iOS 9 is Apple's latest update that's now available to download your iPhone and iPad, and it bringing a smarter Siri, Apple Maps transit directions, true multitasking and new built-in apps.
iOS 9 officially launched Wednesday, September 16 and can be loaded onto your Apple device through the software update menu within "Settings," which has that all-important over-the-air updated.
iOS 9, and iOS 9.1 beta for testers, has improved stability, a smaller download size and legacy phone and tablet compatibility. That older iPhone and iPad you have works with this update if it runs iOS 8.
New iOS 9 features consist of redesigned built-in apps and a few new ones. There's more multitasking functionality than ever for iPads, while 3D Touch and motion wallpaper are coming for new iPhones. That will make new rose gold iPhone 6S color really pop.
iOS 9 release date
September 16 was the official iOS 9 release date, as announced at Apple's iPhone 6S launch event date earlier this month and predicted by us. After all, it's always available to download one or two Wednesdays before an new iPhone release date.
Sure, there was a public beta available to everyone since July if you signed up for iOS 9 testing, and to fee-paying developers right after WWDC. They're the true beta testers, three months ahead.
But this three-month wait was a good thing for most "other" people. iOS 9 betas versions were buggy and unfinished, and few of the best operating system features don't launch until the final version, anyway.
The best part is that, although the iPhone 6S price is going to be expensive as always, the iOS 9 update is free to download and install.
How to download iOS 9 right now
You can get iOS 9 right now through an over-the-air update. This means that you don't even need to plug your phone into a computer and download it through iTunes anymore.
Some experienced an iOS 9 software update failed error messages when connecting to Apple's servers in order to grab the update. Making a physical USB lightning connection to iTunes is said to help.
There's also a iOS 9.1 public beta available to testers and developers, but like iOS 9, it doesn't include the yet-to-launch Apple Pay store rewards cards program. Here's how to download iOS 9 right now.
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.
Okay, it's not technically more inclusive beyond the immediately launched iPad mini 4. The iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus still have to launch next Friday, September 25, and the iPad Pro lands sometime in November. Then the list will grow by three. It'll become a total of six when the iPad Air 3 and iPhone 6C eventually release.
Basically, right now, if your dated hardware runs iOS 8, it can run iOS 9, and that'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 for another year.
iOS 9.1 update
Before we dive into new iOS 9 features, we can already explore what's even newer in iOS 9.1, which is now available to beta software testers using a compatible iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.
As you can see from the screenshot above, it include new emojis, including a taco, burrito, unicorn face, hot dog, popcorn, turkey and cheese wedge, and yes, even a silly middle finger.
This over-the-air update may also bring new compatibility to the iPad Pro, with its high resolution screen and Apple Pencil stylus, but so far there are new detailed release dates.
iOS 9.1 can be downloaded through the Apple Beta Software program (instructions above), and should be available to everyone else soon. iOS 8.1, for example came out in October.
Siri in iOS 9 gets 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.
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 offers the Now Playing interface right on the lockscreen.
Plugging it into your car? It brings up that audiobook you were listening to before. It even tells you when to leave for an appointment across town, a feature that has made Google's app for iOS a must-have.
Saying "Hey Siri" to issue commands while untethered from the usually-required light cable is going to be possible, too. However, this iOS 9 feature has only been announced for the new iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus.
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 promises to make Siri 40% faster and 40% more accurate.
Apple Pay expands
Apple Pay has been touted as a success over the last 11 months in the US, and now the iPhone-backed mobile payment platform has made its way to the UK.
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. It has also made the Apple Pay-required Touch ID fingerprint sensor twice as fast as before on the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.
That may be enough to compete with the September 28 launch of Samsung Pay on the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 and its other new Android phones, which use even more nifty magnetic strip technology in addition to NFC.
Apple Maps is sometimes unavoidable, even if you're a dedicated Google Maps user. Siri and built-in apps still open directions up in the default navigation app. That won't change.
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 is now live 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 hotspots like Beijing, Chengdu and Shanghai.
Just don't expect it much more than that to sway you from Google Maps or Waze. The design changes are minimal and, as we articulately point out in our iOS 9 review, it clearly needs more UI work, not just new features.
Apple News app
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.
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.
There's also Apple News integration outside of this app right on one of the home screens. Four or five snippets of news appear within the left-most menu, right below spotlight search, recent contacts and recent apps. In this way, Apple is mimicking Samsung's left-most Flipboard menu, with less pizzazz.
No telling if all of your favorite publishers will wrap their content in the fresh Apple News format. A few of our favorites are missing. The advantage to you, however, is more clear: your data remains anonymous, apart from your Apple ID, according to the company.
Multitasking for iPad
iOS 9 brings true iPad multitasking to Apple iPad tablets, and we're not talking about the "multitasking" app switcher that premiered with iOS 4 back in 2010.
iPads is 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.
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 and iPad mini 4-only affair, though Apple announced that iPad Pro will support all multitasking functionality, too, when it arrives in November.
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.
Apple is clearly honing on the enterprise user with its latest tablet software features and be swayed to buy that new iPad Pro that puts them to the best use.
New iOS 9 keyboard
Apple launched what it called its "best keyboard yet" with the iOS 8 QuickType, and it's one-upping that statement with the iOS 9 keyboard.
iPad's on-screen keyboard now features a built-in shortcut bar, which flanks the next-word suggestions above the QWERTY letter keys. Shorts are context sensitive and include 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.
iOS 9 Wi-Fi problems fix
Apple has also worked out a solution for when your Wi-Fi connection is proving to be a massive pain. It's called Wi-Fi Assist, and it automatically drops your Wi-Fi connection and jumps onto your mobile network whenever it's struggling.
You can switch it off if you're on a limited data package but it's a great idea for those who have spotty Wi-Fi connections and get annoyed at having to manually control it.
Under the hood
New features are exciting and all, but iOS 9 needs to run better than iOS 8, which had a series of Wi-Fi and battery drain problems from the get-go. Some users are still complaining about last year's software.
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 takes about 1.4GB, whereas iOS 8 needed a 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, a "Move to iOS" app is hidden within iOS 9. It's now easier to wirelessly switch from an Android device to a new iOS phone or tablet.
iPhone and iPad users may be surprised when asked to enter a six-digit passcode instead of an easier-to-crack four digit code. But it's the difference between one million possible combinations and 10,000, and Touch ID really makes the hassle a moot point. Better safe than sorry.
Apple's was so confident that it launched a sweeping iOS 9 public beta, and it really shows why, even if this an incremental update. Google's Android Marshmallow is taking the same cautious approach ahead of its September 29 launch. As more iOS 9 updates and features become available to download, we'll keep updating this page.
- Is it any good? Our iOS 9 review