It’s been about a month since Apple has unveiled a much anticipated iOS9 beta software, and the Internet hive has been buzzing with debate, discussions and opinion-sharing on its functionality, killer features and the looks. Now that the initial hysteria is gone, let’s see what really matters in the new release.
Let’s put it straight, iOS 9 is not a thorough system overhaul like iOS 7 or 8. It focuses on improving and optimizing existing features rather than introducing the new ones. Might sound boring for those who enjoy the thrill of a profound wow-effect. Yet, it’s a clear win-win for both developers and consumers. Developers of iOS apps do not need to make huge improvements for their existing products, while users, in turn, won't have to wait for their favorite apps to be updated to perform well on the new platform.
5 most groundbreaking iOS9 beta features for users
There sure is more innovation to enjoy in the new release, but we handpicked the five features that will have a tangible impact on any user – no matter how amateur or tech savvy.
1. Smarter Siri
iOS9 features Proactive Assistant – an aggregator of all the content on the device, including directions, mail, calendar entries and more to provide user with the relevant information before he even knows he needs it. Siri itself can now understand more voice requests and perform actions in third party apps.
Combined, these two will learn user behavior and offer a highly personalized user experience with time.
iOS 9 finally enables users with side-by-side running of apps. For now, the feature has only been demonstrated on the iPad and requires an iPad Air 2 to enjoy full functionality. With a growing number of users making iPads their primary device for work, this feature opens up potential to narrow down the efficiency gap between PCs and post-PC devices. iPhones are also likely to offer the feature in the near future.
3. Improved battery
In the keynote, Apple announced a 10% battery capacity increase, which translates into an extra hour of screen time for iPhone 6, for example. This may come as a surprise, since we are used to seeing each new OS update to be more power-consuming than its predecessor. But a real much-awaited gift is a new low-power mode option, which promises to add another three hours to battery life when enabled. Seems like Apple has finally decided to catch up with its Android rivals whose devices boasted this same feature long ago. However, how exactly the new low-power mode is going to operate and which features will have to be sacrificed is yet unclear.
4. Force touch
A new kind of touch-screen technology will not only detect where but also how hard a user is pressing on the screen. Force Touch is already implemented in MacBook and Apple Watch, and some bet it will also appear in the next iPhone. Some iOS developers predict it to become a really big thing. For now, though, the feature is kept low-key, presumably to prevent leakage of any information about September’s iPhone 6S release.
5. Better storage capacity
Apple’s keynote already elaborated on reducing the space amount required for the iOS 9 update to 1.3GB. But that’s not all. A real breakthrough for users is that now any app downloaded will by default occupy the minimal amount of memory space.
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“App thinning” will cut any iOS application into several variants, and only the relevant parts required to run on a certain device will be downloaded. What’s more, a new ‘on-demand resources’ feature will allow users to download only parts of apps he needs. When an item is clicked, it downloads from the App Store dynamically, meaning certain features are delivered in the background and deleted if storage capacity hits the critical low. Awesome news for 8/16GB device owners, who didn’t get much love from the overly demanding and ever hungry for storage space iOS8.
More than meets the eye: iOS9 for developers
Quite predictably, iOS 9 looks very similar to iOS 8. Yet, it has some subtle but important changes in interface behavior.
Helvetica Neue system font, originally introduced in iOS 7, has been replaced with a San Francisco font, created to be readable on the small Apple Watch screen. Third party companies have already started incorporating San Francisco into their iOS app development.
Not so subtle as a font change is iOS 9 UI upgrade of alerts and action sheet buttons –they now boast smoother more rounded corners.
2. Swift becomes Open Source
When first announced at WWDC 2014, it was perceived as “yet another programming language”. Going open source is a big step for Swift: a global community of developers is now able to enrich the programming bank with extra capabilities while mastering the language itself.
A new code compiler along with new developer libraries will be available in Swift 2. The developer beta opens this month for free, and is promised to be supported by iOS 9 and any iOS 8-enabled device.
3. Early iOS 9 access for all
This time, not only developers get beta access to iOS9 before the formal release in September, but regular users as well. This may seem a too radical solution to make, knowing the amount of bugs beta versions contain, but Apple has its point.
First, early adopters are given a piece of cutting-edge technology to play around with, which increases brand loyalty. Second, it helps to create a vast test group (we are probably talking millions), which will give iOS 9 a rigorous testing before the official launch.
4. Spotlight’s API open for developers
Developers are now able to reveal their app’s information to Spotlight to be indexed in user searches.
With Spotlight’s API, Apple is revolutionizing the way we interact with search engines. This deep access to the app data provides users with the results they want without turning to traditional search engine tools.
Similar feature is already functioning for services like Wikipedia and Amazon in Safari browser and is now likely to embrace much more in the near future. This, along with the rise of native iOS app development, means users may not need to open a search engine browser ever again.
Indeed, why the hassle? Any data important to users already exists within mobile applications, and now Apple brings it to the surface of the phone easier than ever. If you are still hesitating whether or not to develop a mobile app for your business
, relying exclusively on a website, you’d better hurry up.
5. Smaller Apps
Cheered by users, this same feature is likely to give developers some hard time. 3 options can be used by developers to decrease app size.
First, App Thinning
. The feature will let a user download only parts of the app the device needs, instead of downloading all code assets supported by every existing iOS device. According to Apple’s documentation, full application versions should still be uploaded to the Store, put in an Asset Catalog and tagged for different platforms by developers. App Store will then compile and deliver device-specific app variants.
Second, On-Demand Resources
, seems to be more time- and effort-consuming. It suggests parts of apps will only be downloaded when a user needs them and deleted from the device after no longer necessary. This might mean a gamer will only get access to the data relevant to the current game level he is on, or that in-app purchases will only be downloaded when a user clearly indicates a desire to make a purchase. In this scenario, tags will be assigned to various code parts, specifying which code is obligatory for initial launch, or which tags to delete first if storage space is low.
App’s pre-compiled binaries will be substituted by app’s "intermediate representation". This will help to enable some of the App Slicing features by identifying which binary a user’s device runs. At present, Bitcode usage is only obligatory for Apple Watch applications, while remaining optional for iOS ones. However, be ready for this to be altered soon.
Apple is sure to have kept some major iOS 9 secrets veiled till September, to give itself time for extra polishing and so as not to give the game away on the upcoming iPhone 6S release. But we believe the features and tendencies we highlighted will give you a better feel of the overall direction where iOS is headed for, and confidence to make smarter business decisions.