It’s pretty much tradition for Apple to announce a new version of iOS at WWDC. For the past few months, rumor had it that Apple was taking a gap year to focus on fixing existing features and solidifying Apple’s mobile OS foundation. And it’s true that many existing apps received some much-needed refinement. Still, Apple announced new features, including a few unexpected ones.
Improved Siri With Proactive
Let’s be honest, Siri isn’t as good as Google Now. That’s why Apple is adding smarter features to its voice query feature. For example, you can now say “show me photos from Utah from last August,” and you will get these photos. With a new feature dubbed ‘Proactive,’ Siri will also optimize your phone use depending on what you are doing. For instance, it can automatically start an audiobook once you are in your car because you like to listen to audiobooks on the road. Like many smart calendars, Siri will take into account the time you need to get to your next meeting and alert you in advance.
All of this is bundled in a new UI that will also suggest apps and contacts based on where you are and what you do. “There’s more we wanted to do: adding intelligence throughout the user experience without compromising your privacy,” VP of Software Engineering Craig Federighi said.
Improved Spotlight With Deep Linking
Spotlight also gets an upgrade, as third-party apps can now take advantage of Apple’s search feature. For instance, you could search for a restaurant in Yelp directly from your home screen, and go straight to Yelp’s app result page thanks to deep linking.
In other words, Spotlight becomes its own little search engine. If you can find something using Spotlight, you may end up relying less on Google searches, which is a nice side effect in the great mobile war between Apple and Google.
Apple insisted a lot on privacy for this feature as well. When you search for something, you don’t give data away.
“Today we’re announcing the Apple Music, the next chapter in music,” Tim Cook said at the very end of the keynote. Jimmy Iovine then introduced Apple’s much-anticipated new music offering.
Apple Music wants to tackle all your music needs, going head-to-head against Spotify, Rdio and all the others with a streaming service that will cost $9.99 per month after a 3-month free trial — you can also opt for a $14.99 family plan. The company is also launching Beats 1, a 24-hour radio station. It is also bringing human-curated playlists from Beats, with playlist recommendations tailored to you tastes.
And finally, the company is also reviving Ping with Beats Connect, a social network to connect with artists and get artist extras. We will have to wait and see whether this extra content is really compelling.
Let’s be honest, with this one, Apple just cloned Flipboard. The News app is a way to get web content in a native app. “The articles can come from anywhere, but the best ones are built in Apple News format,” Apple VP Susan Prescott said.
The company went into much detail to tell how great the user experience is. News is a very visual RSS reader, and publishers should quickly get on board if there is a way to display ads. There are already many publishers working with Apple on News. News will only be available in the U.S., the U.K. and Australia for now.
Trackpad For The iPad
Apple is differentiating the iPhone and iPad experience by adding a trackpad feature to the iPad. When you put two fingers on the keyboard, it becomes a trackpad and you can move the cursor around. Above the keyboard, there are new cut, copy and paste shortcuts if they are relevant to the app you are using as well.
Split-Screen Apps On The iPad
SplitView and SlideOver are probably the two most impressive new features. You can now run two apps at the same time, side by side. SlideOver lets you slide from the side to get another app, such as Messages. If you pull down from the top using the new app switcher, you can switch this app and select another one.
With SplitView, both apps stay active and you can do things in both at the same time. Even better, you can drag and drop stuff from one app to another, which should make sending photos much easier. If you swipe with four fingers, you can switch the two active apps. Apps can be 50/50 or 70/30 on screen. This is very reminiscent of Windows split-screen features. SplitView is only available for the iPad Air 2.
Transit In Maps
Slowly but surely, Apple is trying to improve its Maps app to bring it up to speed with the competition, namely Google Maps. This year, the company is bringing transit directions after acquiring Embark and Hopstop. Transit directions are coming for a few selected cities at first, but Apple should roll out more cities in the future.
Loyalty Cards For Apple Pay
As expected, Apple is still boasting about Apple Pay rollout. More stores, apps and banks will support Apple Pay in the future. Apple Pay is also coming to the U.K. as soon as next month.
There are a few new features coming to Apple Pay as well. You will be able to store your rewards cards in the Passbook app, which is now called Wallet. This is an interesting feature as these loyalty cards can help you build a habit, and you might end up using Apple Pay every time you need to pay for your coffee.
Small improvements as well, you can now make checklists, embed photos and draw sketches in the Notes app. You can also add links. In other words, Notes is no longer a text-only app, it’s a rich-text editor. Evernote users should like this update.
Taking a cue from the Apple Watch, iOS 9 provides a new low power mode that switches off a few features in order to get up to three extra hours of battery, according to Apple.
iOS 9 will require 1.8GB instead of 4.6GB, making the update process much easier. There are also a lot of new SDKs coming, such as SpriteKit, SceneKit, GameplayKit, ReplayKit and Model I/O. Apple also unveiled and open-sourced Swift 2, the next major version of its new programming language.
iOS 9’s public beta starts in July, and the public release is set for this Fall. The new OS will support the iPad 2 and later, and the iPhone 4S and later. In other words, every device that supported iOS 8 will support iOS 9.