iOS 9 release date, features and news

Apple's iOS 9 updates Siri, Maps and multitasking on iPhone and iPad

iOS 9 release date and features

iOS 9 is Apple's next iPhone and iPad update now that iOS 8.4 has launched with Apple Music, and it brings a smarter Siri, public transit directions to Maps, true tablet multitasking and new built-in apps.

Unveiled on June 8, it's Apple's next big project between April's Apple Watch launch and September's expected iPhone 6S unveiling, and developers can download it today.

iOS 9 makes a big push for stability, a smaller download size and legacy phone and tablet compatibility. That older iPhone and iPad you have will work with this update if it runs iOS 8.

New iOS 9 features consist of redesigned built-in apps and premiers new ones. Here's what to expect.

iOS 9 release date

iOS 9 is available today to those enrolled in iOS developer program, keeping with Apple's same-day delivery pattern during WWDC. Of course, becoming registered developer requires paying a fee.

iOS 9 release date
It's coming this fall, but a public beta is on its way

Everyone else who wants iOS 9 for free has to wait until either the public beta in July or later this year when it's expected to launch with the new iPhone. Think: September.

That one- to three-month wait can be a good thing. iOS 9 beta 1 is be buggy and unfinished. The best features typically don't launch until the gold master version, anyway.

iOS 9 compatibility

iOS 9 is proving to be more inclusive than previous iOS versions. Apple is choosing to make this update compatible with older iPhone, iPad and even iPod touch devices, too.

iOS 9 is compatible with all iOS 8 devices

Okay, it's not technically more inclusive just yet. Basically, if your dated hardware runs iOS 8, it can run iOS 9. When the rumored iPhone 6S, iPhone 6S Plus, iPad Air 3 and iPad mini 4 launch, then list will grow by four.

But overall, it's good news, as older phones and tablets aren't getting muscled out. The iPhone 4S and iPad 2 are safe, for now, and a few 30-pin dock devices live on.

Smarter Siri

Siri in iOS 9 is getting the much-needed smarts to rival Google Now. Apple's personal assistant understands the word "it" within context and brings proactivity to the operating system.

iOS 9 release date
Siri understands context just like Google Now

For example, if you're talking about a topic with someone in iMessages and ask Siri to "Remind me about this later today," it'll scan the open app and try to understand what "this" means.

iOS 9 proactivity puts even more at your fingertips through Siri. It suggests appointments to add to Calendar and pulls up photos based on location and time with the sound of your voice.

Siri's location-based knowledge appears to be most promising when you're out and about. Plugging in headphones at the gym? It'll offer the Now Playing interface right on the lockscreen.

Plug it into your car? It'll bring up that audiobook you were listening to before. It'll even tell you when to leave for an appointment across town, a feature that has made Google's app for iOS a must-have.

iOS 9 release date
Siri in iOS 9 also knows your location and what you like to listen to in the car or gym

One of the most convenient new iOS 9 features is giving context to random numbers that call you, diving into your email to see if it can match the digits. Goodbye, telemarketers - we hope.

Siri already takes over one billion requests a week, according to Apple. That should only increase now that iOS 9 makes Siri 40% faster and 40% more accurate.

Apple Pay expands

Apple Pay has been touted as a success, but so far has been limited to the US. That all changes when the mobile payment platform launches in the UK this month.

iOS 9 release date
Apple Pay is expanding for the US and coming to the UK next month

The official Apple Pay UK release date is happening in July and it'll be backed by nearly 70% of credit and debit cards there, including Lloyds Bank, Bank of Scotland and HSBC.

Canada and China are rumored to be next up for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus mobile payment platform, but the company didn't announce that broad of an expansion just yet.

iOS 9 release date
Apple Wallet replaces Passbook

In the US, Apple Pay is now backed by 2,500 US banks and, this fall, rewards and store-issued cards will be a part of the mobile wallet. This is an idea we liked about Android Pay at Google IO in May.

Considering these newfound iOS 9 capabilities, Apple is renaming Passbook (the app where Apple Pay resides) to Wallet.

Apple News apps

In addition to getting rid of Passbook in favor of Wallet in iOS 9, Apple is replacing Newsstand with News, and it's very familiar if you're a fan of magazine-style news aggregators.

iOS 9 release date and features
News app replaces Newsstand and aims to replace Flipboard

Apple News for iOS 9 is Flipboard, HTC BlinkFeed and Feedly wrapped into one app. It features a personalized feed and is coming to US, UK and Australia at launch.

No telling if publishers will wrap their content in the fresh Apple News format. The advantage to you, however, is more clear: your data will remain anonymous, apart from your Apple ID, says the company.

Apple Maps

Apple Maps is sometimes unavoidable, even if you're a dedicated Google Maps users. Siri and built-in apps still open directions up in the default navigation app. That won't change.

iOS 9 release date and features
Apple Maps public transit directions are coming to iOS 9, down to routes for ferries

The good news is that iOS 9 is going to make Apple Maps better, and maybe even tolerable. In its first major refresh since 2013, the app now includes long-awaited public transit directions.

That means routes for buses, trains, subways and, yes, even ferries are part of Apple Maps. This goes live this fall in Baltimore, Berlin, Chicago, London, Mexico City, New York City, Philadelphia, the San Francisco Bay Area, Toronto and Washington D.C.

Notably, it'll support directions for 300 cities in China, a huge emerging market for the iPhone, including Beijing, Chengdu and Shanghai.

Multitasking for iPad

iOS 9 brings true multitasking to its newer iPad tablets, and we're not talking about the "multitasking" app switcher that premiered with iOS 4 back in 2010.

iOS 9 release date and features
Multitasking finally comes to the iPad with iOS 9

iPads will finally be able to handle more hefty productivity tasks. That's to the delight of enterprise users who prefer iOS for personal use, but feel forced to opt for a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 or Android tablet at work.

There are three ways to view multitasking windows on an iPad. Slide Over brings a second app from the side so you can answer a text or write something in Notes. It's just as easy to slide away.

iOS 9 release date and features
Slide Out works with newer iPads, while Split View is only for iPad Air 2

There's also a special Picture-in-Picture mode that puts videos and FaceTime calls in the corner of the display when the home button is pressed. From there, you can use any other app while watching the video. Google's YouTube app for iOS works this very same way, at least within that specific app.

Both Slide Over and Picture-in-Picture are compatible with newer iPads: iPad Air, iPad Air 2, iPad mini 2 and iPad mini 3. The last mode, Split View, is an iPad Air 2-only affair.

iOS 9 release date and features
Split View is the true multitasking view everyone has wanted

Split View is the mode that everyone imagines when they hear the word "multitasking." It enables two apps to be open side-by-side and they're both active at the same time with full multitouch support.

New iOS 9 keyboard

Apple launched what it called its "best keyboard yet" with the iOS 8 QuickType, and it's trying to one-up that statement with the iOS 9 keyboard.

The QuickType keyboard returns in iOS 9 with a vengeance

iPad's on-screen keyboard now features a built-in shortcut bar, which flanks the next-word suggestions above the QWERTY letter keys. Cut, copy and paste to the left; bold, italic, underline and attachments to the right.

That's better than having to hunt for these shortcuts in the second layer of the keyboard menu, and in a surprise move, Apple is making this default layout customizable and compatible with third-party keyboard apps.

Cursor control is now easier with a handy (or fingery) slide mechanic when using two fingers. It basically turns the iPad QuickType keyboard into an trackpad. It's way easier than hovering over the tiny cursor, trying to land in between letters.

Finally, shortcuts are coming to wireless keyboards so that you can interact with apps using their own built-in shortcut keys. Pressing and holding the Command, Option or Control key brings up the shortcut list.

Under the hood

New features are exciting and all, but iOS 9 needs to run better than iOS 8, which had a series of WiFi and battery drain problems from the get-go. Some users are still complaining.

iOS 9 release date and features
iOS 9 features and changes in icon form above

Longer battery life is a chief concern of iPhone users, but they can squeeze out an extra hour thanks to a new Low Power mode. Apple says iOS 9 pulls switches you didn't even know existed to save juice.

You may be able to install iOS 9 this time around without deleting all of your photos. It'll take about 1.3GB, whereas iOS 8 needed massive 4.5GB of internal storage. That was awful on a 16GB iPhone.

CPU and GPU usage will be more efficient thanks to iOS 9, further improving performance, and security is said to be stepped up. Hopefully that means last year's iCloud hack isn't going to be an annual incident.

Not mentioned during Apple WWDC keynote, iOS 9 will feature a "Move to iOS" app that makes it easier to wirelessly switch from an Android device to a new iOS phone or tablet.

Apple's software-focused WWDC keynote showed a lot of promise for iOS 9, even if it's an incremental update. Google's Android M is taking the same cautious approach. We'll see how they both turn out this fall.