iOS 9 Review: here's all you should be excited about


Those of you who've been around iPhones for a while may still hold fond memories of iPhone OS – the granddaddy of Apple's iOS operating system. Sure, at first it didn't have multitasking, it didn't have Copy and Paste functionality, and you couldn't even set a home screen wallpaper, but it was loved for its unparalleled ease of use. Needless to say, Apple's mobile OS has evolved drastically since then, but it is still based on the core principle of keeping things simple and intuitive. And this is surely one of the reasons why iPhones' user satisfaction ratings are off the charts.

Fast-forward to present day, and we're only minutes away from the release of iOS 9 – the latest and greatest version of iOS, announced all the way back in June of this year. But since patience is something we don't have a lot of, we already have a Gold Master build of iOS 9 up and running on our iPhone 6. In fact, we've been fiddling with it for several days now, and we have a thing or two to say about the new OS. 

It's all so familiar


After installing iOS 9 on our iPhone 6, we were greeted by the familiar lock and home screens. Nothing seemed to have changed – the camera shortcut, the clock, the Control Center and Notification Center were still in their usual spots. But upon closer inspection, and a side-by-side comparison against an iOS 8.4 device, we noticed a subtle change in the font being used. iOS 9 uses San Francisco as its default UI font, which is a departure from Helvetica Neue. 

Is this a big deal? No, we wouldn't say so. As we implied already, the difference between the two typefaces is barely noticeable. Opinions as to which one of the two looks better are mixed among us here at the office – some do find San Francisco a tad clearer, some favor the look of the good ol' Helvetica. Other's can't see a difference in legibility at all. But in any case, text in iOS 9 is still easy to read even at small sizes, and those who need to, still have the freedom to boost its size from the iOS settings menu. 


While iOS 9 does not add much in terms of customization options, it does bring along a cache of new still wallpapers, designed specifically for the screens of iOS devices. Furthermore, the range of dynamic wallpapers has been expanded, and you may take a peek at the additions right here. And if that's not enough, users are given the freedom to turn a Live Photo into a dynamic wallpaper. Alas, we don't see the new dynamic wallpapers on our iPhone 6, which leads us to believe that they're a feature reserved for iPhone 6s and 6s Plus users only. We didn't get any support for Live Photos either. Anyway, here's a quick look at iOS 9. Looks a lot like iOS 8, doesn't it? 

Spotlight Search and suggestions have gained a level


Soon after you switch to iOS 9, you'll notice that Spotlight Search has been treated to an upgrade. As usual, a swipe-down gesture brings forth the search bar, and now, app suggestions appear underneath it as well. These are apps you have installed and use frequently, which makes the app suggestion feature quite handy. Suggestions are also picked based on your location and the time of the day, among other factors. For example, if you have a favorite game to play in the evening, it will be listed there at the right time. If you plug in your headphones, the Music app will be among the top suggestions. 

Speaking of Search, it now has the capability of digging through your third-party apps. For instance, if you're looking for a great cooking recipe for pizza, relevant results will be displayed from within cooking apps you have installed on your device. Better yet, the search result shown is deep-linked to the recipe; tapping it won't simply launch the respective app, it will take you straight to the recipe's page. And if you wish to go back to your search results, there's a back button in the upper left corner. The thing about searching through third-party apps, however, is that it won't be available in any app. A developer will have to allow their app's content to be indexed first before it would start appearing in search results.

What's also new is the Search window positioned to the left of your left-most home screen. On one hand, it feels redundant having it alongside Spotlight search as they both do mostly the same thing. On the other hand, the new Search window also has the ability to display recommendations for things like nearby restaurants and coffee shops. It will also pull news headlines from the web on topics that interest you. All in all, it is neat having these new recommendations built into iOS, although we do have to mention that they're only available in 15 major markets. 


Siri is now smarter, aware of content and location


Siri has been a useful iOS feature ever since her introduction, and with iOS 9, the list of actions you can perform with her help has grown even further. She's now aware of the content you're viewing, which comes in handy when setting reminders. For example, if you're viewing a web page, a message or an email, a command like "remind me of this in the evening" will set a reminder based on the viewed content. She's location-aware, too. If you ask of her to remind you to wash the dishes when you get home, that's what she'll do. Time and location awareness can be also useful when searching for content. In particular, you may say "show me the photos I took in Italy last year". Of course, search results from both your local and iCloud libraries are displayed. 

Speaking of Siri, the "Hey, Siri" command can now launch the virtual assistant even when your iPhone is in stand-by. But there's a catch – only the iPhone 6s, the iPhone 6s Plus, and the iPad Pro can constantly listen for the voice trigger. On older models, "Hey, Siri" works in stand-by only if the device is plugged into a charger.

But, as Apple puts it, the best assistant is a proactive assistant. It should be able to anticipate your needs and act accordingly. And so, with iOS 9, you'll get to enjoy this kind of assistance from Siri and the operating system. If you launch the same app every morning – the one with your exercise routine or the one you stream music from, for instance – a shortcut for that app will pop up in your lock screen's corner. Another example of iOS' proactive abilities is that OpenTable invitations you get via email can automatically be added to your Calendar. And if you're getting a call from a number that isn't in your contacts, iOS will check your email in search of that number and a name that might be associated with it.

News – a place to catch up on the latest headlines


News is an Apple app that makes its debut with iOS 9. It is exactly what its name implies – a place to catch up on the latest headlines and to read articles on stuff that matters to you most. Setting up News is a quick and straightforward process. In a nutshell, you're only asked to pick publications and topics that you wish to follow. You may edit your preferences at a later time if you choose to. What you may not do, on the other hand, is add publications that Apple has not partnered up with. 

All in all, News is shaping up as a neat app. Once in your personalized feed, you're presented with headlines in a chronological order, along with a summary and an illustrative image for most of them. When you open an article, it is laid out an easy-to-read manner, with images to go along with most stories. You can bookmark articles, add them to your notes or reading list, or share them with your buddies. 

However, News isn't quite perfect yet. We ran across formatting issues on a couple of occasions, and with one particular media, there were huge blank areas where videos were supposed to be present. Although these imperfections could have been caused by the way the publishers' content was formatted, we can't be sure. In any case, these seem to be glitches resolvable by a simple patch. 

At this time, News is only available in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia, and English is the only supported language. Oh, and the app contains iAds, albeit on rare occasions.

Notes, now with doodles


A long-time iOS user would be well familiar with the stock Notes app in iOS 9. But it has been treated to a nice upgrade, so we thought we'd dedicate a section to it as well. What we really like about it is that we can now easily add checklists and finger-drawn sketches to any given note. The added formatting button is also welcome. And no less importantly, we can now turn content from other apps into a note. This works for web pages, messages, photos, locations on Apple Maps, and pretty much anything that you can interact with via the iOS share sheet.


Apple Maps adds transit routes in major cities


There's a lot to like about iOS, but there are also areas where the platform is still catching up to its competitors. Adding public transit routes to Apple Maps is an example of the latter. It is a welcome addition, of course, and a well executed one. Buses, trains, subways, and ferries are all supported. Routes are color-coded and clearly labeled. Directions are laid out step by step, with time estimates for the portions of the route. Station entrances and exits are shown on the map once you zoom in close enough. But there's a lot of ground that Apple Maps has yet to cover, as transit is only available in select major cities at this point. 

Transit aside, Apple Maps has had its searching capabilities expanded. You can now easily find places by type around you as they can be grouped right from within your search results. Once you find a place you're interested in, it will show whether or not Apple Pay is available at the venue. 

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61 Comments

1. TyrionLannister unregistered

Here's what you should be NOT excited about: The servers are overloaded and you have to try tens of times to get it downloading( I got it to download in 14th try).

3. RaidenPR

Posts: 8; Member since: Jul 16, 2015

Your life is ruined ? :(

21. SamsungPhanboy

Posts: 765; Member since: Mar 31, 2015

You might want to learn how to read.

4. PorkyBurger

Posts: 585; Member since: May 18, 2013

I know right? Download process doesn't crash as much on iTunes, though, but it is just ridicously slow. I might just have to leave it download overnight (now eta is about 7hrs, but oh well)

9. InfiniteHeroX

Posts: 7; Member since: Mar 03, 2015

You must have some slow internet or a toaster of a computer. Update downloaded on the first try in 12 minutes via iTunes.

11. PorkyBurger

Posts: 585; Member since: May 18, 2013

i have neither. servers are toast, more likely that.

23. jeff327

Posts: 87; Member since: Feb 28, 2012

How can that possibly be after you declared Apple is not a hardware compan? I mean if that was true shouldn't the software side go down without any issues?

47. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

Why do you need to download it on the first day. You have forever to download it. I thought you guys were smart. 700M Apple devices and as soon as a new IOS version is available, you want to download on the very first day. This happens year after year and you still complain about it like you are a zombie who has to have it on the very first day. You guys are such dumb creatures of habit. Apple has really ruin you all. I never ever try to download any update the very first day on iOS...EVER! To actually see that you sat there and tried 14 times in a row to download something that offers no major changes that you could download a few days later with no issue is crazy. I waited 3 days and I downloaded with no issue on the very first try.

52. iCameToBashYou

Posts: 16; Member since: Feb 26, 2015

Holy shiznit, there are lowercase letters now! WTF? Mind>blown

60. eN16HTMAR3

Posts: 253; Member since: Oct 08, 2013

You sir are a master comment writer. Lmfao.

2. KickRocks

Posts: 283; Member since: Mar 22, 2011

My God, iOS is so F'n BORING!!!!!!!

8. Wiencon

Posts: 2278; Member since: Aug 06, 2014

Yes, because Android is soooo exciting, and Windows is sooooo exciting and Linux is sooooo exciting, how the hell can OS be exciting, it's not book or some movie, I don't get you people, I know that you like customising your home screen and you find new icon packs exciting but most of people I know, and myself, while using Android just put icons on home screen in convenient places, some widgets and voila - it stays the same for a loooong time. I don't know why you find home screen customisations so obligatory, 99% of the time you spend in apps anyway

17. KickRocks

Posts: 283; Member since: Mar 22, 2011

Actually, Android is exciting!

22. SamsungPhanboy

Posts: 765; Member since: Mar 31, 2015

iOS and Android are both exciting! Now stop trying to start flame wars you moron.

39. KickRocks

Posts: 283; Member since: Mar 22, 2011

Actually your the moron for thinking iOS is exciting! FOH

26. AlikMalix unregistered

Dude your comment is spot on. +1

38. Finalflash

Posts: 4063; Member since: Jul 23, 2013

It isn't even just the home screen, it literally has things that make new Apple features look archaic. For example, I have Euphoria rom on my Nexus 5. One simple little feature that kicks ass is when you hold down the recent apps button for 0.5 seconds, it switches to the previous app you were in. iOS just now got such a feature with their force touch on the side of the screen gesture. Then you have the full theming engine which allows you to change pretty much everything, not just the home screen. You can have all kinda of gestures be all kinds of shortcuts. You can attach a mouse and keyboard to it to make it behave like a PC. You still cannot attach a mouse to the iPad and likely never will if they want to sell you their pencil. There is just no end to it and it really lets you have it your own way, because in the end, we usually know whats best for us and not some corporation.

50. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

All operating systems themselves are boring. The purpose of an OS, is to provide you a user interface for you to use the underlying hardware that is avail on it. The only thing an OS dies is make hardware work together seemlessly and for you to install applications based on your usage. What makes Android exciting is, the phones do so much more it has enough to keep you fairly busy so you dont get bored in a day. Even though I dont take a lot of pictures, I get excited to take them because I know they will be clean an crisp and I have control over what tpe of picture I want to take. Like I am not forced to take all shots at full resolution. I get excited to watch movies on my 1440p brilliant colored display which is rated as being the second best on the market behind the Note 5. Where is your phone on that list? I am happy when I plug in my phone and I can copy whatever file type I want to my device and take it with me without having to do convoluted methods. I get excited knowing my $800 was well spent, knowing my device has the recent most top of the line hardware, that my device has NO PROBLEMS, my apps dont crash, I can choose the apps I want for what I want to do vs being forced to use an app I dont. I get excited knowing a single charge will last me 1.5 days, I liek I know I can fully charge my device in a very short period of time even though my battery is 70% bigger than yours. I get excited knowing that I bought my device not to be a status symbol or to be like everyone else, but to be ME.

12. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

Very nice of you to post a useless comment. Carry on now.

18. KickRocks

Posts: 283; Member since: Mar 22, 2011

Not useless if it's true, that is all.

24. SamsungPhanboy

Posts: 765; Member since: Mar 31, 2015

It isn't true, so it is useless, that is all.

44. natypes

Posts: 1110; Member since: Feb 02, 2015

Did you not see they have NEW wallpapers and a new font!!!! lol they thought they were getting live wallpapers trollolol

5. Iodine

Posts: 1497; Member since: Jun 19, 2014

Longer battery life ! Oh yeah.

51. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

What? 5 mins more? Please explain? How is it the Galaxy S3 which is now a 3 year old device, has a bigger battery than today's iPhone 6S? How is it my devices has 4 time the hardware, double the resolution, more features and capabilities and yet still outlasts yours? You're excited about more batterylife? How much extra you think you're gonna get. Force Touch is going to burn the battery with all that needless stupid constant vibrations. I dont even get excited about Android updates, I dont get excited about Windows updates, but once upon a time I did. Hardware updates are actually far more exciting vs software ones. After all, when you update an OS on the same exact hardware, you dont get to fully use it features because your device may not be supported. Example, even though I have an iPad, its specs are so lame it doesnt even have split screen. Yet the specs are higher than the specs on my old Galaxy S3 which I still have an it support split screen and the screen is 2 inches smaller. How is that exciting?!

6. _KIRA_

Posts: 108; Member since: Dec 25, 2013

wooooow.....

7. kajam

Posts: 221; Member since: Jun 24, 2015

you may better wait a few weeks to download the iOS 9.2 because this one will be full of bugs or may 6-9 months till 9.9

13. Iodine

Posts: 1497; Member since: Jun 19, 2014

What OS relase doesn't have its bugs ? iOS 9 makes huge focus on fluidity, performance, battery life and bug extermination. Already downloaded. 0bugs. Even the beta was smoother than iOS 8.

19. kajam

Posts: 221; Member since: Jun 24, 2015

all OS come with bugs but i think iOS and Windows are the most OS to come with bugs and carry on from release to the next. my note 4 has 5.0 that come with couple bugs that make me switch to note 5. I really hate samsung and tmobile because they are the reason that i cant have 5.1 and that is the only good about iOS that you guys don't have to wait for the carrier to download

14. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

Let's completely ignore the bugs Lollipop or WP8.1 had. Okay.

10. rsiders

Posts: 1990; Member since: Nov 17, 2011

Battery life: see battery rundown tests for iphone.

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

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