iOS 9- Initial Impressions
September 20, 2015
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Apple’s iOS 9 released back on September 16; since it was announced back at WWDC 2015 back during June, iOS 9 has been one of the more anticipated of Apple’s mobile operating systems. Numerous new features, including split-screen multi-tasking for iPad Air 2 (and other useful multitasking operations that allow me to watch my anime and chat with friends in Facebook chat or Skype simultaneously, or go back to the last opened application), an improved keyboard that makes it easier to type and under-the-hood optimisations that boost battery life by an additional hour and a powerful new Notes app that allows for rich-text notes, check-lists and even drawings. There’s also a content-blocker program in place now, making it possible to download apps that block apps, streamlining the web-browsing experience. Siri is also more powerful, and the notifications centre has been updated so all of the information is more visible. All of these new features come just in time as the iOS programming course I’m TA’ing is kicking into high gear: we’re just moving past the basics of programming in Swift 2.0 (which is quite differnt than Swift 1.2 and admittedly, any other language I’ve worked with so far) and I’m just about done grading the first batch of assignments, which deals with Playgrounds in Xcode. Xcode 7’s also out now, so the students will be able to develop in Swift 2.0 for iOS 9 (their first iOS app will be due this Wednesday). I’m quite happy that the updates came when they did: I still recall that they released iOS 5 in October 2011, which would’ve been a ways into term. Had this been the case, it would’ve been more difficult for the students, who would need to upgrade midway into term.
- Outwardly, iOS 9 doesn’t look too different than iOS 8. However, there are subtle hints that this is an iPad rocking iOS 9: the spotlight icon makes a return from iOS 6, and on the iPad, folders now store apps in four by four, rather than three by three, increasing the capacity of each folder. Since my last talk in iOS 8 and the iPad Air 2, I’ve picked up several new games that merit their own discussions at some point in the near future.
- The new notifications centre properly capitalises on the iPad’s space to display information in a more compact manner. I prefer it over the notification centre of iOS 8, and yesterday evening, it promptly notified me of Beakerhead’s Beakernight event yesterday evening. I met up with a friend and we partook in the signature “flaming skee-ball“, watched a band perform with novel instruments, and viewed some E. coli artwork being exhibited. I ran into several friends and colleagues later in the evening and picked up a hot cocoa as the air began to cool.
- The new iOS keyboard changes to indicate whether or not a user will be typing in lower or upper case. Though a long-present feature on Windows Phone 8 and Android, it was absent from iOS for the longest time and made it difficult to tell whether one had the shift key engaged. Though a small change, this is much appreciated, especially since the keyboard is oft-used. Siri and Spotlight are much more powerful now, and there’s even a search option in the Settings, making it easier to find certain settings to configure. With a hardware keyboard plugged in, Apple-Tab actually allows for apps to be switched between like on a desktop, and Apple-Shift-H returns users to the home screen.
- Only available to the iPad Air 2, iPad Mini 3 and upcoming iPad Pro, split-screen is a powerful addition that allows the iPad to do two things at once. Though it’s limited to a handful of apps at present, such a feature will be immensely useful for productivity (such as reading a PDF and writing a paper in Pages simultaneously, or running a Skype conversation while browsing the internet). Once developers capitalise on this feature, split-screen multi-tasking will become an indispensable feature on an iPad. Whilst we’re speaking of fish and chips, I returned to Billingsgate Seafood Market on Thursday for a fish-and-chips dinner prior to this season’s first Nerd Night: the light, crisp batter and tender, flakey fish was tasty, as were the freshly-cut fries, and the Nerd Night talks were as engaging as dinner was delicious.
- Though I’m unlikely to actually watch Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka? and read Tom Clancy’s Theat Vector at the same time, I am thoroughly enjoying the picture-in-picture feature, which is quite useful for when I’m watching a video and chatting with friends in Facebook chat or Skype. Coming up next will be a talk on the final episodes to Non Non Biyori, followed by a review of Metro: 2033 Redux, which I beat yesterday.
iOS 9 is an incremental update to iOS 8; despite offering no major overhauls, the subtle changes made to the operating system here and there confer major benefits to the users that far exceed the differences between iOS 6 and iOS 7. All of these subtle changes make the iPad much easier to use for both productivity and recreation. There are a few bugs here and there (such as bookmarks disappearing from the favourites bar in Safari, or the wallpaper turning black for a half-second when exiting a folder), as well. On the whole, though, iOS 9 is quite stable while providing new features that make it easier than ever to get something done. All of these features are available for the iPad Air 2 and latest iPad Mini, as well as the upcoming iPad Pro, but surprisingly enough, the iPad 2 is capable of running iOS 9, albeit with limited features and probably with a much lower performance. I predicted that the iOS 8 would be the latest operating system the iPad 2 could run, but it is somewhat impressive that Apple is continuing to support updates for the iPad 2. For the present, though, the iPad Air 2 has replaced the iPad 2 as my workhorse tablet, and rocking iOS 9 means getting more done, more efficiently.