Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 9.0 | iLounge Article


Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 9.0

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Three years after Apple first parted ways with Google Maps, iOS 9 gets closer to bringing back a much missed feature, with some nice improvements, in the form of Transit directions. Although transit routing is only available in 10 cities right now (although surrounding areas appear to be encompassed as well in at least some cases), Apple has done a pretty impressive job of covering those areas. We took a first look at the new Transit feature over the summer, and the final version remains basically the same as what we saw in the betas.

A new “Transit” view replaces the old hybrid view and shows transit lines and stations presented more clearly on the map, with roads grayed out and blending into the background, and a level of detail that includes outlines of above-ground and even underground stations, as well as individual entrances for stations with more than one. The identification of each entrance provides a nice bonus for transit routing, since walking directions that take you to the station can get you to the nearest entrance along your route.

We’ve used the iOS 9 Transit feature in Toronto for three months now, and we find the feature to be both accurate and well-designed. Walking and transit directions update as you move through the transit system as well, showing you the appropriate card for what your next destination is, and also helpfully lists the stop immediately before your final destination on each leg, providing a useful heads-up so you can be prepared to disembark. Interestingly, we even found that transit cards often (but not always) updated while underground in the Toronto subway system, perhaps taking advantage of underground Wi-Fi access points or the new cellular transceivers for location services. While iOS 9’s Transit still can’t provide the GPS-based tracking and time estimates that apps like Transit App do, it’s a nice enhancement to the build-in Maps app and may give many users one less reason to turn to third-party mapping apps.

A new “Nearby” feature appeared to be more widely available in the iOS 9 betas, but is now limited to U.S. and China only, perhaps due to Apple wanting to be certain that sufficient data is available for it to work reliably. In those countries, searching in the Maps app or from the system-wide Search screen will show categories to help you explore your surroundings for venues such as restaurants, groceries, fast food outlets, cafes, gas stations, and so forth. Tapping on a category lets you drill down further into subcategories, presenting a map view and summary list of locations matching that category. The Nearby feature is based on where you’re looking, not necessarily where you’re located or what your region setting is, so if you’re searching in the U.S. from anywhere, you’ll be able to take advantage of it, although category icons will only appear in the system-wide search screen based on your actual location.

iCloud Drive

When Apple originally debuted iCloud Drive last year in iOS 8, it was implemented merely as a hidden file selection dialog box that third-party apps could take advantage of; unlike the OS X implementation, no means was provided to directly browse through your iCloud Drive, making it a completely impractical replacement for something like Dropbox or Google Drive.

iOS 9 introduces a standalone iCloud Drive app. Although it’s hidden by default, a new “Show on Home Screen” option under Settings, iCloud, iCloud Drive will enable it, allowing you to delve directly into your iCloud Drive to access, organize, and share your files directly from iCloud Drive.


The built-in Mail app in iOS 9 has also received a few nice enhancements, including improved attachment support and the PDF and graphic markup features from OS X.

When sending a PDF file or attaching an image, you can now mark it up with lines, shapes, arrows, and even drop in your signature; and as an added bonus, all of the signatures you’ve added in the OS X Preview app will be automatically available in your iOS 9 Mail app courtesy of iCloud. You can even markup received PDF or image files and then re-send them back out in a new email message or a reply.

In addition, Mail app now provides full attachment support, both for iCloud Drive and other registered storage providers whose apps you’ve installed, such as Dropbox, Google Drive, or Transmit. You can add an attachment simply by tapping and holding anywhere in the email message and selecting “Add Attachment.” You can similarly save any attachment from an email message by tapping and holding to bring up the iOS Share Sheet and choosing the “Save Attachment” option.

Searching in Mail has also been improved, again bringing it more in line with what OS X Mail users have come to expect. You can search for smart keywords like “Attachments” or “Flagged” to find all messages meeting those criteria, and when entering search keywords, suggestions for smart keywords, people, and subject lines are shown as you type. Search performance also appears to have been dramatically improved.

Mail also features several other useful UI improvements. Tapping “Edit” will now provide Mark All, Move All, and Trash All options at the bottom of the screen, allowing you to quickly deal with every message in a folder without having to tap each one individually. Swipe left and right options now get icons in addition to the text that was previously shown, and “Move Message” can now be assigned to a swipe, making it easier to quickly file messages.


The Messages app in iOS 9 gets some minor refinements for attaching photo and video messages. Tapping and holding on the camera button now presents a clearer vertical set of buttons for taking a picture or recording a video, and the results are now dropped into the compose box, rather than going out immediately. While this means you’ll now need to take the extra step of hitting the “Send” button to actually send out your quick snapshots — the logic is that this is probably preferable to sending an unwanted picture.


Passbook gets renamed to Wallet in iOS 9, suggesting the broader inclusion of items such as loyalty cards which Apple announced earlier this year would be coming to Apple Pay. Other than the new name and icon, the app remains largely the same, although a new system-wide option allows you to bring the Wallet up from the lock screen by double-tapping the Home button for quick access. If you’re concerned about security of your cards, this feature can be switched off in the iOS Settings app, where it can found in either Wallet & Apple Pay or Touch ID & Passcode sections.

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