iOS 9 Feature Preview: Proactive brings intelligent search and smart Siri to iOS

BY Kelly Hodgkins

Published 31 Aug 2015

iOS 9 logo
Apple’s iOS 9 is very similar in appearance to iOS 8, but don’t let the lack of cosmetic changes fool you. There are many improvements under the hood that’ll improve the performance of the mobile operating system. One of the biggest changes involves Siri and Search, both of which get a heavy dose of intelligence added to their core functionality. These new “smart” features fall under the umbrella of Proactive, a term Apple uses to describe its revamped Search and Siri options. The term “Proactive” is an apt description as the technology is designed to provide search results and helpful suggestions before you even ask.

What is Proactive?

More than just a single feature or option that you turn on in the settings, Proactive is an underlying intelligence system that powers the OS. It’s very similar to Android’s Google Now personal assistant, which is designed to predict what you need even before you know that you need it. Though Proactive shares some of the functionality of Google Now, it is way more than just Siri on steroids. The intelligence is infused into the operating system, providing smart search results and adding some predictive features to other core iOS apps such as Safari, Mail, Maps, and Notes.

Proactive’s intelligence resides on your phone, storing its insights into your behavior on your phone and not in the cloud. This local control makes Proactive more secure than its competitors who save the bread crumbs of your daily life on the internet where they are stored, indexed and possibly mined.
Siri in iOS 9

What can I do with Proactive and Siri?

The best way to understand Proactive is to use it and see how your interactions with your device change. When you are viewing a location in Apple Maps, you can now use Siri to remind you of this place when you go to your car. If you are writing an email in Mail, you can stop half way and ask Siri to remind you about it later. Siri also now can tap into the Photos app, allowing you to ask for pictures from your trip to Cancun in July and Siri will use the relevant information to pull up the correct images. In routine tasks such as adding contacts to a calendar invitation, iOS 9 will make suggestions based using a list of the people you most frequently add for that particular type of event. Proactive also improves with age, refining its recommendations based on what you do each day and how you use your phone.

Proactive and Siri in iOS 9

Proactive also changes Search

Beyond Siri, Proactive’s intelligence also touches the system-wide Search feature in iOS. Accessible as an option to the left of the first home screen, Proactive Search using contextual information to refine the information being displayed. When you open search, you will be greeted with the familiar search bar that is now joined by recommended contacts, frequently used apps, interesting places nearby, breaking news and more. This prepopulated information is dynamic, changing according to the time of day and what you are doing. For example, if you typically play games at night, you will see Need for Speed as a recommended app when you pull out your phone at the end of the day. The search mechanism itself also is improved with search results being gathered from even more information sources than ever before.


Siri and Search certainly get an overhaul in iOS 9, with new commands and access to new background intelligence features. What do you think of Proactive? Is a useful addition to iOS or does it adds an unnecessary complexity to the operating system? Have you used Proactive as part of Apple’s iOS beta testing program? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Other iOS 9 Feature Previews: