Support this Site
Become a Six Colors subscriber and get access to an exclusive community, monthly newsletter, and subscriber-only podcast.
By Jason Snell
October 5, 2015 10:00 AM PT
iOS 9 has been out for a little less than a month. The iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, a little more than a week. That means that two of the most exciting additions to iOS are now available to anyone who has compatible devices! For 3D Touch, you’ll need the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus; for Split View you’ll need an iPad Air 2 or iPad mini 4.
This is great. Both of these features have the potential to change how I use both my iPhone and my iPad. I’ve got an iPad Air 2 and an iPhone 6S. I’m ready for the revolution! Any time now…
It’s been months since WWDC, when Apple formally announced iOS 9 and rolled out the details of Slide Over and Split View. And on day one of iOS 9’s release, apps that support these new multitasking features began to appear. I’ve got a bunch on my iPad Air 2, and I use them—when I remember to.
But what I’ve found in the past few weeks is that I still haven’t internalized the existence of Slide Over and Split View. I’ve got a device that supports it—in fact, a device I bought specifically because it could support it. But I’ve yet to fall into a pattern of setting up apps left and right, or even setting one app as my go-to Slide Over buddy. It just hasn’t happened.
I expect it will, and I’m willing to say that this one’s on me. Obviously I am so set in my ways as an iPad user that I’m struggling to break out of the one-app-at-a-time paradigm. Life would probably be a lot better if Twitterrific or Slack were hanging out in Slide Over all the time. I just need to get with the program.
Then there’s the iPhone 6S, and 3D Touch. I like the feature a lot—it’s been well implemented by Apple, especially how it almost never triggers without me intending to trigger it. Unfortunately, by keeping this feature a secret, Apple has given developers very little time to integrate it into their products. As a result, I find myself endlessly pushing on app icons1 and interface elements in the vain hope that app updates will support 3D Touch. And I’m usually disappointed.
Slowly, apps I use are being updated to support 3D Touch. In the early going, it’s mostly additions to the Quick Actions menu on the launch screen. Some apps, such as Workflow or Launch Center Pro, are a great fit with this feature. Other apps (I’m not naming names) seem to struggle with Quick Actions, providing minimal or useless options. And a few apps that are crying out for Quick Actions—Slack, please let me jump to a specific Slack account from a Quick Action—just don’t have them yet.
Implementing deeper 3D Touch integration in apps seems like it’s going to take even more time. What I really want from Twitterrific is the ability to “peek” into a user’s account or included attached images. I’m sure that will happen in time, but even the most actively updated applications can’t add this stuff immediately—after all, app developers only learned about 3D Touch when we did, back on September 9.
So, iOS 9 scorecard. I’m not using Split View and Slide Over enough, and I need to figure out ways to use it to my advantage. And I keep using 3D Touch in third-party apps on the iPhone 6S to no avail. I’m sure from the vantage point of 2016, I will look back at these days as a strangely primitive time. It’s early days yet. In some ways the release of new Apple hardware and OS versions is the start of the story, not the end of it.
Bloop! goes the Taptic Engine. No Quick Actions on this app icon. ↩
By Jason Snell
September 18, 2015 11:16 AM PT
When you think of operating-system updates, of course you think about whizzy new features. In iOS 9, that means dramatic improvements to iPad productivity, new proactive search features, improvements to Maps, Safari content blockers, and a whole lot more.
But lurking behind the scenes in iOS 9 is an update that may have more impact on your life as a iPhone user than any one of these in-your-face features—improvements that allow you to extend the battery life of your device.
Overall, if you do nothing, Apple claims that “across the entire operating system” battery usage has been optimized in iOS 9. I haven’t tested these claims methodically, and beta versions of operating systems are infamous for being all over the place when it comes to battery life. There are times when it feels like iOS 9 has improved the battery life of my iPhone 6, and other times when I appear to be draining the battery at an alarming rate. But then, that’s how I felt when I was running iOS 8, too.
If iOS 9 does really extend battery life in normal use, Apple deserves a medal. Improving battery life by optimizing software is a huge improvement for users, even if it’s all imperceptible to them. There’s probably not an iPhone user alive who would not say they wish their battery just had a little more juice in it. Apple can’t retroactively upgrade our iPhone batteries, but it can tweak its software to use that juice more judiciously.
Jason Snell for SuperSite
September 17, 2015 3:46 PM PT
After a few months in beta, Apple’s iOS 9 update is here. Any iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch capable of running iOS 8 can run the new version, and Apple users are famous for upgrading their operating systems at a rapid pace. So if you’re supporting users with iPhones, you’ll be seeing iOS 9 everywhere shortly, if you haven’t already seen it.
The release is packed with features, though it’s much less jarring a transition than either iOS 7 or iOS 8 were. iOS 9 focuses on speed and stability, and in my months of beta testing it I’ve found it to be a just-push-the-button sort of upgrade. Go through the steps and upgrade your devices—they’ll be better for running on iOS 9.
That blanket endorsement out of the way, here are the five iOS 9 features I think you’ll appreciate the most.
By Dan Moren
September 17, 2015 11:35 AM PT
Apple’s been trying to build its Maps app back up ever since it ditched Google Maps back in iOS 6, but iOS 9 marks perhaps the most substantial update in the intervening years, bringing features that are more about function than form.
Nearer to thee
Used to be, in days of yore, that if you wanted to find a coffee shop or restaurant, you wandered around until you saw one—like an animal. Thanks to the smartphone, we’re all so much more civilized now. And in iOS 9, Apple’s trying to make that process a little more friendly with a new feature called Nearby.1
When you tap the search box in the Maps app, you’ll be presented with a colorful set of icons for categories like Food, Drinks, Shopping, and more. Tapping any of those will present you with a list of sub-categories—for example, tap Food and you’ll get options like Popular, Restaurants, Groceries, Fast Food, Coffee Shops, Bakeries, and Desserts. Selecting one of those will show you all the matches—yes, you guessed it—nearby. (I particularly appreciated the granularity of the sub-category options, such as “Gluten-free.”)
At launch, the Nearby feature is only available in the U.S. and China. Presumably that will expand. ↩
By Dan Moren
September 17, 2015 6:00 AM PT
After years and years of trying to make iOS more and more capable, iOS 9 feels like Apple has taken a step back and concentrated on brains over brawn.
That’s nowhere more apparent in one iOS’s most prominent new features, which Apple has dubbed “proactive suggestions.” As the name suggests, the goal is for your iPhone or iPad to provide you with exactly what you want, when you want it, without you having to do anything. Though it’s actually a suite of features spread throughout the OS, it mainly manifests in a new search screen that you see when you swipe right on the home screen, back where Spotlight used to be1.
(Searching is also available by swiping down on the home screen, as in iOS 8.)
Apple’s terminology for search technologies is kind of a mess. Spotlight is on the Mac and still in places on iOS, but Siri is much more prominent and not just used for spoken-word queries. ↩
By Jason Snell
September 16, 2015 9:19 PM PT
In my iOS 9 iPad productivity review I mentioned that I was salivating over the ability to watch MLB At Bat, Hulu, Netflix, Amazon—all the great shows!—in iOS 9’s awesome new Picture in Picture mode, which lets you play one app’s video in a floating window as you use another app.
Unlike the Split View mode, which requires an iPad Air 2, iPad mini 4, or iPad Pro, Picture in Picture is available on any iPad Air or iPad mini model except the original iPad mini—in other words, a whole lot of iPads.
Now, who knows if Netflix will ever support this feature? I’ve learned to never make assumptions given its refusal to allow offline browsing. But maybe Amazon Video will get in on the action next.
By Jason Snell
September 16, 2015 7:14 AM PT
Most iOS updates have been focused primarily on features that work on the iPhone, or equally across the iPhone and iPad. It only makes sense: The iPhone is vastly more popular than the iPad.
But a side-effect of this reasonable business decision is the sense that the iPad has stagnated. After an initial burst of enthusiasm by both iPad buyers and iOS developers, the iPad has just sort of… sat there.
With iPad sales flagging, Apple has finally brought a bunch of iPad-only features to iOS 9, focusing mostly on accessing multiple apps and making better use of keyboards (of both the off-screen and on-screen variety.)