iOS 9: Hands-on with Apple's new mobile operating system

In case you haven't heard, Apple will release the latest version of its iOS operating system this fall. It's the software that powers all of those iPhones in your pockets and iPads at home, and Apple generally sticks to a yearly release right around the same time as the newest iterations of the iPhone are revealed.

We've spent a few days with the latest version of the software (as part of the Apple beta testers program), and we have a few thoughts on the changes you can expect to see when you download the final release.


The biggest change you'll notice with iOS 9 is the new system wide font. It's called "San Francisco," and it was designed by Apple to replace the old Helvetica Neue font that you're used to seeing. Some of you won't even notice the change, but I'm a font geek, and I like the way this one looks. It's clean and readable.

The app switching feature (when you double-tap the home button) has been given an overhaul, as well. It now looks like a carousel, with full-screen images of each of your open apps that you cycle through by swiping.

There aren't many other major graphics changes to the software. It was good already, and now Apple is just refining it with each release.


This is a major change, as Siri on iOS 9 is much smarter. She (I realize it's a piece of software and not a human, but bear with me here) constantly analyzes the apps you use, your calendar, your email and much more in order to provide better suggestions. To take advantage of her suggestions, you swipe left on your home screen, and you'll see everything she has to offer. You'll get contacts, app suggestions, nearby restaurants and more.

It's a major step forward for Apple, but it does closely resemble the Google Now service on Android phones. She's also smarter when it comes to making vocal requests; you can tell her to play hit songs from March 2003, for example, and Apple Music will begin playing. You'll need an Apple Music subscription, of course, but it's currently available for three months as a free trial.


Apple says that battery life in iOS 9 will be extended by an hour for all devices, and in my testing, I think they're right. And there's also a new low-power mode to help save your precious last 10% of battery life when you get there; it turns off auto-refreshing in background apps, among other things, to help you extend your battery life until you can charge your phone.


Apple Maps now has mass transit information built in to the program, but only for a select number of cities. If you live in New York, San Francisco, Chicago or a few other cities around the world, you'll get excellent subway or train information at your fingertips.


Apple Notes was mostly useless before, but it has received an awesome upgrade in iOS 9. It's much more like Evernote, which has been my go-to notes app for a long time. You can draw directly into the notes app or insert attachments such as screenshots, maps, photos and more.


One of the major new apps debuting with iOS 9 is News, which is Apple's take on an RSS reader. You subscribe to the sites you like when you fire it up, and then News presents you with current stories, information and news with a gorgeous layout. If you're someone who enjoys reading stories from multiple sources, this might be for you.

What do you think?