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Six Colors coverage of iOS 9

By Jason Snell

Early days yet

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.

  1. Bloop! goes the Taptic Engine. No Quick Actions on this app icon. ↩

By Jason Snell

iOS 9 in review: Low Power Mode and lowering battery anxiety

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.

Continue Reading "iOS 9 in review: Low Power Mode and lowering battery anxiety"

Linked by Jason Snell

Marco Arment ends the war on Peace

On Friday Marco Arment decided to pull his top-selling ad-blocking app, Peace, from the App Store because it made him deeply uncomfortable:

Peace required that all ads be treated the same — all-or-nothing enforcement for decisions that aren’t black and white. This approach is too blunt, and Ghostery and I have both decided that it doesn’t serve our goals or beliefs well enough. If we’re going to effect positive change overall, a more nuanced, complex approach is required than what I can bring in a simple iOS app…

Even though I’m “winning”, I’ve enjoyed none of it. That’s why I’m withdrawing from the market. It’s simply not worth it. I’m incredibly fortunate to be able to turn away an opportunity like this, and I don’t begrudge anyone else who wants to try it. I’m just not built for this business.

People who bought it can request a refund if they like, but Marco says that the app will keep working “for a long time,” just with no updates.

Jason Snell for SuperSite

5 new iOS 9 features to get excited about ↦

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.

Continue reading on SuperSite ↦

By Dan Moren

iOS 9 in review: Getting from point A to point B

The new Nearby feature lets you find nearby (surprise!) places of a certain type.

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.”)

  1. At launch, the Nearby feature is only available in the U.S. and China. Presumably that will expand.  ↩

Continue Reading "iOS 9 in review: Getting from point A to point B"

[Dan Moren is a freelance writer, podcaster, and former Macworld editor. You can email him at or find him on Twitter at @dmoren.]

By Dan Moren

iOS 9 in review: Search and ye shall find

Swipe to the right for Siri suggestions aplenty.

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.)

  1. 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. ↩

Continue Reading "iOS 9 in review: Search and ye shall find"

[Dan Moren is a freelance writer, podcaster, and former Macworld editor. You can email him at or find him on Twitter at @dmoren.]

By Jason Snell

Picture in Picture: Hulu, MLB join the party

Watching the Padres, reading Baseball Prospectus.

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.

On day one of iOS 9, there are already two app updates that are making my dream of little floating video windows everywhere into reality: MLB At Bat (pictured above) and Hulu (pictured below).

“Doctor Who” plays from Hulu as I use Safari.

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.

Linked by Jason Snell

Marco Arment releases Peace, an iOS 9 content blocker

Joining the parade of iOS 9 content blockers today is Peace, a $2.99 app from Marco Arment. Never to be outdone, Federico Viticci’s already got his review up at MacStories.

In an interesting development, Peace uses the same database as the Ghostery desktop ad-blocker. The app makes use of iOS sharing extensions to give you the ability to open a URL in other apps.

I’ve been using both Peace and Crystal, a content blocker from Murphy Apps, and found that both of them do the job of blocking ads and trackers. The ad blocking is much more noticeable on the iPad, but on the iPhone pages load faster and the interstitial ads that can make browsing on the phone so frustrating are nowhere to be found.

My feelings about the ethics of blocking ads on sites that rely on ad revenue are complicated. If you run one of these blockers, the Deck ad on this very site—which is neither obnoxious nor a tracker—will also vanish, and that will hurt my bottom line1. And I know a lot of talented people who work for media companies that are largely funded by advertising. Some of them pay me to write freelance articles for them.

Yet all the privacy-invading trackers and annoying ads that prevent us from getting to the content we want to read make it hard to argue that publishers haven’t been abusing their relationship with readers. There’s no denying that using a product like Peace or Crystal will make your web experience better; there’s also no denying that it’s got the potential to cause some serious damage to web publishers’ businesses.

  1. Please consider adding Six Colors to your content blocker’s “Unrestricted” list. ↩

Safari (left) and Twitterrific running side by side on iOS 9.

By Jason Snell

iOS 9 in review: iPad productivity

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.)

Continue Reading "iOS 9 in review: iPad productivity"