For people who own an iPhone and (insert any number of Apple products here), iOS 9, watchOS 2, OS X El Capitan and now even tvOS will deliver a number of improvements to your daily life and the tasks you carry out. With iOS 9 now out in the wild, here are nine of the best new ways you can use Apple's ecosystem to improve your workflow and productivity.
iPhone and Mac picture from Shutterstock
Proactive Search is one of the more subtle, yet useful, improvements to iOS this year. Part of the success of Proactive Search will come once developers start updating their apps to make content within them searchable, helping users find exactly what they need within apps. But what's good about it right now?
One of the most useful features with Proactive Search is what happens when you receive a call from a number you don’t recognise. So long as you use the built in Mail app, Proactive will be able to identify numbers in emails and recommend who is calling. If it can’t find record of the number in any correspondence on the device, it will display the location the number is coming from, to give you a better chance of knowing whether or not to pick up. Don’t expect this to work the second that you install iOS 9 - it will require some time to securely gather the information.
This also means that within Mail, the phone will identify calendar information from dates and locations in email to create calendar appointments. A version of this was introduced last year with iOS 8 and contacts.
Earlier this year, Apple’s Siri team moved over to an Apache Mesos-based framework as its backend infrastructure (Apple calls its fork Jarvis, or 'Just A Rather Very Intelligent Scheduler'). As with the Apple Watch, Siri on iOS 9 is not only faster at responding, but also far more accurate. What’s more, Siri has new tricks up its sleeve.
Within any app, webpage or email, you can now say: ‘Remind me about this when I get home tomorrow’ and Siri will remind you of whatever you were looking at when you get home tomorrow. With the new Apple TV, Siri is getting far better at understanding context and is now tuned to your voice. In the past, if your phone was plugged in, Siri had a knack of activating even if you didn’t say: ‘Hey Siri’. Now, with iOS 9, when you set Siri up, you repeat some phrases for Siri to learn your voice.
With iOS 9, the iPad is having its biggest software upgrade since the iPad was introduced. One of the biggest issues with the iPad since iOS 7's re-design is that the software didn't receive any features focused solely on the iPad user experience or making it more useful for productivity. Whilst it was technically possible to use the iPad for a trip away, the experience could become frustrating for anything that required using more than one app. With iOS 9, the iPad becomes a viable laptop alternative, especially for individuals or companies that utilise a number of iOS apps.
Here are some of our favourite new features.
iPad Air, iPad Mini 2, iPad Pro and above multitasking features
Slide Over: Whilst in an app, pull from the middle of the right of the screen to bring out a list of apps that support Slide Over; which allows you to quickly enter an app without putting the existing app into the background. This is very useful for quickly replying to email, or entering information into a presentation, if you are using the web or other apps for research.
Picture in Picture: With Picture in Picture, if you are watching a training video (or more likely for some employees, sport whilst at work) you can have the video continue playing in a corner of the screen. The video stream can be resized, moved around the screen and even pushed off to the edge (you click on a little arrow to bring it back). It makes the iPad infinitely more useful for multi-tasking.
iPad Air 2, iPad Mini 4, iPad Pro and above feature
Split View: Starting with Slide Over, with the latest iPad hardware, users can run two apps side-by-side at 50 percent or 75 percent of the screen. With the iPad Pro, this will be the equivalent of running an app in portrait on the iPad Air, with another app running at 33 percent size on the remaining screen space.
Another way to think of Split View is that it will be possible to have two apps running at the same time, with a video stream in Picture in Picture. Essentially, this makes the iPad a device which can truly be seen as a computer replacement for a great number of consumers and even business users.
Productivity really is the name of the game with iOS 9 on the iPad. The onscreen keyboard can now turn into a trackpad, making it that bit easier to look through a long document, email or message and make changes. It takes some getting used to, especially when trying to select words (double tap on the keyboard in trackpad mode). If, however, you're a fan of Bluetooth keyboards, freeing up more screen real estate, there are some new tricks here too, such as an easy app switcher and keyboard shortcut hints.
Before iOS 9, receiving an attachment that required a signature, or marking up a document, required a complicated patchwork of either printing off or using other apps to make changes. With iOS 9, as with Yosemite on the desktop last year, MarkUp means you can easily alter attachments directly within the Mail app. This includes zooming in on specific areas of an attachment, adding a signature, adding text or marking attachments with your finger (or with Pencil, on the iPad Pro).
The Apple Watch is now more of a standalone computer on your wrist. Apps can work without a phone being anywhere near it, and if it's on Wi-Fi, it's essentially a standalone device (granted, you still need an iPhone, but the iPhone can be at home whilst you are 100 miles away and still make or receive calls). WatchOS 2 could also be the catalyst App Store developers need, significantly opening up what they are capable of developing and how it can be deployed within business environments.
The Back Button
If you launch into another app from the app you are in - for example, opening YouTube from Chrome or Safari - a button now appears in the top left corner to let you easily get back to the app you came from. This also works if there's a workflow of three apps, where a button can appear in the top right of the screen to go back and forth between multiple apps. Previously, you had to use apps from the same company to jump back and forth, but now, you can do it whenever.
Apple News is expected to launch in the UK with iOS 9.1 later in the year. Apple News is Apple's answer to Flipboard (though admittedly, not necessarily as good yet) to make it easy for people to read news on their devices from a huge number of sources. Apple News seems to be a minimum viable product at the moment, so we can expect to see it evolve over time as Apple adds human curation and tailored news, based around your usage of it.
Stability and Battery Life
iOS 9 not only takes up less space to install, but it can also temporarily remove apps to make space if required. It feels much smoother than iOS 8 and helps devices to last longer. Low Power mode on iPhone extends the battery life by up to three hours and by default, iOS 9 uses less power than its predecessor.
From a business perspective, there are also new features for IT to utilise, making it easier to manage devices, with a further push on new security features. Though it's not something end users will see, Apple is also the first to make it a requirement for apps to use HTTPS for data transfer to and from a device. This means that data will be secured, protecting users further.
These are just nine of the tentpole features that will help to make your life that bit easier. On the surface, not a huge amount has changed with iOS 9. Indeed, for people who aren’t ‘power users’, they likely won’t notice anything new, other than the font. However, there are hundreds of seemingly smaller changes that add up to what is actually a significant upgrade to the iOS experience.
As with any changes to iOS, it is when developers make use of the new features that the sum of the parts starts to come together. A number of Apple watchers, such as John Gruber, have noted that the big redesign of iOS 7 was a way for Apple to lay the groundwork for the future of its mobile OS. We’re seeing it become more intelligent, more powerful and more useful in a number of different ways. 3DTouch on the new iPhone 6S range will be a further flagship feature that fundamentally improves the way in which people use their phones.
Conversely, there are a great number of features that aren’t going to be immediately obvious to non-technical people. iOS is becoming more complicated because it is being used as more of a computing platform than a mobile platform. There is a certain learning curve that users will need to go through if they want to make the most out of it. Yet, at its core, it’s still the basic OS that it’s always been for those who just want simplicity.
JP Luchetti is consultancy director at Mubaloo
This article originally appeared on Lifehacker UK.