At its annual Worldwide Developer Conference in San Francisco today, Apple took the wraps off iOS 9, the next version of its mobile operating system for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. As expected, iOS 9 was introduced primarily as building on the “foundations” of the operating system to improve battery life and stability, however several other new features were demonstrated, most notably improvements to Siri and a new Proactive Assistant feature. The Proactive Assistant will be able to provide more contextually relevant apps and information based on the user’s location and usual routines, such as bringing up an appropriate playlist when the headphones are plugged in during workout times, setting reminders for getting into the car, creating reminders based on the user’s current context such as a web page or iMessage, and automatically adding appointments from emails and looking up phone numbers from incoming calls based on information contained in emails. Search suggestions in Siri and Spotlight also become more contextually relevant based on trends, who the user has contacted, appointments, reminders, and more, and a new search API allows for content to be searched within third-party apps, deep-linked to bring up the specific information searched for directly in the app, along with a backlink to search results.
Passbook has been renamed “Wallet” and Apple Pay has also been enhanced, and in addition to launching in the U.K. in July, support is being added for loyalty and reward cards from a wide variety of stores, which will be presented based on location. The Notes app has also received a number of enhancements including a toolbar with formatting options for styles, a new feature to add checklists in Notes, and improvements to importing photos directly into Notes. A new drawing mode has also been added to allow users to sketch in Notes, and the iOS 9 Share Sheet will allow items such as web page links to be easily added to Notes as rich links. A new attachments view will also allow users to quickly see a list of attachments in Notes and access them directly from that view.
As expected, Apple has also enhanced its Maps app in iOS 9, adding transit directions, as well as providing significant improvements to nearby searches for business and other locations and more detailed location cards, including indications for locations that support Apple Pay. iOS 9 also sports a new app, News, which will provide an aggregation of news services in a single app as a curated feed that can draw stories from multiple publications and topics to provide users with the most relevant content they want to look at based on their interests and topics they normally peruse.
iOS 9 also offers several additional improvements for iPad users, including the ability to do split-screen multitasking. Rumored for some time, the new feature will allow users to have two windows open at once, referencing information between them, as well as picture-in-picture video display for showing videos while looking at another app. Developer APIs will allow third-party apps to take advantage of these features, although apps that have been built to the appropriate iOS design guidelines should be ready to go with minimal developer effort. HomeKit will add support for window shades, motion sensors, and many more devices, and add support for accessing HomeKit devices via iCloud. CarPlay will add support for third-party audio apps as well as apps by the automaker to let users control things in their vehicles directly through CarPlay without having to resort to a difference user interface. CarPlay will also gain wireless support allowing users to connect to their vehicles without having to use a tethered Lightning cable connection.
iOS 9 will be released to developers today, and it will go into public beta in July, similar to OS X El Capitan, and OS X Yosemite last year. Public launch is expected in the fall, and iOS 9 will support all of the same hardware as iOS 8 presently does.