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iOS 9 doesn't need revolutionary features to transform our screens

Michael Simon | June 5, 2015
For seven years, Apple has maintained a relentless cycle of major iOS updates. It's not hard to see the progression: what started as a simple system with 11 basic apps and an inability to install any others has blossomed into a powerful platform with millions of games and utilities and seemingly limitless capabilities. Some things might have taken a bit too long to arrive (I'm looking at you, copy and paste!), but no one can criticize the breakneck pace that Apple has sustained. Every 12 months or so, Apple has unleashed a whole new batch of features and enhancements that have given each iOS version an identity of its own, not unlike the jungle cats and California landmarks attached to OS X releases.

And that customization could extend to the app shortcuts, too. iOS 8 already prompts us with location- and Handoff-based shortcuts, and if Apple can create these small monochrome renders on the fly, there's no reason they couldn't be displayed in the Control Center. Letting us choose any apps we wanted for the four shortcut slots could even be more valuable than widgets, letting developers offer quicks links to specific features or settings without the clutter or confinement of the Notification Center.

Talk to me

Apple offered up a bunch of surprising APIs for things like iCloud and Touch ID in iOS 8, but there was one that was noticeably missing: Siri. With the launch of Apple Watch, Siri has taken on a far greater role in the ecosystem, but third-party developer support would put in over the top.

Rumors already peg Siri as the star of Apple TV's (long-rumored, possibly delayed) new interface, but Apple's personal assistant is most at home on our mobile devices. Being able to quickly retrieve information, set appointments and identify songs is great when we don't have a moment to stop and tap, but its abilities stop at non-Apple apps.

The emergence of Touch ID as more than a secure unlocking tool has opened our eyes to the value of the technology, expanding its reach beyond simple convenience. In iOS 8, we can use our fingerprint to store and access all kinds of sensitive data, not to mention pay for things without reaching for our wallets or needing to repeatedly reenter strings of credit card numbers. And a Siri API would be just as eye-opening, letting it act as a true personal assistant, pulling information from all around our digital lives, not just Apple's apps. But perhaps more importantly, it could talk to us throughout the day, reminding us when we need to leave for a Fantastical appointment or getting the quickest route from Waze, as well as expanding its reach to all corners of the web.


The more powerful iOS becomes, the more the general lack of real multitasking becomes apparent. While the app-switching carousel helps us get in and out of apps as quickly as possible, and Continuity lets us transfer things we're working on between our devices, there's still a general sense that we're merely single-tasking quickly.

Splitscreen app multitasking obviously makes much more sense on the iPad, but Apple could leverage the power of iCloud and Handoff to create a unique experience that doesn't cram two apps into a 5-inch space. So, while we may never be able to watch a movie while browsing the web on our iPhone 6 Plus (though I'm not sure why you'd want to), Apple has laid an interesting framework for a cross-device multitasking experience.


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