iOS 9 review

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Summary

Our Score:

8

Pros

  • Multitasking makes the iPad great
  • Deep search in Spotlight is a revelation
  • Siri finally makes sense
  • Plenty of new tools for developers

Cons

  • Ugly new multitasking view
  • Notifications still need improving
  • Unconvincing low power mode
  • Split-view only on iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 4

Update 20/04/2016

As is typical with Apple's iOS updates, it's received multiple point upgrades throughout its lifecycle. The latest, iOS 9.3, even adds in a clever new feature called Night Shift. This reduces the blue light coming off the display before you go to sleep, which is supposed to help your slumber. It makes the screen go a strange orange colour that might be off-putting at first, but you'll get used to it after a couple of days.

iOS 9 was pretty free of bugs to begin with, but it's only gotten smoother as the time has gone by. It's still quick, responsive and a pleasure to use. The multitasking features added have become more and more useful as a load of apps have started to support them, but if you're using an iPad Pro 12.9-inch you might wish you could have more than two apps at once.

Of course, you might not be running iOS 9 for that much longer. Apple has announced the dates for its WWDC and this is where we'll likely see the release of iOS 10.

What is iOS 9?

In the simplest terms, iOS 9 is the latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system. It powers all the the brand’s iPads, iPhones and iPod Touches and while it’s not the biggest jump from last year’s iOS 8 visually, it has enough tweaks, upgrades and new features to make it a worthwhile download for anyone who has a compatible device.

The more complete view of iOS 9 is that it’s the start of the next chapter of iOS. Where the iPad Air 2 and 9.7-inch iPad Pro gains more productivity tools, Siri is not just a computerised voice behind a button press and developers can have a bigger influence on everything from search to blocking content in Safari.

It’s a great, if slightly rough around the edges, update that might not convince Android die-hards to switch, but offers plenty for iOS users to get excited about.

iOS 9 is free to download for iPhone 4S and above, iPad 2 and above, iPad Air 1 and 2, every iPad mini and the 5th and 6th generation iPod Touch. It comes pre-installed on the new iPhone SE.

WATCH: What's new in iOS 9?

iOS 9 – Design

Design changes in iOS 9 are few and far between. But there are a couple worth mentioning.

The biggest is the new San Francisco font – the same type-face Apple designed for the Apple Watch. It’s slightly bolder and a little wider than before, but doesn’t really make that much difference.

Related: iOS 9 tips and tricks

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In what seems like a change for the sake of it – or to make better use of 3D Touch on iPhone 6S/6S Plus – the multitasking view has been switched from individual cards to a scrolling, rolodex style. It’s a bit like Android’s Overview, but flipped on its head. I don’t like it. It adds nothing, but removes the handy contact shortcuts and makes it harder to see what apps you’ve got open.

I do approve of the new ‘Back to app’ button, though. In previous versions of iOS 9, if you opened up a link in a message you'd have to go back the home screen and back into Messages to return to what you were doing. Now a ‘Back to Messages’ instantly takes you back. Handy.

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Notifications, one of the weakest parts of iOS, haven’t really been improved on iOS 9. There’s still no ‘Clear all’ button, it’s finicky to accurately hit the ‘X’ to dismiss something and they lack the polish that makes them one of Android’s stand-out features. However, at-least notifications are now grouped by time rather than app.

iOS 9 – Siri and search

Siri’s transformation in iOS 9 is massive. The digital assistant first introduced with the iPhone 4S is no longer a feature stuck behind a button press, but a vital part of the operating system.

I used to feel Siri was one of the iPhone’s weakest elements. It didn’t have the down-right usefulness of Google Now’s card based UI, nor the accuracy and speed of Cortana. Thankfully, iOS 9 rights many of those wrongs.

Related: iPhone 6S vs Galaxy S6

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A swipe right from the first homescreen – sound familiar? – takes you straight into Siri’s new home. Apple claims she is now more ‘proactive’ than before, so this pane houses recently used contacts, apps you’ve been using a lot (or just installed) and a few, seemingly random, news stories from the web. I assume this will tie in with Apple News when it hits the UK, but for now it just takes you directly to the website.

There’s also a search bar at the top – I’ll get deeper into this shortly – and a microphone icon if you prefer to rather speak your requests.

I like the screen, especially the grouping together of apps that make them easy to get to. But there’s no pinning of contacts or apps, and you can’t delete or hide any of them. I guess this is an area that will grow with future updates, but it’s a good start.

A long press on the Home button from anywhere still brings up Siri herself, or himself if you’re in the UK, but the voice-assistant has picked up a few more tricks. I can ask it to show ‘pictures taken in Australia’ and the results will instantly pop up, or be more specific and say ‘show me pictures from April 2014’. Obviously, and annoyingly, this is limited to Apple’s app. Results won’t show up from Google Photos, for example, or Spotify.

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For some reason, Siri seems to have trouble understanding my British accent – not that I have a particularly strong one – but in the instances it’s understood in one results come up in a flash. A definite speed improvement over iOS 8.

But, easily the coolest feature of the improved search and Siri features in iOS 9 is deep-linked Spotlight. Before, results from the search bar – accessed by a swipe down on the homescreen – would be limited to Apple’s own apps. A search for ‘football’ would bring up any mentions in Mail, Messages and so on. Now, app developers can let it search their apps too.

Related: iOS 9 apps you need to download first

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So a similar search now brings up results from The Guardian’s app, while a search for ‘fried chicken’ brings up recipes from cooking apps. When it’s integrated in more apps, this will be a killer iOS feature.

Carrier pricing updates & information supplied by WhistleOut

LeeTronix

July 24, 2015, 8:42 am

IOS 10 Beta out now - don't panic all is good in 6 months from now ^^

pimlicosound

July 24, 2015, 10:06 am

Pointless insults towards Apple users aside, it's good when Apple products adopt the best features from their competitors, even if they do come a few years late; just like it's good when Android adopts the best features from Apple products. Competition drives both sides forward, and both Apple and Android users benefit.

calden74

July 25, 2015, 9:55 pm

I completely agree, I really dislike it when Apple and android users accuse each other of stealing ideas. I'm also tired of hearing how Apple invented the modern smartphone, no they didn't, I was doing more with my Nokia Communicator 9500 even after the iPhone 4 was released. iOS still can't run apps in the background except for a few audio and GPS apps, still cant choose your own default apps, still is missing a decent file system and a smart way of managing your files, still cant customize the UI or even something as simple as removing and adding items in the quick settings panel, still has the worst inner-app communication that I've seen on any mobile platform, etc.

calden74

July 25, 2015, 10:10 pm

Saturday,
July 25, 2015

10:31 AM

Though I really enjoy using OSX and my MacBook as I'm a UNIX head, I'm not the biggest fan of
iOS. Before purchasing my current phone, a Blackberry Passport I got an iPhone 6+. iOS is a very attractive OS as well as extremely responsive but I was extremely disappointed to find that a lot of the features I have been used to with previous smartphones, just weren't available on iOS. First and a very big one for me is the ability to choose my own default apps. Though I find Apple's mobile PPS to be adequate, their not crossed platform. As such I like using Opera and now Firefox as my main browser because I have access to all of my bookmarks, passwords, form data, etc. Same thing with FaceTime, I prefer BBM and Skype as my friends and family don't all have an Apple device but both BBM and Skype can be installed and pretty much every platform. Apple Messenger, again BBM as well as WhatsApp and Apple Mail, I now use Microsoft's fantastic Office mobile apps, so Outlook. This wouldn't be a huge problem if iOS's share function wasn't so, well, inconsistent. So if say, I was able to send a file directly to Outlook form attachment I could love it with it but I can't, only Apples Mail app os ever listed. It's this way with almost every app, the share to list almost never has the app that I need to send a file to. Another example in OneDrive, I prefer using it and Google Drive as I can not only have a terabyte of data from both of them for the same price as single terabyte from iCloud but here in Switzerland where I live, I can upload a file to OneDrive almost ten times faster. This has a lot to do with the fact that both Microsoft and Google both have huge data centers here and iCloud's servers are located in Ireland.

I really don't like the way iOS handles files, saving them under the app that created them is honestly not the best idea. No matter how many times I hear that this is the future or even that it's more secure, I still don't like it. I want a built in file-manager that not only has access to my local files but all of my cloud and NAS as well. I wan to be able to, search, copy, move, delete, zip (tar, gzip and rar) my files and I need all of my files to be located under a single user directory, organized by folders. When I do a data backup with my current phone, all I do is sync up my entire user directory to the cloud which is identical across all of my devices, including my MacBook. So It doesn't matter which device that I'm using, my data and it's file structure will always be the same. I use my MacBook as the master, yes I see those hidden files that OSX likes to put's everywhere but it doesn't affect the overall experience. So by using an iPhone I would have had to completely interrupt this synergy that I've created and have used so successfully for years. Also finding files in iOS is nothing short of a nightmare. With my current phone and by the way I really don't like bringing up other devices here as this is an Apple site but it's a BlackBerry Passport. Anyway I don't even have to bring up a single app to find a file, I just start typing on the home screen and the phone will search not only all of my files but all of the installed apps and web. It's a true global search that I haven't seen matched on any other device that I've ever used.

Another thing that the Passport does extremely well, mostly because it's a RTOS, Real Time Operating System and something that I truly need, is the ability to run apps in the background or full multitasking. I know iOS can run a few audio and GPS apps in the background but I need a little more scope than that. As a developer who travels a lot, I need a way to constantly be connected to the servers at work. Run scripts, fix bugs, etc., I also need to be connected sometimes for long periods of time, monitoring purposes. But the biggest thing though is the ability to compile my applications, now I can do this with iOS but these applications take a fairly good amount of time to compile and honestly, the last thing I want to do is stare at the terminal app until it's finished, especially if I'm also doing something else like editing. However iOS terminates my connections when the terminal app is in the background. Last night I stayed in a hotel in Hamburg Germany, I noticed the TV in the room was a Samsung that had Miracast capabilities, so I connected my phone. I than went to OneDrive, using the file-manager, not the client, went into my video collection, clicked on a film, the file-manager than opened up the default video player that I chose to use when the file extension .avi was clicked on (another thing that iOS can't do and I really need), in this case it was AllConnect because I never watch films directly on my phone, only when it is connected to a TV. Anyway, while the film was being streamed directly from OneDrive, I didn't have to download it first like I did with iOS, I decided to get a jump start on the next days work load. So I minimized AllConnect, movie is still playing (iOS would have stopped the film) opened up my terminal, connected to my work server and proceeded to start a compile job, minimized that. I than opened up MS Word, which I absolutely love, both the iOS and Android version are just fantastic and started in on a spec sheet for a new application that I'm writing. A streaming 1080p movie playing in the background, terminal app connected to a server, compiling an application in the background, while I'm typing in MS Office. I also wrote a couple of emails and took a phone call (the movie paused automatically during the call and started up again after, cool feature, I didn't know it did that).

Now I fully realize that this isn't the norm and that most users will never have the need to do what I just described above but full multitasking is an absolute must for me. I first encountered the power of running apps in the background with the Nokia Communicator, since than I've been completely hooked. As such I've predominantly used Nokia and a few BlackBerry Phones for the last 15 years; Nokia Communicator 9110, 9210, 9500, 9300, Nokia E91, N810, N900, E7, N950 (the N950 was best phone I have ever owned and also one of the rarest, currently running Sailfish from Jolla), N9. I know what a lot of you are thinking, Symbian, yuck but it was actually a very powerful OS and could handle multiple apps running at once without issue. I also used to carry around a Psion MX 5 and Netbook for the better part of a decade as nothing came close to the battery life or feature set.

Anyway, I'm not saying that I hate iOS because as a consumer entertainment OS it's pretty great, I have an iPad, that I use for music creation, gaming and other leisure activities. However as a work tool it falls very short in my opinion. Even when I tried to use my iPad as a desktop computer so I could use MS Office for iOS didn’t work out. Displaying the desktop or apps on a TV isn't really all that great. Since each app displays it resolution differently, the experience is inconsistent at best and the desktop is displayed at 4:3. So before you call Android crap like a lot of you have been doing at least Nexus 9 which also uses 4:3 as it's aspect ration is smart enough to use the external resolution of the display it's connecting to. I also don’t need an Apple TV as it has Miracast built in. Actually this really bothers me, all of my devices and TV's have Miracast, it's actually almost impossible now to buy a mid-range and up TV that doesn’t include Miracast. So why does Apple force their users to use an Apple TV if they want to display their device wirelessly. I really don’t care if it's better, which honestly I don't believe as I can't tell the difference, both wireless technologies look and react the same to me but even if that wasn't the case, why can't Apple support something that is mainstream for once, they don't need to get rid of their wireless streaming technology, just add support for others as well. It comes back to being able to select your own default apps, it's just fair, stop being such monopolistic pricks Apple. I don’t want to have to carry around an Apple TV when I'm traveling, like I said above with the hotel I stayed at in Germany, the TV supported Miracast. All of my devices, except for my iPad was able to connect to it without issue. I just layed down and started watching an movie. Why cant I connect a mouse to my iPad, I would love to connect it to a monitor and use the iPad as a desktop computer but since the resolution is so wonky, even when connected via HDMI (iOS's iPad desktop isn't displayed in 16:10 when connected to a TV, just 4:3, which is just ridiculous and frankly bad programming, anyway, you get these black bars on either side with the iPad and when you open up an app, the resolution and aspect ratio changes once again, who designed this thing). So using my iPad as a desktop computer is out of the question, I just wanted to use MS Office for iOS, Word specifically, nothing special. My Nexus 9 works flawlessly when connected to my monitor wirelessly, every app is the same resolution and aspect ratio, the native aspect ratio of my display is supported and both a keyboard and mouse work. Using a simple app called Second Display I can even setup the Nexus 9 to be used as a second display, instead of just mirroring the desktop when connected to a external monitor.

I need to end it hear, it's just the more that I think about iOS and all of it's weaknesses more thoughts just keep rushing into my head. Look, the third party apps for iOS are fantastic, I love the music creation stuff and for that I will always have an iPad in my collection. However after owning an iPhone briefly, it has definitely cured me of ever being curios about that platform again. I just don’t understand how people who use it for business function. It's just so inept.

jack

August 12, 2015, 2:15 pm

TLDR

calden74

August 13, 2015, 6:31 pm

Oh sorry, I keep forgetting that in this modern world people have the attention span of a gnat. I removed the double post.

Guest

August 14, 2015, 6:52 pm

Pointing out the plain truth is not insulting Apple users. If you wish to take it that way then that is your own choice. Now in 2016 the next feature will be Dynamic wallpapers, following by 2017, folders on the home screen:)

Dead Words

September 16, 2015, 9:00 pm

Good speech, enjoyed reading it.

Dead Words

September 22, 2015, 9:29 pm

Thanks for the in-depth review, it seemed less biased then usual Apple related reviews from other sites (just being honest, most sites are horrendously biased against all things not Apple). The feature improvements seem good and the keyboard improvements are nice but notifications needs a serious overhaul and I still don't like Apple's default applications. I feel like they're just not good at it. They're good at software development (iOS is in fact super efficient) and hardware (no one has ever said they aren't) but I've never felt Apple's default applications come close to Google's, or Microsoft's, or any other third-party applications. I'm hoping Apple also gets rid of the junk and sticks with the necessary applications, letting you download other Apple applications from the App Store instead of being forced to live with them (especially since they're typically only mediocre).
Apple's seeming efforts to be more open are a very good sign though. For a while one of my least favorite things about iOS was how closed off it was. This is a good thing.

LeeTronix

September 23, 2015, 7:14 am

I undestand and agree with a lot of what you said. The main thing about apple is that it wants to keep you all things apple of course! If a person is happy to be locked into their eco system then this is a fine OS. As for Blackberry I also have a Passport which is an amazing device. These are two completely different OS systems targeting different audiences or customers.

Personally Blackberry OS is light years ahead of anything in the mobile world but sadly that is not good enough for most everyday users. Apple, Google, Windows etc are aiming at the majority not the minority although I do wish Blackberry to succeed in the majority I feel it will always now be associated with the professional elite. But that is another conversation.

BBM is by for the best messaging service out there by a mile and I cannot see Apple allowing iMessage to break away from their eco clasp. That is the big problem with apple, they think no one else should have the right to rule mobile and computing technology and this arrogance will eventually become their undoing in time.

As for this review I think it was very carefully constructed and middle of the road and that is good, as you have to consider how a site earns its reputation, but it was harmless and straight forward.

Anyway thanks for your review calden74 I enjoyed reading your comments.

LeeTronix

September 23, 2015, 7:15 am

Oh one more thing I really liked the Nokia Communicator series, I think they were superb pieces of kit and would be great to see something like that revived again with modern chips and up to date ram etc.

calden74

September 23, 2015, 7:28 am

Thank you for the kind response, I know it included a lot of Grammer mistakes but as English isn't my first language I hope you can let a few of them slide.

LeeTronix

September 23, 2015, 7:52 am

It is fine. I thought you articulated your comments very well - all good :)

beamerman

September 28, 2015, 4:08 pm

I agree with the comments on the multiasking/app switcher changes. This certainly isn't an improvement and I'm not getting used to it or liking it after a week. The flatter old view was clearer - I don't really need to see the current state of the app; I'd like to see the switcher emphasise the app icon as largely and clearly as possible.

William

November 3, 2015, 7:07 pm

Despite conflicting reviews, I took the plunge and updated my iPhone 5s from ios 7 to the latest ios 9. I was pleasently surprised, the upgrade went without a hitch, the UI response was unaffected, spotlight is more powerful, some other little nice things too, and even better, I got 2 GB more free space. So yeah, it's a good upgrade, for me anyway.

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