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iOS 9 Introduction

iOS 9 is here. It’s a free update for iPhone 4s or newer, iPod touch 5th or 6th generation, iPad 2 or newer and iPad mini. While there is nothing earth-shattering in this update, when all the small tweaks and improvements are taken into account, it becomes a must-have.

Easier Update

Apple has listened to complaints about problems with the last update. They took a page out of Microsoft’s playbook by letting beta testers give their comments. They have also eliminated the storage problem woes that plagued iOS 8, which had a huge footprint of nearly 5 GB. This peeved many users who had to uninstall apps, music and videos just to install the update. iOS 9 is much smaller taking up only 1.3 GB of space. Apple has also added an “Insufficient Space for Download” option that, if necessary, will temporarily delete applications and automatically reinstall them after the update.

Siri for iOS 9

The Spotlight Search is now called Siri Suggestions and the search itself has added heft. You can still access it by swiping down from the middle of any home page, but even more convenient is the full screen Siri Suggestions page which you can access by swiping right on the home page.

iOS 9 - Siri suggestions

This page shows off the added intelligence that Apple has given Siri. She can now search the content of third-party apps and can search deeper into the web. She can remind you about the contents of apps and can organize the results by category. She can even search photos by date and location. On the full-screen suggestions page she gives you easy access to frequent contacts as well as to the apps you use regularly. She suggests nearby locations that change according to the time of day and she gives you the latest headlines right on the suggestion page.

Another nice feature in Siri Suggestions is that when you tap on a contact from this page you get the options to call, FaceTime, or message them. You can even get their contact information directly from this page.

iOS 9 Settings

Apple has also added a much-needed search option for the Settings page.

Proactive

Like Google Now, Apple’s new Proactive service can learn your schedule and offer timely, contextual recommendations. If your device knows that you are in your car it can give you traffic conditions and alternate routes. If you plug in your earphones the music controls appear. If you get an invite by email Proactive will ask if you want to add that event to your calendar. If you start an email with a subject you’ve used before, you’ll get suggestions for recipients. It will even search your email to try to identify incoming callers who aren’t on your contact list.

Wi-Fi

The new Wi-Fi Assist is Apple’s solution to unreliable Wi-Fi connections. If your connection is not working properly, Wi-Fi Assist will automatically switch to your cellular data plan. This will be beneficial to some, but those who have limited data may want to disable the feature in the Settings. It is good, however, to know it is available if you need it.

Low Power Mode

iOS 9 brings us a new Low Power Mode. When you power gets down to 20% you are offered this mode as a way to reduce power consumption. It automatically turns off unneeded functions and reduces the power drain of functions like automatic downloads, visual effects, screen brightness and mail fetch. If you don’t turn it on at 20%, it will ask you again at 10%. Also full functionality is returned automatically once you’ve charged up to 80% or more. It’s a great feature!

iOS 9 - Low power mode

Security

While you can still use the four-digit passcode, you can now add a little more security by upping your passcode to six digits.

Keyboard Shift

This is a very small change, but somewhat useful. In the previous operating systems the keyboard was always capitalized. Now the keyboard is in lowercase unless the shift key is highlighted. If you want to go back to the previous shift functionality, you can turn this off in the Settings.

Other New iOS 9 Features

Back To

Finally, Apple has added something that Android has always had. There is now a tiny back button in the upper left hand corner of your screen when you follow a link from search to an app. This allows you to return to the previous page. I just wish this was available everywhere.

Maps

Maps now has transit directions which are extremely useful if you live in a city with bus, subway or other public transit service.

Notes 

I found the original Notes app unusable, but this upgrade may have me starting to use it. Apple has added the ability to sketch, add photos and website links, and easily create to-do lists and checklists. You can also now share links and notes.

News

I hated the old Apple Newsstand and never used it. The new News app that replaces the Newsstand is outstanding. Well, it doesn’t exactly replace the Newsstand since you might still see it on your device. However, unless you were a rabid fan of Newsstand you won’t use it any more.

The content, format, and navigation of the new News apps are all excellent. You can personize your newsfeed, called “For You” and easily find news that you like. You can also explore, search, and even save and share stories quickly and easily.

Mail

Mail now allows you to add attachments to email on your mobile device including documents from the new iCloud Drive app or Dropbox.

Health 

Apple has included reproductive wellness in the updated Health app with the ability to track data such as basal body temperature, menstruation, and sexual activity. It now also supports hydration and UV light monitoring.

Apple Music

The much-loved-by-some “Shuffle All” button makes a return in iOS9. The music app also makes it easy to adjust audio playback and audio quality.

Photos

Apple has added new ways to scroll through photos. Open any photo and you will see a new scroll bar at the bottom. You can now select several photos at once by selecting one and swiping over to the rest. This sure beats having to click on each one. 

iOS 9 Photo Scroll Bar

iOS 9 also fixes a bug in the Photo app in iOS 8. You can now quickly view or edit a photo after taking it instead of having to wait for it to appear.

iCloud Drive

iCloud has always been one of more confusing cloud services.  Finding things in iCloud was sometimes impossible. To counter those limitations, Apple has integrated an iCloud Drive app that makes it much easier to find and control your iCloud content. Just turn it on in the Settings.

Wallet App

The old Passbook app has been renamed “Wallet”. It is the app now used in conjunction with Apple Pay which is now supported by 2,500 banks and has recently added the Discover Card. Also now you can access Wallet by simply double-clicking the Home button when your iPhone is locked making paying with Apple Pay even easier. Apple is also still expanding its scope. It is adding reward cards like  Dunkin’ Donut’s DD Perks, Walgreen’s Balance Rewards, and MyPanera to its functionality. Store credit cards like Kohl’s and JCPenney’s are also being added.

iPad Updates with iOS 9

Several iOS 9 updates work only on the iPad. These, however, are pretty useful. First is a feature called Slide-Over.  By swiping from the right edge of an iPad screen you can bring up other apps like news, Safari, FaceTime, etc. and open them in that 1/3 of the screen so you can see two apps on the screen at the same time. There is also a Split-View which can show two apps, each using half of the screen.

iOS 9 Slideover

Also for the iPad only is Picture-in-Picture. Similar to many TVs, you get a small screen running a video in the corner while most of the screen will be dedicated to the main app you are using. While using FaceTime or watching a video, press the Home button and your video screen scales down to a corner of your display.

There are also several improvements for the iPad keyboard. It now has shortcuts for actions such as copying, pasting, attaching documents, and italicizing text on the bar at the top.

App Switcher

iOS 9 makes browsing through all your apps open apps and switching from one to another much easier. Just double press the Home button and your apps will appear in a new format which is much easier to see as you slide your finger through them.

iOS 9 Summary

When you update to iOS 9, you won’t notice a big change. All of the buttons and placements are pretty much the same, but you may wind up scratching your head with the thought that there is something vaguely different. That’s because iOS 9 uses a new san serif font call San Francisco. This is custom Apple-designed font that is also used for the Apple Watch. This new font is sophisticated and very easy to read. It is used in Settings, Search, and all native apps. You can also set it as the default font for your iBooks.

Again, when you update to iOS 9, you won’t notice a big change immediately, but with use, you will find many things to like about iOS 9. Other than having my iPad go back to the lock screen a few times when using Search, I haven’t found any glitches. I’ve been looking for something (other than the lack of a consistent back button) that I don’t like and I haven’t yet found anything to really complain about. If I do, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, if your device is supported you will want to be sure that you take advantage of this free update.

Sandy Berger, respected computer authority, journalist, media guest, speaker, and author, has more than three decades of experience as a computer and technology expert. Her eight books include: How to Have a Meaningful Relationship with Your Computer, Your Official Grown-up’s Guide to AOL and the Internet, Cyber Savers –Tips & Tricks for Today’s Drowning Computer Users, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Better Living through Technology, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to the Internet, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Gadgets & Gizmos, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Online Health & Wellness, and Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Online Travel. Sandy’s newspaper column, magazine articles, feature stories, product reviews, and computer tips can be found at her website, Compu-KISS.