9 Reasons You'll Like iOS 9 More Than You Think

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9 Reasons You're Going to Love iOS 9

iOS 9 on iPhone and iPad
image copyright Apple Inc.

In past years, the arrival of a new version of the iOS has been about major new changes and the debut of crucial new features. When looked at that way, iOS 9 may seem like a disappointment. It doesn't seem to offer many major, sexy breakthroughs. But that doesn't mean it won't be a valuable update.

In fact, when it's released on Sept. 16, I bet that a lot of iPhone users are going to like iOS 9 a lot more than they expect. While its features aren't as flashy as some previous versions of the iOS, the under-the-hood changes and subtle improvements may end up making a major difference in the lives of everyday iPhone users.

Read on to discover the 9 key features that should make iOS 9 a winner.

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Better Security & Privacy

One of the biggest advantages of the iPhone over other smartphones is security. The iOS is built in such a way that it's very hard for it to be attacked by viruses and hackers (unlike, say, Android, which has over 95% of all the viruses on smartphones).

With iOS 9, that's going to get even harder. That's because Apple has added features to iOS 9 that will prevent key, low-level and sensitive files in the iOS from being modified by practically anyone, raising the level of security of these files (and possibly making life a lot harder for jailbreakers), among other security improvements.

Even more than that, Apple drew some sharp comparisons between it and its rivals, especially Google, in terms of how it uses customer data. Apple repeatedly pointed out that it won't be harvesting personal data from Siri searches, what's read in the new News app, and other services. While it still collects aggregate information, it says it won't associate data with your Apple ID to build user profiles and sell that information.

That's more than a lot of tech companies can say.

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Better Older-Device Support

One of the things that make users of older iOS devices cringe every time a new OS comes out is finding out whether they'll be able to run it (or, even if they can run it, whether it makes sense to do so). Generally, Apple abandons support for devices a couple of generations old to make room for cutting-edge technologies.

But since iOS 9 is less focused on the cutting edge and more on improving the overall experience, there's good news for users of older devices.

IOS 9 will run on devices as old as the iPhone 4S and the iPad 2. In the case of the 4S, that's three generations and 4 years old, while the iPad 2 was released in 2011, putting it four generations behind.

Apple has solved another problem in iOS 9: updating the operating system on old devices. Installing updates to the OS used to require over 4 GB of free storage space, something that's not always available on devices with only 16GB (or, gulp, 8GB) of total storage. In iOS 9, you'll only need 1.8 GB of available space to update. That should be much more doable for users of older devices.

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Transit Directions in Maps

iOS 9 Maps app
image copyright Apple Inc.

While Apple's Maps app has gotten pretty close to Google Maps in terms of driving directions, when it comes to other ways to get around—especially using mass transit—Google Maps is still the app to beat. That may change with iOS 9.

In this version of the OS, Apple Maps finally gets support for mass transit directions and schedules, including subways and buses. 

Support won't be hugely widespread at launch—expect to only get directions in major cities like New York, London, Toronto, Berlin, Chicago, and Shanghai at first—but with time, more and more cities will be added, making Apple Maps even more useful.

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Proactive Assistant

Proactive Assistant iOS 9
image copyright Apple Inc.

One major advantage Android has had over iOS in recent years is Google Now, a voice-activated intelligent system for searches and performing tasks. Apple had Siri, but Siri isn't nearly as sophisticated and powerful as Google Now.

Proactive Assistant, one of iOS 9's major new features, aims to change that. The assistant learns how you use your iPhone and tries to predict your behavior and save you time. For instance, the Proactive Assistant will start playing music when you plug headphones into your phone. It can also survey traffic conditions and dynamically adjust alerts to let you know when you need to allow more time to get where you're going.

It delivers suggested apps, contacts, and businesses based on your location and Spotlight searches. We'll see if Proactive Assistant can give Google Now a run for its money, but it sounds like a major improvement over previous versions of Spotlight and Siri.

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3D Touch

iPhone 6S
image credit Apple Inc.

Until iOS 9, the ways you interacted with your iPhone's screen included taps, pinches, and zooms. Now you'll be able to add 3D Touch.

This feature, which debuted on the Apple Watch under the name Force Touch, allows the iPhone to recognize the difference between a tap and a long, forceful press on the screen and respond differently. This opens up a whole new dimension of ways to interact with apps and control games.

3D Touch requires special hardware to work, so it won't be available right away and won't work on older iPhones, but the iPhone 6S series is the first device other than the Apple Watch with screens that support it.

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Low-Power Mode

Battery life

Every iPhone user needs to squeeze as much life out of their phone's battery as possible. For years, I've tried to help them do that with my tips on how to extend iPhone battery life, but Apple is doing something much better in iOS 9 with its new low-power mode.

When you turn this mode on, your iPhone's battery will extend its life by up to 3 hours. It stands to reason that this will happen due to the iPhone disabling some features and services, but if you're in a jam, that's a tradeoff worth making.

Apple hasn't shared too many more details of Low Power Mode yet, but if you still struggle with your battery, it's enough to know it's coming.

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New and Improved Built-In Apps

iOS 9 Notes App
image copyright Apple Inc.

Beyond all the new features and fixes, iOS 9 is bringing big improvements to some apps and introducing us to completely new ones, too. While these changes may seem small, sometimes it's the small tweaks that end up meaning the most. Here's a quick overview of the new or improved apps you'll find in iOS 9:

  • News—Imagine the social media and news-reading app Flipboard as a built-in iOS app and you'll have a decent idea of what News does. It doesn't seem to support social media as much, but it makes it easy to follow publications and topics, to discover new content, and to view it all in an attractive, easy-to-read layout.
  • Move to iOS—Switching from one smartphone platform to another isn't easy. It's usually a matter of backing up all kinds of data, crossing your fingers, and hoping you don't lose anything crucial. Apple is making that process easier and more reliable with Move to iOS, an app design to help Android users become iPhone users. The app runs on both iOS and Android and helps users wirelessly transfer contacts, photos, videos, DRM-free music, and many other kinds of content to make the move simpler.
  • iCloud Drive—Apparently hidden by default, but there if you know where to look, iOS 9 delivers an app for managing your files in iCloud Drive. 
  • NotesThe slightly boring Notes app gets a lot more useful in iOS 9. In it, you can draw directly into notes, insert photos, create checklists, and more.
  • CarPlayApple's product for in-car computing, CarPlay, hasn't made much of a splash since its debut in 2013. Lots of car companies pledged support for it, but not many cars are rolling out of dealerships with it on board. That may change with iOS 9. With it, CarPlay can integrate with apps created by car companies, meaning that you won't have to switch back and forth between the car's main information system and CarPlay. Add in wireless support and Apple might start getting some traction here.

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Smaller Apps

Running out of storage space on your iPhone or iPod touch? Then iOS 9 is going to make you really happy because apps running on it is going to take up less space and free it up for you to use.

Apple understands that storage is at a premium and data limits are tight for a lot of users, so it's giving developers three tools to slim their apps down. The tools are:

  • App Slicing—Previously, apps had to have graphics, support for different processors, and other files that worked for every device they ran on. So, if the app worked on an iPhone 5 with a 4-inch screen, the iPhone 6 with its 4.7-inch screen, and the 6 Plus with the 5.5-inch screen, all of which also have different resolutions and different processors, every app needed to include 3 sets of graphics and related files. That took up a lot of space. With this change, developers will still include all files when they publish their apps to the App Store, but when you download an app, your iPhone will tell the App Store what it is and you'll only download the files your device needs. That should cut app file sizes substantially. 
  • On-Demand Resources—For some apps, you won't need to download all elements of the app to start using it (think about a game in which you only download the first few levels); as you progress, the parts you need will download on the fly.
  • Bitcode—Not something that the everyday user will care about (or maybe even understand the details of; it's really just for developers), but Apple will automatically reduce the size of apps when users download them by applying App Slicing even if the developer didn't implement it in their app.

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Public Beta

update iphone apps
image credit Kamruzzaman Ratan/Digital Vision Vectors/Getty Images

Ever wanted to get your hands on the latest version of the iOS before all your friends? You can do that, but you'll have to spend US$100 a year to become a registered Apple developer. Even after you do that, you still have to go through an installation process that isn't simple for the average person.

Well, come July you can forget about all that. That's because Apple will be starting its first-ever public beta program for the iOS. Under the program, anyone with a compatible iPhone can register for the program, download a beta version of iOS 9, and install it.

Installing beta software can require a tolerance for risk—there will be bugs, some of them could be serious—but it will let you stay a few months ahead of the rest of the iOS world.