The 10 Best Features of iOS 9

BY Killian Bell

Published 9 Jun 2015

iOS 9 on iPhone and iPad

If you didn’t get a chance to watch Apple’s WWDC keynote yesterday, or you simply can’t get enough of its new updates, we’ve rounded up a handy list of the best new features coming to iOS 9 this fall. Some will change the way you multitask, others will help you be more productive, and some have been a long time coming.

iPad multitasking

Multitasking on the iPad is going to get a whole lot better with iOS 9. Apple has made a number of improvements that’ll help you be more productive and get more done on your device — one of the most significant of which is adding the ability to run two apps side-by-side. There are two ways to do this.

Slide Over

Slide Over on iPad

If you’re browsing the web in Safari and you want to take down some Notes without leaving the article you’re reading, or you want to send someone an iMessage while you’re browsing photo albums, you can now swipe in from the right side of your device to active Slide Over.

In Slide Over, you can use another app in a slide-out window on the edge of your screen without leaving the app you’re already in. You can then slide the window out of the way when you want to get back to what you were doing — or you can choose to run both apps simultaneously in Split View.

Split View

Split View on iPad

When you’re using an app in Slide Over, you can continue to enlarge its slide-out window by dragging its left edge into the center of the display. This activates Split View, which allows you to run both apps simultaneously  — rather than one on top of the other temporarily — for when you really need to multitask on your iPad.

There’s a couple of things to note about Split View, however: It only works on the iPad Air 2, and right now, it’s only compatible with first-party Apple apps. Of course, the latter will change when developers make their applications compatible with it, but it’s unlikely Split View will extend to older iPads, or the iPad mini.


Picture in Picture on iPad

Another method of multitasking on iPad is with Picture-in-Picture, which puts videos inside their own little window that floats above other apps. So you can watch a movie or a documentary while you browse the web, chat to friends in Facebook Messenger, browse Twitter, and more.

Picture-in-Picture windows are resizable, and it’s easy to switch between fullscreen and Picture in Picture mode on the fly, without having to pause or restart your video. As you might expect, however, Picture in Picture works only with Apple’s built-in video app, so you cannot use it with apps like YouTube, unfortunately.

Better app switching

Switching between apps in iOS 9

Not only is multitasking much-improved in iOS 9, but switching between apps is a lot better, too.

Apple has overhauled the app switcher with a new card-like view, with apps that stack on top of one another, rather than side-by-side. That means it’s easier to see what you have open at a glance, and it doesn’t take as long to find the app you want to switch to.

Back button


There’s also a handy back button that will take you back to Spotlight search or a previous app when you jump into another one. For instance, if you’re in Safari and you get a Messages notification, you can switch to Messages to reply, then use the back button that appears in the status bar to switch back to Safari.

The back button appears throughout iOS 9, whether you’re using Apple’s own apps, or third-party ones — and it just works, so developers don’t need to change their applications to take advantage of it.


Proactive and Siri in iOS 9

Proactive is Apple’s answer to Google Now. It’s an intelligent new assistant that prevents the most relevant information automatically right when you need it — like before an appointment or a flight. Proactive can take current travel conditions into account, then alert you when it’s time to leave to ensure you’re on time.

Proactive can also do things like launch the Music app automatically when you plug in your headphones, present apps that you frequently use at certain times of the day, and add events to your calendar when you receive an invite by email. It does this by monitoring your usage patterns without compromising your privacy.

Proactive isn’t quite as intelligent as Google Now on Android, which can do a lot more. But it’s a terrific start, and in time it’s only going to get better and more useful.

Spotlight and Siri

Siri in iOS 9

In addition to Proactive, Spotlight and Siri are also much more intelligent in iOS 9. Typed search queries deliver more relevant results from even more categories, such as sports scores and schedules, and even videos and albums. So you can search for music, movies, the latest results from your favorite sports team, and more.

You can also ask Siri to do things like, “show me photos taken in June 2014,” and it will go through your Photos library and present you with all the relevant images. As well as all of this, you can look forward to things like contextual and location-based reminders, the ability to perform math calculations, and lots more.


New Wallet app in iOS 9

Wallet replaces Passbook in iOS 9, and it does so much more. In addition to storing your Apple Pay cards, Wallet keeps your retail credit cards, reward cards, boarding passes, tickets, and more.

Apple Pay now supports retail credit cards and rewards cards, too — including Kohl’s Charge and JCPenny Credit Card, Dunkin’ Donuts DD Perks, Walgreens Balance Rewards, and MyPanera — so it’s not just for debit and credit cards anymore.


The new News app in iOS 9

Like Passbook, Newsstand is another app that’s disappearing with iOS 9. It will be replaced by the new News app, which is a Flipboard-style reader that fetches stories from all of your favorite sources. Simply tell it what you’re into, and it will provide you with a curated news feed based on your interests.

News will also feature content from publishers like The New York Times, ESPN, and Conde Nast, which will include beautiful editorial layouts, photo galleries, animations, and even embedded videos. There are millions of topics to choose from, and everything you read in News will be completely free.

Newspapers and magazines will continue to be available on iOS, but they will now come in dedicated apps. News will initially be available only in the U.S., U.K., and Australia.

Low Power Mode

Low Power Mode in iOS 9

iOS 9 is already more power efficient than its predecessors, with Apple promising an additional one hour of juice on the iPhone 6. But if you still find yourself with little battery life remaining, you can use the new Low Power Mode to squeeze every last bit out of your battery.

Like the energy saving modes found on Android devices, Low Power Mode disables things like push in Mail, background app refresh, motion effects, and animated wallpapers. It also reduces performances and screen brightness, so even a small amount of battery life lasts a whole lot longer.

New Notes app

The new Notes app for iOS 9 and OS X El Capitan

Those who rely on the built-in Notes app to stay on track will be pleased to see it’s getting a whole lot better in iOS 9 and OS X El Capitan. It’s no longer just a simple text app; it also supports checklists for tasks and to-dos, and allows you to insert images, maps, and URLs.

You can even draw and sketch notes with your finger, and thanks to iCloud, all of the notes you create will be synced and updated across all of your Mac and iOS devices.

Transit directions

Transit directions in iOS 9

Apple’s Maps service finally supports transit directions in iOS 9, so you can navigate cities using public transport, including buses, subways, and even ferries. The transit view gives you step-by-step directions for your route, and tells you how long it will be until you reach your destination.

Transit directions will support “many of the world’s most traveled cities,” Apple says, including Baltimore, Berlin, Chicago, London, Mexico City, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Toronto, Washington, DC — and 300 cities across China.

New iPad keyboard

The iPad keyboard in iOS 9

Another big improvement to the iPad in iOS 9 is its improved virtual QuickType keyboard, which now boasts a built-in Shortcut Bar, with dedicated buttons for formatting options like bold, italics, and underline — as well as functions cut, copy, and paste.

Apple is allowing developers to customize the Shortcut Bar in their own apps, so you’ll find it filled with useful function buttons related to the app you’re using.

Using a physical keyboard with your iPad is even better, too, because iOS 9 supports a whole host of new shortcuts — including the ability to switch between apps using just the keyboard.

Check out our hands-on video of these features:

iOS 9 is coming this fall

iOS 9 will be available this fall as a free update for all, and it will be compatible with all of the devices that currently run iOS 8. The first iOS 9 beta is already available to developers — though it can be installed without a developer account — and it includes lots of hidden features Apple didn’t mention at WWDC.