It’s time for nine. IOS 9 that is.
On Monday, at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, Apple took the wraps off the latest version of its iOS operating system. It promises some slick improvements and much needed updates for your iPhone and iPad.
Siri gets smarter
Perhaps the most noticeable improvement in iOS 9 is a smarter version of everyone’s favorite digital assistant, Siri. The update makes Siri more contextually aware, turning it into what Apple calls a Proactive Assistant, which basically means it can learn your habits and make suggestions for what you’d like to do in the future.
So if you run in the morning and you like to listen to music, Siri will recognize that when you plug in your headphones after waking up, you’re probably going for a run, and automatically fire up your music player.
When you get in the car later, Siri can tell that you’re driving and can pull up tracks you often listen to while behind the wheel.
Siri can also create calendar reminders for items it reads in your email. So if you get an email for dinner reservations from OpenTable, Siri will pull in your reservation date, time, and location, and even let you know when you should leave to get there on time. This is similar to a function in Google Now, on the Android operating system, but it is coming to iOS for the first time.
Searching with Siri
Search within Siri is also getting a boost: Specifically, you can now search for items within apps. So if you look for something like a recipe, Siri can find it in your favorite cooking app. You can then click on the link to the app within Siri and automatically jump right to the recipe. That’s pretty darn convenient.
The updated Siri will also provide you with improved photo search. That means you’ll be able to look for photos taken in specific locations on specific dates.
Oh, and all of the stuff you search for with the new version of Siri is kept private. Apple said it won’t share the information with anyone and doesn’t want to know what you look for. That would be a direct hit against Google.
Multitasking on iPad … for real!
One of the biggest advantages Android tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab S have traditionally held over the iPad is that they let you run two apps on screen at the same time. Well, Apple has gotten the message, because it’s finally bringing that kind of true multitasking to the iPad.
With multitasking on the iPad, you’ll be able to place two apps side-by-side on the screen and operate both. For example, the update will let you use Apple Maps and check your email at the same time. You can also interact with both apps simultaneously and move information between them.
Apple has also added a new picture-in-picture feature that lets you watch video in a small box on the screen while still doing things like surfing the Web. Which, again, is something Android tablets have already been able to do.
Apple Pay updates
In addition to a new version of Siri and actual multitasking, iOS 9 is bringing an update to Apple Pay. According to Apple, more retailers will soon begin using Apple Pay, with the service reaching more than 1 million locations next month.
Apple Pay is also heading across the pond to England, where it will be accepted by some 70 percent of banks.
According to Apple, Apple Pay will automatically pull up loyalty cards depending on what store you’re in.
Extra! Extra! Apple is rolling out a new newsreader app called News. A competitor to services like Flipboard, News will create a personalized newsfeed based on your interests, which you can rearrange as you see fit.
The big draw for Apple News might be how great articles look. There are interactive elements to stories and cool little animations that help bring your favorite pieces to life.
What’s more, News isn’t just going to be available for big publishing houses. It will also pull in stories from smaller blogs and sites.
The app looks absolutely gorgeous, but whether it will do well is up in the air. After all, there are tons of news reading apps out there that people are heavily invested in. Oh, and let’s not forget how Newsstand has faired.
Apple Maps finds itself
Apple is finally bringing transit to Apple Maps.
And while Google Maps has already been doing that, Apple Maps will actually give you a look at things like how subway stations look underground, so you can see which entrance to go in and where to exit. That’s going to be superhelpful.
With the new Apple Maps, you’ll also be able to find locations near your destinations and know if they use Apple Pay.
Here’s hoping the new version of Maps actually works when it launches.
Health and HomeKit
Health and HomeKit are both getting some decent improvements as well. Health will now be able to track your hydration levels and reproductive health.
HomeKit, meanwhile, will now let you control things like security systems and window shades. You’ll also be able to access your HomeKit devices via the Web.
CarPlay revs up
Not to be left out, Apple’s CarPlay has some updates heading its way. Specifically, Apple says that CarPlay will support the automaker’s own apps.
So if you have a Chevy vehicle, you won’t have to exit CarPlay to use a Chevy-specific app. This is huge because it provides Apple with a means to really ramp up its efforts to take over your car’s infotainment system.
CarPlay is also cutting the cord, literally. In future iterations of the software, you’ll no longer have to use a USB cable to connect your phone to your car. Instead, the app will presumably run via either Bluetooth or your car’s Wi-Fi radio.
When can you get it?
iOS 9 is available to developers today. Regular folks like us won’t be able to get iOS 9 until later this fall –– probably around the release of the next iPhone.