Apple senior vice president of software engineering, Craig Federighi, took the stage at WWDC this morning to show off what’s new in iOS 9. Much like Google is doing with its new version of Android, iOS 9 will focus on core improvements designed to extend battery life, improve performance, beef up security and more.
Siri is getting a major UI overhaul and intelligence boost in iOS 9. For example, users will be able to ask Siri to find specific photos (show me photos from our vacation to Hawaii last year) or have the personal assistant remind users to grab their coffee off the top of their car.
Siri in iOS 9 is also proactive, meaning it can do things like present the audiobook you’ve been listening to when you get in your car or pull up your music collection when you plug your headphones in. iOS 9 can also scan your e-mail to provide a possible Caller ID match when receiving a call from an unknown number.
This is only scratching the surface of the new intelligence features as iOS 9 can pull off other tasks like recommend when you should leave for work based on traffic (similar to Google Now) and remind you to revisit whatever you’re viewing at any given moment (a reminder could include a URL to a news story, for example).
Apple was quick to point out that all of this new intelligence is handled locally on a device instead of sending data up to the cloud for processing, an obvious dig at Google which uses machine learning in the cloud to power Google Now.
Elsewhere, it was revealed that Apple Pay is now supported by more than 2,500 banks. A number of additional companies will support the contactless payment system later this year including JC Penny, Kohl’s, Best Buy and Johnny Rockets.
Other quick-hits to note: Square will be launching a Pay-compatible reader this fall, Pinterest will be launching Buyable Pins later this month powered by Apple Pay, store credit cards and loyalty card support is coming in iOS 9 and perhaps most importantly, Apple Pay will be coming to the UK next month with more than 250,000 merchants participating at launch.
Notes is receiving a major update that’ll transform the basic note-taking application into a powerful tool that doesn’t feel quite as formal as a true word processor like Microsoft Word. The new version in iOS 9 will feature a toolbar with formatting options, access to the camera and camera roll to add photos, drawing tools (you can even draw with your finger, a precursor to an Apple stylus?) and add in-line URLs and other attachments. As you’d expect, Notes are kept up-to-date on iPhone, iPad and Mac via iCloud.
Apple is updating another popular app, Maps, which apparently gets more than five billion requests per week from users. The big news here is that iOS 9 will have transit maps that’ll feature multi-modal routing (a mix of walking and riding the subway, for example) complete with detailed walking directions.
It’ll roll out first in Baltimore, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Washington DC in the US and Berlin, London and Toronto internationally.
Brand new for iOS 9 is News, a news aggregation app that’s replacing Newsstand. Similar to Flipboard, News allows users to select the publications they want to pull content from. Content owners get to select how they want their articles to be displayed and based on what was shown during the demonstration, there’s plenty of rich typography, images, animations and infographics.
There’s a personalized feed called “For You” that’s filled with all of your aggregated stories. Users can simply swipe to transition between articles, bookmark content for later consumption and find recommended content under the “Explore” section. A number of big names like The New York Times, ESPN and Conde Nast are already onboard although any local newspaper, blog or special interest publication can participate.
Apple then moved to the iPad, outlining a handful of new multitasking features that’ll make its larger screen iPad even more attractive to enterprise users.
Multitasking in iOS 9 is broken down into three categories: SlideOver, SplitView and Picture-in-Picture (PiP). SlideOver allows users to pull up content from another app by sliding it over from the side where it docks. The traditional SplitView allows the iPad to have two apps open and active simultaneously at a 50/50 or 70/30 ratio. Here, users can drag-and-drop between apps and move content around on both apps at the same time via multitouch. PiP is exactly what you’d think.
Nothing here is revolutionary but it’s good to finally see real, useful multitasking come to the iPad. It’s worth pointing out, however, that you’ll need an iPad Air 2 to use SplitView. SlideOver and PiP will work on an iPad Air and up as well as on an iPad mini and newer.
In terms of general performance improvements, iOS 9 is said to offer an additional hour of battery life on the iPhone with a new low power mode that'll extend that an additional three hours. Apple said getting iOS 9 will be easier as an OTA download as the install file will be just 1.3GB. CarPlay is also going wireless, eliminating the need to physically tether an iPhone to your vehicle's infotainment system.
The developer preview of iOS 9 is available today. Apple will launch a public beta next month before rolling out the final consumer build this fall. It’ll support the same devices as iOS 8.