When Apple took the wraps off iOS 9 at WWDC 2015 in June, it promised a lot of changes under the hood. Apart from end users, iOS 9 is a big release for developers as well. In our review, we’ll focus on the consumer side of Cupertino’s latest mobile OS and run our readers through the good and bad, all in one place.
Before I move forward with my review, I want to make one thing very clear: at this point, there are little to no apps that take full advantage of iOS 9. While updates will be rolled out in due course, I will focus on the stock level changes in iOS 9 and not touch upon third-party apps, as they tend to be partially broken on a new OS. Furthermore, I installed the iOS 9 GM build on an iPhone 6 Plus, but for the sake of comparison, I also got the luxury of trying it out on an iPad Air 2 as well as an iPhone 6.
As soon as you install iOS 9 onto your device and boot straight into the home screen, you’ll realize that almost nothing has changed, except for one thing – the system-wide font. With iOS 9, Apple opted to go for a new typeface, San Francisco in case you’re wondering, the very same one found on the Apple Watch. The new font is far easier on the eye, and I have to admit, it makes text readability a charm compared to what was offered in iOS 8, or previous versions of Apple’s mobile OS.
iOS 9 is built on the strong design foundations of iOS 8, and that notion is very prominent throughout the OS. But, Apple didn’t opt to keep all the design elements the same with iOS 9, for instance, the company decided to go with rounded corners in menus, which makes things a pleasure to view. From context menus to the Share Sheet, things look the same, yet they feel brand new, all thanks to those rounded edges. These little changes add up to make for a good design language, and Apple knows that making drastic design changes isn’t the way to go at this point.
If you were hoping that iOS 9 would feature a gigantic design upgrade, then you’ll be left disappointed.
Regarding iOS 9’s performance, I ran into mixed results. When I say mixed, I mean a wide variety of things that left me with my head scratching. For example, on an iPhone 6 Plus, the OS felt somewhat crippled when I had many apps running in the background, and I was forced to kill off some apps or games from the app switcher to regain some performance. But when I jumped to the iPhone 6 or iPad Air 2, I was facing an entirely different story in terms of performance. Apps and games were loading much quicker, and there was far less lag than there was on the iPhone 6 Plus. I would give iOS 9 a straight thumbs-down in terms of performance on the iPhone 6 Plus, and I’m pretty certain the reason behind the lag can be traced to the amount of pixels the A8 processor was being forced to push on the display, and topped off with just 1GB of RAM, things proved to be on the stutter side of the fence.
On an iPhone 6 or iPad Air 2 however, iOS 9 screams performance. It’s hands-down the fastest iteration of Cupertino’s mobile operating system that I’ve used. From launching apps to multitasking, iOS 9 was able to handle tasks like a walk in the park. It’s also worth noting here that since this is the first release of iOS 9, out of the many point updates to come, users should expect a bit of performance related issues here and there. It’s definitely something Apple can fix with a few updates, but in the first release, things are a little different. Much, much different.
If you have an iPhone 6 Plus, I would definitely recommend that you give the update a second thought.
Ever since the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus were announced, I went straight up with the latter of the two smartphones because of one reason – battery life. With a larger battery, the iPhone 6 Plus lasts longer, and going through the whole day is an absolute piece of cake for the device. But, you can’t deny the legwork of the software that keeps things ticking over on a daily basis, and I’m pleased to reveal that iOS 9 absolutely wins all over the place when it comes to battery life.
If things weren’t good enough already on the battery front, Apple has tossed in a new Low Power Mode as well in iOS 9, which, when toggled on, cuts down on a lot of background processes and performance to deliver even more battery life. You can either choose to turn on Low Power Mode manually whenever you like, or when your device hits the 20% mark, iOS 9 will automatically throw you a pop-up, asking you to turn the said feature on to get the most out of your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. You can of course opt to go against it, but it’s great to see that Apple is doing wonders in the battery department, finally.
Also, Apple took the liberty of adding a detailed battery view under the Battery section, giving users a great and comprehensive breakdown of which app is using the battery the most. Very handy, if you’re asking us.
Overall, iOS 9 is more than great on the battery front, and we’re certain users are going to love it.
iOS 9 Is Note-Worthy
Love it or hate it, the Notes app has been a part of iOS for a long, long time. And quite frankly, up till iOS 8, I’ve opted to go against the stock offering and confined myself to third-party solutions such as Evernote and OneNote for their diverse feature-set.
All that has changed for me with iOS 9, however.
The new Notes app is stunning, to say the least. All the features that I ever wanted in a note-taking app are there, and that too under one roof. I always looked at the Notes app and thought to myself: how will Apple ever improve this? And boy they have. A lot!
The app now allows you to create lists, add photos, maps and even draw if you so wish. And since the Notes app can now maintain lists, you can kiss those third-party list making apps goodbye.
Zip Through Photos Like A Pro
While the stock Photos app looks the same as before, there are changes which Apple has slipped in to make the overall image staring task a worthwhile one. Our favorite feature is how the Photos app shows a thumbnail reel at the bottom when you open up an image, simply swipe your thumb on it to go through all your photos in the handiest fashion you can think of.
iOS 9 marks the demise of Newsstand, which normally sat in my ‘Junk’ folder on my home screen. But with the introduction of the brand new News app, things are looking bright for both the readers and Apple.
The News app is packed with a lot of cool features and makes reading news and catching up to it a worthwhile routine. There are a handful of publications to choose from, and the best part is, the more you use News, the more suggestions it throws at you. During my usage of News, I was quite surprised how well it worked. It was like it knew what I wanted to read the next day, and most of the articles were spot-on, keeping in light my tastes.
And you’ll be pleased to learn that WCCFTech is also available in the News app, so don’t forget to add us up and follow news right on your iOS device.
iCloud Drive Now Lives In Our Home Screen
As soon as you boot into iOS 9 for the first time, the OS will ask you if you want to add iCloud Drive to your home screen. And once added, you can view all your files and photos that are stored in iCloud Drive, without having to install third-party apps to achieve the same thing.
But there’s one thing that I didn’t particularly like about the iCloud Drive app: it doesn’t allow you to upload files straight from it, you can only access and view files, nothing more, nothing less.
Apple, are you listening?
Siri And Proactive Assistant
According to Apple, the future medium of interaction with our mobile devices is voice. And given how powerful Siri has become with the release of iOS 9, it’s a clear sign that Apple won’t press on the brake pedal anytime soon.
Siri is much faster than before and there’s no doubt in that. I’ve been using iOS 9 for a long, long time, and have been switching between iOS 8.x and iOS 9 inconsistently, and I have to admit that Siri on Apple’s latest mobile operating is a charm to use. It’s more accurate than before. It understands the user better. And to top things off: it integrates with iOS in a far better way than before.
You can use Siri to search through photos. The feature just works so perfectly that at times you’d think what would you do without the feature. It’s really that good.
Then there’s proactive assistant, which is Apple’s new take on search. It throws suggestions at the user based on their habits and the contacts they interact with. During my usage, I can’t say whether or not I’m a fan of proactive assistant, but if you’re the type of person who has a routine of traveling a lot and involves jumping in and out of the car, then this is one feature you’d want to have under your belt at all times.
Multitasking Taken A Step Beyond
Multitasking on iOS 9 is no joke. As soon as you double press that Home button, you’re presented with a brand new stacked card style app switcher which is an absolute eye-candy if you’re asking us. Compared to the app switcher found in iOS 8.x, the one in iOS 9 is aesthetically pleasing, and switching between apps actually feels more fun than before. Rather than getting the feel of annoyance whenever you opened the app switcher, iOS 9 gives the user the subtle feeling of more control.
On the iPad, things are different. Very, very different.
Apple has gone all out when it comes to multitasking on the iPad, and now allows two apps to run side-by-side on the display. But keep one thing in mind, though, the feature does not work across every iPad model.
Cupertino also tossed in a new Picture in Picture mode into the mix, allowing users to float a media window above other apps, ensuring you don’t miss that episode of Game of Thrones while writing a document in Pages.
Use Your iPad Keyboard As A Trackpad
Prior to iOS 9, you had to go through the tiresome routine of tapping on a string of text and then select text, or just move the cursor around.
If you happen to have an iPad running iOS 9, then simply press down on the display with two fingers on the keyboard and moving your fingers around will navigate the cursor like magic. On the iPhone, however, things are different, as the feature only works on the iPhone 6s with 3D Touch display. We really wish the feature was available on previous iPhone models as well.
Jumping Back To An App Is Easy
If you’re in, let’s say, the Messages app, and someone sends you a message on WhatsApp, then you can tap the notification and jump right into the new conversation. But how will you go back to the Messages app? Double press the Home button to bring up the app switcher and then find Messages and jump right into it? Wrong. With iOS 9, you just tap the ‘Back to Messages’ button at the top left hand corner and you’re taken back to where you left off.
This feature alone deserves a big shout out in our review, and we really wished it arrived in iOS sooner. But now that it’s here, we can’t complain about it one bit.
Security Is Top Notch
So far, Apple has given the option of a 4-digit passcode to users to protect their devices. iOS 9 changes that and brings to the roster a new 6-digit option. While the new option is absolutely a secure way to seal your device shut from outside attacks, but for some reason, I couldn’t get myself to use it that much. Maybe that’s just me, and need some time to get the hang of it.
Furthermore, iOS 9 has support for two-factor authentication baked right in, which means that your devices are as secure as ever, and you don’t have to worry about unauthorized access at any given point.
Lastly, iOS 9 patches a very nasty AirDrop vulnerability that could allow a hacker within the Bluetooth range to take over your device. This, and a whole host of other security fixes come as a part of iOS 9’s overall swift package making it one important upgrade.
iOS 9 has little feature nuggets littered all over the place. For example, when you open the Settings app and glance at the top, you’ll notice a search field, which allows you to search for any setting option without having to dig into the Settings app itself. Furthermore, in the Notification Center, you can opt to group notifications on a per-app basis. These, and more features like these are littered all over the place and are waiting to be explored.
One feature that would really appeal to the on-screen keyboard lovers is the way upper and lower case letters are treated. With iOS 9, the OS will display whether the letter you’re about to type will be an upper case one or lower case. You do have the option to turn the feature off, but nonetheless, it’s a very handy addition.
There’s also a feature in iOS 9 that allows you to save web pages as a PDF sheet to be viewed in the iBooks. Lastly, iOS 9 also allows you to doodle on the images, when you attach them in your emails.
Barring the performance issues on the iPhone 6 Plus, we’d give iOS 9 a big thumbs up. It’s a huge, huge update when you compare it to previous iOS releases, and regarding the bugs we encountered during our usage, we’re certain it’s something which Apple can easily fix with a point update or two.
We’d give iOS 9 a 8.2 out of 10.
Should You Install It?
Don’t bother asking that question. Just go ahead and install the darn thing on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. It’s worth it. It’s brand new and adds a new lease of life straight into your device.