will tell you who the call might be from. What’s more, if you use Apple’s Calendar app (I don’t), events will show up automatically.
Notes has been given a long-overdue overhaul as Apple sets its sights on the likes of Evernote. The app now supports formatting, photo insertion and handwriting, and you can switch between typing and drawing in seconds. It’s still no real contender for Evernote, but iCloud syncing.
Apple Maps has been given a major revamp in iOS 9. It’s now better at recommending local businesses, such as nearby restaurants, and has added public transport directions for a number of major cities.
Performance, battery life and security
Apple promises better battery life with iOS 9 but I haven’t noticed much of a difference. However, there is a new Low Power Mode which, until installing iOS 9, I didn’t realise how much I needed. Now, once you see the ‘red bar of death’, as I like to call it, switching on Low Power Mode provides enough juice for another three hours by turning off push notifications, dimming the screen and lessening the power used by the processor.
Apple has made some enhancements to the overall security credentials of iOS, adding a new six-digit passcode option and improved two-factor authentication.
Truth is, most people upgrading to iOS 9 probably won’t notice much of a difference. But the small changes – be it the new font, improved Notifications or a battery-saving mode – will make a huge difference to many.
Is it worth upgrading? Yes. It’s by no means Apple’s most exciting iOS release, but it has given the overall usability of our iPhone 6 handset a much needed boost. Of course, those with an older device such as an iPhone 5 or iPad 2 may want to exercise more caution, but for those with a newer Apple device, there’s no question.
Better multitasking, Siri improvements, Low Power mode, improved security, overall usability improvements, no major glitches.
Apple Maps still isn’t great, no option to clear all Notifications.
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