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Review: iOS 9 delivers polish and stability

Michael deAgonia | Sept. 17, 2015
Apple's free update to its mobile OS delivers relevant information, smarter search and better security.

Bitcode: This is a new technology that, when applied, allows the App Store to recompile an app to its updated specs before it is downloaded to a device. Bitcode offers the potential benefits of automatically including improvements Apple engineers have made to the app's compiler. This means that if ever Apple decides to switch chip architectures or support new devices, developers won't have to resubmit their apps with updated code; Bitcode-enabled apps will automatically receive that support. (For now, this is optional for iOS 9 apps, but a requirement for watchOS 2 submissions.)

Search and Siri

iOS 9 aims to please by trying to make frequently accessed data readily available, and in some cases -- such as when entering a vehicle or while providing directions in GPS mode --- volunteering information ahead of time.

A left-to-right swipe from the Home Screen brings up the new Search area, which is separated into three sections: Siri Suggestions (which displays the last four contacts and the last four apps used); Nearby (which offers shortcuts to local points of interest, such as restaurants, bars, convenience stores and nightlife destinations); and News (which provides a list of local headlines and article snippets).

If four isn't enough for you, the Siri Suggestions and News sections have toggles for displaying more results. Pressing Show More displays the last eight contacts, the last eight apps, and the eight latest trending news topics.

ios0 siri media
The Siri Suggestions and News sections have toggles for displaying more results (left). iOS 9 offers proactive results, including tracking what you like to listen to on your way home (right). 

In Siri Suggestions, tapping a contact's avatar slides several methods of communication into view: telephone, messaging, FaceTime, and a shortcut to the contact card. Tapping on an app or News headline opens the respective app, as you'd expect. Tapping a point-of-interest category launches Maps, which then displays your location on a map, with pin drops representing locations for search results. The map is positioned over a text-based list of search results, which shows more information about the results, including Yelp data ratings, number of reviews, whether a location is open/closed and a picture/avatar representing the establishment.

Considering the convenience of the new Search screen, I'm surprised there isn't an option to make it the default Home Screen when the phone is unlocked.

Search can now comb through app data, displaying information inline with other results, though developers have to rewrite their apps to take advantage of this feature. Search also does conversions such as distance and weight, solves math problems, provides shortcuts so you can communicate with contacts from the search results, displays stock prices when a company name or ticker symbol is searched, and looks up and displays live scores and weather forecasts.


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