2015 has been a pretty big year for Apple as a company. Product launches this year included the Apple Watch, the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, the iPad Mini 4, the iPad Pro, and the new Apple TV. This month is a big month for their software launches, with today marking the release of iOS 9 as well as watchOS 2, and OS X El Capitan launching at the very end of the month. In time I hope to do some sort of review of the new features in watchOS 2, but today's article focuses strictly on iOS 9 and everything new that Apple is bringing to their biggest operating system for both users and developers.

What's interesting about iOS 9 is how Apple has involved their community of users in the development process by creating a public beta program. OS X Yosemite famously was the first version of OS X to have a public beta (with the exception of the OS X 10.1 Kodiak beta 15 years ago), but Apple had never done anything like it for their mobile devices until now. However, many users found ways to install the developer betas of iOS on their devices by bypassing the activation or having a service register their UDID for beta installation. With more and more features being added to iOS, and more and more users adopting devices that run it, it appears that Apple felt that expanding their beta user base beyond developers would be a good way to collect information on bugs and stability, as well as general feedback about what does and doesn't work well.

Opening up iOS 9 with a public beta also plays into the focus of the new release. iOS 7 was an enormous release that redesigned the entire operating system, and iOS 8 added features like continuity and extensibility to improve how apps communicated on iOS, and how iOS devices and Macs communicate with each other. With all those changes there has been concern that there hasn't been enough attention to polish and eliminating bugs in iOS. While it's not something explicitly stated, it's clear that iOS 9 does go back to basics in some ways, and focuses on improving performance and stability. There are still new features, and some of them are very integral to keeping iOS competitive as a mobile platform, but the key focus is on solidifying the existing foundations.

The polish and improvements that will be most obvious to the end user are those that involve visual or functional changes to the apps they use on a daily basis. With that in mind, it makes most sense to start off the review by taking a look at some of the general changes made to the UI and the system in iOS 9, so let's dive in.

Table Of Contents

General UI and System Changes


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  • centhar - Thursday, September 17, 2015 - link

    It's called a "toy" because all that "power" it has is relegated the iPad to just being a consumption device. The OS is not developed enough to make it a serious creation tool. Reply
  • ws3 - Friday, September 18, 2015 - link

    "The OS is not developed enough to make it a serious creation tool."
    That is not true at all. There is no OS-dependent reason why an equivalent pretty much any desktop software could not run on a high end iPad like the iPad Pro. Desktop applications themselves do not rely on the user having full access to the file system. Of course user interaction would have to be redone to compensate for the lack of a mouse, but the power and OS services required to get the work done are there.
  • centhar - Friday, September 18, 2015 - link

    One issue here, the lack of a file system. It makes organization, copying, managing, importing and exporting of data impossible in iOS. Which is needed for apps to function for the user like their desktop bretheren. Reply
  • ws3 - Saturday, September 19, 2015 - link

    There is a file system, of course. But it is not exposed to the user.

    Apple's idea is that manual organization of the file system is an obsolete concept for most users. iOS apps allow you to import and export files without having direct file system access. Of course, due to the lack of direct file system access, the user has much less control over exactly how his files are organized, and must rely upon app-internal organization and cloud services to manage files.

    The claim being made by Apple haters is that full user access to the file system is absolutely necessary. The claim being made by Apple is that full user access to the file system is more complexity than most users need or are able to handle, and that in the long run it will be seen as no more necessary than the manual layout of data in main memory -- something that was seen as critically important in the early days of computing, but which now, of course, is completely irrelevant to everyone except people writing operating systems.

    It remains to be seen who is correct. I suspect Apple is, but we'll have to wait a while to find out.
  • osxandwindows - Sunday, September 20, 2015 - link

    How about file managers for iOS, I use them all the time Reply
  • Sc0rp - Wednesday, September 30, 2015 - link

    Why is it that people were creating stuff on primitive operating systems back in the 90's with far less power available than the iPad, yet for some reason you think that the iPad's os isn't developed enough and it can't be used for productivity. This is someone that used to use Mac OS7/8/9 back in the day and did a lot of producing on those systems, which were limited to cooperative multitasking. Reply
  • osxandwindows - Wednesday, September 16, 2015 - link

    Well I don't have to buy a new device every 3 years Reply
  • wylie102 - Monday, September 21, 2015 - link

    "The Apple people are stupid sheep who can't think for themselves, and I hate to break it to you, but Apple consumers are a very small market compared to the overall PC and tablet market."

    A sheep is someone who follows the crowd, yet you state in your next sentence that the crowd is overwhelmingly using windows.

    So which is it? You can't have it both ways.
  • robinthakur - Thursday, October 1, 2015 - link

    I use a MS Surface Pro 3 and own an iPad Air 2 and I think the gap has narrowed in terms of what the ipad can't do (especially with a keyboard like the optional surface pro 3 keyboard) now that MS Office Web Apps run on them which is 90% of what the majority of working people need it to do. Now, obviously the Surface can do far more as a full blown Windows machine, and the software for it generally exists already. I as a power user and developer enjoy having that much control of full Windows and I need it. However it also has the historic disadvantages of running full windows which made people stop using it i.e. overheating, updates, security problems etc and complexity. For the average user who has been using an iPad in meetings for the last 5 years, Surface as an option really wasn't good enough as it was underpowered, battery poor, too small and too expensive. They have now changed to work with iPad and are used to working around some of the limitations and adapting their workflows.

    The reality is that the majority of users can get by with an iPad running a modern iOS with the appropriate apps unless they are doing something specialised like Visio, Photoshop or Maya or whatever. Speaking to the influencers and people with the power in business to change this through my job, the general consensus is that while they do like the Surface 3, and can see why having mobile Windows devices operating with a Windows enterprise stack makes things like SharePoint, and other enterprise MS software a much easier proposition, the reality is that MS has also made all it's software far more iPad friendly because the frightening alternative was people moving away from using software that didn't work on the iPad completely. We have zero choice on making software compatible with iPad because that's what people are using, period, and this can't change overnight. Apple has not properly targeted the corporate market other than maiking the devices basically compatible with things like VPN, Active Sync etc. because they haven't had any competition, but it wouldn't surprise me if they started taking it a bit more seriously.

    I think MS don't help themselves by changing their minds and approach constantly on things like RT, Windows Apps and others. Businesses are only now starting to gain confidence that they are serious about the Surface program, and who is to say they won't decide to can it next year if the iPad Pro is a success and they want to focus on software and farm it out to Dell/Hp etc?

    So nobody doubts that the Surface Pro 3 is a more capable device because it just is, but is it an appropriate device in an App centric world where most enterprise software can be delivered through a thin, light, cool-running iPad with Mobile Safari as a tier 1 browser via Office 365?
  • lilmoe - Wednesday, September 16, 2015 - link

    "most Apple users would never dream of changing ecosystems"

    Opinions.... Most have no brand loyalty whatsoever, and will move to the newer "best thing" as claimed by their peers in a heartbeat.

    iPads are great consumption devices, even I was suckered into buying one because my dad wanted one (his friend told him it was the best....."rolling eyes"). They are successful in part because of the devices themselves (and the brand), but that's not the major reason why. The more important reason is the *lack* of proper/legitimate competition in the iPad's target market.

    Tablets running mobile OSs are NOT a necessity in peoples lives. They're more like a novelty some of us buy for "convenience", and are easily replaced by phablets for most consumers. Those who want one, and are willing to pay, will find the iPad very appealing for its performance, smoothness, and selection of media consumption and companion apps. It's a proven product in that respect, and those who're paying the premium don't want to deal with "other issues".

    Android has had lots of trouble getting its performance and framerate game together. Google, and it's utter failure to deliver is at fault. Samsung is NOT a software company, and no matter how good and feature rich their modifications to Android are, lots of people will still find them "clunky" because these modifications were never native to the OS. Google's recent versions of Android are too little, too late. While stock Android is now fast and smooth, it still doesn't stand a chance against Touchwiz in neither features nor usability. Let me say this straight for those who think Touchwix is bad; the absolute majority of consumers HATE stock Android with a passion (tech blogs and XDA are NOT the majority of consumers, not by a long shot). Let me say one more thing if that wasn't offensive enough for stock Android lovers: While I personally believe Android is the king of smartphones (for now), it is the very reason why the non-iPad tablet market is so bad, confusing, cheap, and has no future.

    Windows RT (now Windows 10 Mobile, without the desktop) was the absolute best mobile OS ever to be installed on an ARM powered tablet IMHO. But it had a mix of management, timing and media conception problems (and sabotage), resulting in the alienation of both users and devs.

    Microsoft are really late to the consumer game, so late it's painful. They shouldn't have settled for firing Sinofsky, and everyone else behind how Windows 8/RT was executed, they should make sure they never find a career in tech.

    The Surface Pro is very successful and popular because its intended audience know exactly how capable it is. These guys don't need extensive advertising.

    True, it's Android (or rather more accurately, Samsung) on smartphones that forced Apple to reconsider lots of their design decisions with their iPhones. But it's Windows that's forcing them to change the face of iOS on their iPads.

    There are 3 major markets for tablets:
    1) consumers (dominated by Apple)
    2) prosumers (spread among Apple and Microsoft, with some Android users here and there)
    3) professionals and content creators (dominated by Microsoft).

    Apple's latest updates to iOS and the iPad are primarily for maintaining the second type. Because the first type couldn't give a rat's behind how a productive a tablet is.

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