Monday’s announcement of iOS 9 brought a raft of new features that aim to turn the iPad into more than just a big iPhone. Sure, iPad specific apps have often had a dual pane view (e.g. Outlook letting you view a list of emails on one pane and an individual email on the other pane) but this limited functionality aside, the iPad was just a large version of the iPhone. iOS 9 aims to change all of this.
While some of the new iOS 9 features apply to all iOS devices, Apple did reveal several iPad specific features and even dedicated part of the keynote to these, revealing how the new OS turns the iPad into the device we all wanted it to be. I’ve been running iOS 9 on my iPad Mini 2 for the past few days so let’s take a look at a few of the new features that will transform your iPad.
The biggest change in iOS 9 is three new multitasking features that aim to transform the way you use your iPad for productivity: Slide over, Split View and Picture in Picture.
Slide over is the feature you’ll probably use the most as it ca be activated within any app by swiping left from the right side of the iPad. The gesture brings up a small pane that takes up 30 percent of the display and displays a second app alongside the first one. Choosing a new app for the side pane is as simple as swiping downwards from the top of the pane.
Over the past two days, I’ve used Slide Over all the time and the real-world benefits are phenomenal; previously, if you were reading an email and needed to check something in Slack or another app, you would have to exit out of the email, go into the other app and go back again.
With Slide over, you simply pull up the other app in the slide view and when you’re done with it, you swipe it away. It’s worth noting that Slide over doesn’t let you use two apps at once as when you’re using an app in the pane, the other app is relegated to the background but it does make multitasking quite a bit easier.
Picture in Picture
Another feature that you’ll also find useful is the new Picture in Picture mode, which lets you watch a playing video or ongoing FaceTime call while you’re using another app. Activating Picture in Picture is as simple as pressing the home button when in a FaceTime call or watching a video, which then brings up the small pop up window.
Similar to the pop up window found in the YouTube app on Android (and on Samsung Galaxy devices), the window is omnipresent no matter what other app you are using. However, the one irritating thing I’ve found is the positioning of the pop up window, which is limited to either of the four corners and not anywhere on the display like on Android. That being said, it’s a seriously useful feature and although Apple is playing catch up, it’s definitely a feature you’ll use a lot.
The real multitasking feature in iOS 9 is Split View, which does exactly what it says: it lets you open two apps side-by-side. There’s only one slight problem with it; you can only use it if you have the newest iPad Air 2 (and presumably any iPad Apple releases going forward).
This means I’ve not been able to experience it on the iPad Mini 2 and that’s a shame as the feature is the only real multitasking element of iOS 9. To activate Split View, you just need to open up Slide Over and then pull the Slide Over app further towards the middle of the display; this will then open Split View with each app side-by-side and both apps can be used independently of each other.
Overall, the three new multitasking features certainly transform the way you use the iPad and having been accustomed to the advanced multitasking offered by Android tablets like the Galaxy Tab S, its great to see these features available to iPad users.
An intelligent iOS
From iPad specific to the iOS 9 features that will also impact the iPhone and iPod Touch 5th Gen. One of the biggest things that Apple have tried to do is make its new OS more “intelligent” which has added three features:
Proactive suggestions is arguably the biggest feature addition in iOS 9 and this turns the iPad into more than just a tablet; it becomes a tool to manage your work and life. Proactive suggestions are system-wide and are designed to offer up information, apps and recommendations at appropriate times, in a similar way to Google Now on Android. Once you begin using iOS 9, the system learns how you use your iPad (or iPhone) and can make recommendations based upon this information.
For example, if you always listen to music in the morning, it will automatically open the Music app when you plug in your headphones and display the playlist right on your lockscreen. If you use a specific app in your car, it might open this automatically when you connect to your car using Bluetooth.
iOS 9 can also create suggested calendar events when you receive an email with flight confirmations or restaurant reservations and look at upcoming calendar appointments to tell you when to leave based on current traffic conditions.
During the past few days, its been difficult to really experience the full capabilities of proactive suggestions but it has begun to offer me food apps in the evening when it thinks I might want to grab some dinner. Proactive suggestions will only get better with more use so I’ll come back and update this at a later date.
The new Siri
With the addition of contextual awareness to iOS 9, Siri can now recognise contextual commands and even specific locations.
E.g. if you receive an email with a request, you can ask Siri to “Remind me to do this when I get home”, Siri will look in the email and recognise the “this” you are asking for a reminder on. It will then add a reminder and only display it when it recognises you get home and the event in Reminders will also show you a link to the original conversation.
However, I’ve got a Wi-Fi only iPad Mini which doesn’t have a GPS chip and this means Siri can’t set up location based reminders on my iPad but if you have a Cellular iPad or an iPhone, you should be alright. Contextual awareness also applies to other apps and third-party apps as well. With iOS 9, you can ask Siri to “show me photos from my trip to Europe in February” and it will only display pictures taken from that trip in February.
Smarter Search and Siri
iOS 9 also sees the return of the search window, which was present in older versions of Apple’s OS, before being replaced by a swipe-down window. In iOS 9, the search window is available by swiping left from the home screen in addition to the swipe-down search window.
The key difference to the search window is the addition of Siri Suggestions, which includes a list of people you communicate with often, apps you use at specific times of the day, nearby venues like restaurants (at lunchtime) or petrol stations (when you’re driving) and news you might find interesting.
For example, if it knows you open the Nandos app at lunch, it might offer the app as a suggestion at noon. If you listen to your music on the journey home, it might start playing music when it recognises you’re on your way home. At breakfast, it might display nearby restaurants and venues that are open and serve breakfast so you can grab some food.
The search has also been upgraded, allowing you to search anything that Siri can access. From sports results and schedules to weather, stock, recipes inside a particular app or more, the new iOS search has a lot of features. You can also do simple maths calculations – such as a quarter of 120 – which will give you the right answer.
While the multitasking and proactive suggestions are the two key major changes in iOS 9, there’s a few other features that will help you get the most out of the new OS.
The Notes app has been almost transformed with the new app now offering a set of tools that lets you insert reminders-style checkboxes and a sketch feature that lets you draw on the iPad with a collection of pens and paints using just your finger. The share box has also been upgraded to include a Notes option, which lets you attach content from other apps in Notes.
For example, sharing a webpage to Notes will let you add the URL while selecting share from a Pages document will let you add the entire document to Notes. The new notes apps is designed to challenge Evernote and from our first hands on, it definitely has its uses. If you have an iPad stylus, you’ll find the sketch function easy to use and very useful.
This is one of my favourite additions in iOS 9 – the QuickType keyboard has gained a new Shortcut bar that houses editing tools such as cut, copy and paste. This makes it incredibly simple to edit and format text and third-party apps can customise these to provide contextual options that are pertinent to that particular app.
The other changes in the QuickType keyboard apply to both the iPad and the iPhone and make it easy to change the cursor. Placing two fingers anywhere on the screen (including on the keyboard) lets you drag the cursor and quickly select, copy, cut or paste and it is a lot easier to control the cursor compared to iOS 8 and before.
iOS 9 – First Impressions
There’s a lot of other features included in iOS 9 which aims to improve the overall iPad experience but here I’ve tried to show you the features that add much needed functionality to your iPad. Having a Wi-Fi only iPad makes it difficult to take advantage of the various location-based features that have been added in iOS 9 but chances are, these are most likely designed for iPhone users or those who use their iPad without needing a tethered connection.
The range of other under the hood updates to the OS include optimisations to the battery life, a much smaller installation size – you now only need 1.3GB available space to install iOS 9 versus 4.6GB on iOS 8 – and enhanced pass codes, which now ask for six digits instead of four.
I’ve been very vocal about how the iPad was nothing more than a large iPhone and it had very little use but iOS 9 has certainly forced me to reconsider. It’s very frustrating that the Split View is limited to just the iPad Air 2 – although this is probably due to the hardware requirements – but the other multitasking features vastly improve the overall experience.
Apple has many months of development before it plans to release iOS 9 to all users but the public beta launches next month, which means the OS should be relatively stable by then. With plenty of time to optimise and improve the OS, we may yet see Apple introduce additional features by the time it is officially released this fall, which is expected to be September.
We will of course be installing each iOS 9 beta update as it’s released and if we spot any new features or improvements, we’ll be sure to let you know, so stay tuned! Want to know something specific about iOS 9 on the iPad? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll see if we can help out!