Apple's iOS 9, the latest version of the company's mobile operating system, is packed with productivity-boosting updates for workers. iOS 9 is set to debut on the new iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, as well as the forthcoming iPad Pro. It's also available to download on older iPhone and iPad models (iPhone 4s and later; iPad 2 and later). iOS 9 adds split-screen multitasking, an improved virtual-assistant app, a new Low Power Mode that will help you extend the battery life of your device, and a lot more.
Now that we've spent some time with iOS 9, here are the features we think will make the biggest difference for business users.
Better virtual assistant
Siri is smarter in iOS 9. The virtual-assistant app now understands commands in context, so you can say, for example, "Remind me about this later today," when you're reading an email. Siri is also more proactive, pushing alerts and reminders to you before you ask for them. For example, the app might send you a reminder about an upcoming appointment on your calendar, complete with your estimated travel time — taking current traffic into account — so you know when to leave. It works a lot like the Google Now virtual assistant on Android smartphones.
Plenty of Android tablets let you run two apps (or more) at the same time, in a split-screen view, but the functionality hasn't been available on the iPad until now. With the rollout of iOS 9, Apple is debuting two new multitasking modes. The first, called Slide Over — available on the iPad Air, iPad Air 2, iPad mini 2, iPad mini 3 and iPad mini 4 — lets you swipe in from the side to temporarily view a second app as an overlay. The other mode, dubbed Split View, lets you use two apps in a true split-screen view, and is available only on the more powerful iPad Air 2 and the upcoming iPad Pro. Neither mode is available on the iPhone — but to be fair, split-screen modes really aren't that useful on tiny smartphone displays.
Longer battery life
Apple says iOS 9 is more efficient, which will let you eke out an extra hour or so of battery life on a charge compared to iOS 8. But that's not the only way iOS 9 could extend the longevity of your device. When your phone or tablet is almost out of juice, a pop-up window will prompt you to enter Low Power Mode, which temporarily disables battery-draining background services. That means your device won't automatically fetch email or download app updates, as a few examples, which will provide a nice battery boost when you really need it. You also have the option to enable Low Power Mode straight from the Battery page of the Settings menu at any time.
A good keyboard is pretty important if you're using your mobile device for work. Thankfully, Apple is implementing a handful of simple tweaks that will make the iOS keyboard more usable. For example, the keyboard will finally display lowercase letters on the keys themselves when you don't have the Shift key engaged. Previously, the key labels always displayed capital letters, which made it tough to tell which character you were about to type.
Apple also improved the iPad keyboard to make it easier to edit and navigate emails and documents. For starters, there are handy new shortcuts at the top of the keyboard for frequently used features like copy and paste. Plus, swiping on the keyboard with two fingers activates a virtual trackpad, giving you better control over the cursor for more precise edits.
Navigating your iPhone's Settings menu can be a real chore, especially when you can't seem to locate the exact item you need. Thankfully, a new search box at the top of the main menu will make those scavenger hunts a thing of the past. Instead of racking your brain, trying to remember which screen shows the current data usage on your smartphone plan, simply type in the word "data," and jump right to it. Ultimately, it's another feature that will help you spend less time fussing with your smartphone and more time being productive.
A good navigation app is crucial when you need to be somewhere for an appointment, but until now, Apple's default Maps app lacked one crucial functionality: public transit directions. In iOS 9, Maps can finally get you where you need to go on the bus or the subway.
Apple also updated its Notes app, which had been rather basic, to bring it more in line with competing apps like Evernote and OneNote. For example, users can now easily create checklists and to-do lists, and mark items off with a few taps. Plus, it's easier to import photos and links from other applications into your notes. Apple also added the ability to write and draw in the app using your fingertip.