(Pocket-lint) - The mobile world is changing. We are using our devices, whether that's a smartphone or a tablet, more and more and mobile-centric companies are starting to take note.
So is Apple's latest version of iOS - iOS 9 - a move in the right direction, or merely the company playing catchup against the likes of Android and Windows 10? We've been using the new operating system on the iPhone and the iPad to find out.
Apple's iOS 9 is polished, slick and advanced. The new features make it a far more useful OS than before and one that will be welcomed by many.
It is still Apple being Apple though. The ideas here claim to be new, and in their implementation are, but they aren't new to the industry.
That's no problem to the millions of iPhone and iPad users around the world, they all get new tricks, toys, and enhancements, but for the naysayers and Android fans it's all too easy to brag they had it first.
Of course Apple won't care about that but merely say if that's the case there is no reason not to move over to the iOS ecosystem, to a world where everything feels familiar, but in its mind slightly better executed.
Apple iOS 9
- Continues to blur the lines between laptop and mobile operating systems
- Low Power Mode
- Greater connectivity between apps and services
- Many will argue it's not innovative enough for Apple
iOS 9 design
On the surface Apple's new interface doesn't look to have changed. To use the company's new slogan for the iPhone 6S "the only thing that's changed is everything" and that is the same experience here in the software.
Look closely and the font is different for example. It is now Apple's own designed San Francisco font. Already used on the Apple Watch and soon to be used on the Mac, it changes the appearance of the interface ever so slightly. Those looking for differences will notice the "a" loses the trailing tail on downstroke, and in typographic terms the kerning (the space between the letters) is wider than before breathing more air into the lettering.
Elsewhere, swiping right reveals a new search and suggestions panel, while a double tap of your home screen gives you a chance to see open apps, as you've been able to do in iOS 8, but with more of a stacked view.
That stacked view gives you a greater ability to see what's going on, but does feel more cluttered compared to the previous arrangement. One bonus however is that you can now use multiple fingers to swipe multiple cards away at the same time. There might not be a close all button still, but at least you can close all your apps (if that's your bugbear) a lot quicker.
iOS 9 battery
Forget everything else, you want to know whether the iPhone will get you through the day any better than it did before. The answer is that it will, but it will still come down to how power hungry certain apps are. From Apple's point of view it seems to be doing everything it can. iOS 9 brings a number of new battery saving features and ones that we've noticed in use.
If your iPhone is in your pocket, or face down on the table at a meeting, it won't bother waking the screen to give you notifications that you won't see. The operating system also tries to be a lot more intelligent in using elements of the device that drain battery. Not to the extent that it noticeably affects performance, but when you aren't looking.
The biggest new feature is the introduction of a Low Power Mode that you can turn on at any point, or are prompted to turn on at the 20 per cent and 10 per cent warning notifications.
When you turn the feature on it disables or reduces background app refresh, auto-downloads, Mail fetch, and more. So far in our tests we've been really impressed with the performance. Our iPhone 6 used only 15 per cent of battery in 12 hours with it on, while an iPhone 6 Plus lasted a similar 24 hours for 29 per cent of battery.
If you are in desperate need to get to the end of the day, this should ensure that happens. Of course if you carry on using the phone every second to check power hungry apps like Facebook and Twitter, we've found the battery saving mode makes little difference.
iOS 9: Working mobile
The way we work has changed. It is not just about checking emails on the go, or editing a document from the sofa. Every mobile-focused company has spotted this and is attempting to present a solution. Microsoft, probably regarded as the most successful of the crowd, has quickly moved to become a services company regardless of your platform, delivering fantastic apps that enhance productivity.
Apple's approach isn't anything new, however it has managed to create tools that just work. Take the multi-screen approach on the iPad with iOS 9 for example. If apps support it, and many already do, you can simply drag your finger from the right of the screen to reveal other apps that you can spilt screen.
Because of the way Apple has designed it, you simply get the iPhone or portrait version of the app, so everything works and the experience is easier and vastly superior to the somewhat awkward approach of spilt screen apps in Mac OS X El Capitan.
Spilt screen is not the only feature that works better than the desktop, Spotlight search and proactive app suggestion is also something that is likely to change the way you work on the go.
Proactive suggestion is based around what apps you use and when you use them to actively try and give you the app button you're looking for rather than searching for it in a buried folder, while Spotlight search now goes one step further by looking into your emails and recommending people you might be looking for.
Now search is much better in its suggestions, joining the dots much better. Search for a company and you get the employees of that company based on email signatures for example. It makes the system much more powerful. It's not clever, nor is it new as a technology, but Apple's execution makes it work well.
For many, and these are heavy words, the ability to use the iPad as a sole computer is getting nearer. If you are looking for a device to surf the web, write the odd document, or keep in touch with others via social networking we can't think why you would need a laptop any more.
The iPad seemingly has it all. Business apps, creative apps, fun apps, and better connectivity than your laptop too, and iOS 9 only pushes the argument that we are in a post-PC era further.
iOS 9: Shortcuts and a focus on the ecosystem
Aside from enhancing the mobile working capabilities, the other major element to iOS 9 is the tying together of all the Apple apps in such a way that you might question using third-party offerings.
Apple now offers a handy back button for example to help you quickly return to the app you where previous using. Replacing the signal strength on the menu bar, you can zip back to the previous app if you've gone app-to-app within an app (back to Facebook from Safari for example).
There are other elements to the new OS that you've seen before, but will be happy to see here as well. Picture-in-picture is a new feature that lets you use FaceTime or watch a video while doing other stuff. Previously on your TV a decade ago, it's now on your iPad to enjoy as well, while the new 3D Touch feature on the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus has you peeking into other apps from apps like Mail, Safari, Contacts, or anyone who is keen to support it.
Both are welcomed, and from the brief play we've had of 3D Touch at the Apple event in California, will be very welcomed for many users.
Then there are other updates to apps like Apple's iMovie that now supports 4K editing (again a 6S and 6S Plus exclusive), Notes gets new features, There's ad-blocking support in Safari, and a stack of other features to other Apple apps all designed to enhance and improve where it can. Photos gets Live Photos. The new photo feature adds movement to your pictures as long as you are sharing images within the Apple ecosystem. While you need an iPhone 6S or 6S Plus to shoot Live Photos, anyone running iOS 9 can receive them and enjoy.
There are still things missing. We would love to see greater parental controls for example.
iOS 9: Smart is not always smarter
Apple's new iOS 9 interface is its smartest yet, but that doesn't mean its smarter than anything else. Google, Microsoft and others have been pushing the "intelligent" angle for some time and Apple has handicapped itself somewhat by not working to completely scrape all your data from every single entry point like Google. What it learns is from your device and your device only, that means when it comes to you upgrading your phone in the future all that data it has learnt will be lost. It also means that it won't be able to look at your wider profile and work out what you like or what you want.
In the world Apple lives in, it believes that this is the right approach, the safer, more polite approach to everything. Its argument is that Google's approach is more invasive.
Apple's proactive intelligence is a safer route if you are concerned about your data, but as we've seen, one that comes with caveats.
Apple News: Is it the future?
Apple News at first glance is a gorgeous and fast news reader. No one will argue that. But it also feels like any other RSS reader (like Flipboard), because it's nothing ground-breaking. One of the most interesting aspects about the app, in fact, goes on in the back-end. Apple actually made a digital publishing format that allows publishers to create their own layouts, meaning they can control how their content appears in Apple News. Most news readers tend to strip design, branding, and advertising from articles, and then they display clean, clutter-free copy for you to skim through.
Apple's unique approach reminds us a lot of how the Discover feature works in Snapchat. Snapchat partnered with various media publications in order to deliver visual, interactive, and ephemeral versions of their news articles to Snapchat users, but it allows publishers to create the entire look and feel of their Snapchat stories.
CNN, Buzzfeed and many others, are creating entertaining snippets of their news articles and publishing them to Snapchat - and it looks like Apple is attempting a similar strategy with Apple News. Media publications want to be their own publishing platforms at the end of the day, so they can have editorial freedom and can handle their own advertising and tracking, but by giving them some control over their content, like Snapchat did, they could be encouraged to take advantage of Apple News and create rich layouts for it.
When Apple first showed off Apple News at WWDC 2015, it announced a few media publications were already on board, so you'll notice some articles from those publications are live and appear really rich in Apple News, while other publications have articles slightly formatted to Apple News' clean style. In some instances, you might also tap on an article and only see basic stuff like a lead image and paragraph, but then if you continue swiping up, the actual article page will load within Apple News. Safari doesn't need to open or anything like that. It's a seamless experience.
The first time you load Apple News you'll have to select at least three publications or broad topics so that the app can curate relevant content for you. There's also a stationary menu bar that runs along the bottom of every screen within the app. It houses tabs for the following screens: For You, Favourites, Explore, Search, and Saved.
For You is where Apple News collects all your news in one place. You can see publications and broad topics you're interested in under the Favourites section, while Explore suggests more stuff to read based on what you've previously read. Search lets you add more publications and topics. And finally, Saved is a read-it-later feature. Apple News adds a little flag icon to the bottom corner of every article, and tapping that flag will add the article to Saved so you can read it later. Under Saved, you can also see a history overview of every article you've ever read in Apple News.
When viewing any article in Apple News, you can "like" it (tap the heart symbol) as well as access Apple's system-wide Share menu to send it to others. Simple stuff here, but that's the point. News readers are supposed to be light. Apple News just takes the the visual look of a magazine and merges it with the immediacy of digital media - almost. Although you can follow news from over a million topics, fetch news based on your interests, and pull articles from your favourite sites and sources (including Pocket-lint), you probably shouldn't use Apple News for up-to-the-minute news.
Apple News - during our testing, at least - doesn't always surface articles as they're published, and we even noticed some stories were a few days old yet being shown to us as if they were just posted. If you're a hardcore news junkie, you might want to stick to Twitter or your existing RSS reader to ensure you're getting the latest news as it happens. In our opinion, Apple News is only ideal for compiling all your news sources into one place. (You can even add publications to Apple News; just go to the site's RSS feed in Safari, then share it, and add it to News.)
We think Apple News is a pretty aggregator, nothing more and nothing less. But that could change over time - especially if media publishers fully embrace it.
Apple's new platform is its best yet