The latest version of iOS has arrived.
Apple released a public beta of iOS 9 last week, an update that brings the company's News app, a revamped Siri and new multi-tasking features to iPhones and iPads.
But unlike iOS 8, which brought some of the biggest changes to the platform to date, the changes in iOS 9 are mostly subtle — though significant.
The software is still very much a beta, which means there are bugs. Unless you have a secondary device with a recent backup, it may be best to hold off downloading this version.
That said, many of the most powerful changes — like upgrades to Siri, search and Maps — are already very promising. Apple says it will release more updates in the coming weeks, so these features are likely to get even more fine-tuned before iOS 9's official release.
Here's a look at some of our favorite features so far.
1. Search suggestions
One of the most prevalent themes throughout iOS 9 is smarter, more relevant, search. This is most evident in the new search suggestions menu, which adds an almost Google Now-like experience to iOS.
Swipe right from your main home screen to get a personalized set of recommendations and news. The suggestions include a set of intelligently selected contacts, apps, news and places nearby based on your previous behavior and the time of day.
2. App switching
The app switcher now has a card-like design that makes it easier to flip through your open apps. The feature has also removed iOS 8's contacts shortcuts that showed people who you had recently messaged or called — likely because these now appear in the search suggestions.
3. Siri: contextual questions
Another significant change is iOS 9's emphasis on Siri. A big improvement to Apple's assistant — and one that goes a long way toward bringing Siri to the same level as Cortana and Google Now — is the addition of context. You can now ask followup questions without restating the original query, which makes searching much more conversational.
4. Siri: better at searching
Likewise, Siri is also a lot better at searching through the contents of your phone. She is now able to respond to commands like "show me photos from last June."
5. Revamped Notes app
Though still not the most robust, the latest version of this app comes with a series of new formatting options and the ability to add photos, maps and doodles to individual notes.
6. Maps: public transit directions
Apple is finally beginning to roll out support for public transportation, including buses, subways and ferries, to directions in Maps. The feature will only support transit directions in a handful of cities to start — San Francisco, New York, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Chicago and Philadelphia in the U.S. — but the company plans to eventually expand the feature.
7. Maps: improved search
The search within Maps is also getting a much-needed overhaul, with greatly improved browsing capabilities and new topic-based search suggestions.
8. News app
The first version of the News app shows promise. Choose the publications and types of news you're most interested in following, and the app curates stories based on your preferences. News also aims to surface recommendations based on your previous behavior; the suggestions you see should improve over time.
9. Searchable settings menu
In a small but significant update, the main Settings app is now completely searchable. This means you no longer need to waste time digging through layers of menus just to make small tweaks to your apps.
10. Notifications Menu
Rather than organize notifications by app, iOS 9 orders notifications chronologically so the most recent are always at the top. The change makes it much easier to catch up on notifications you may have otherwise missed.
11. Smarter search
In addition to searching the contents of your phone and basic web searches, built-in search can now perform simple conversions and calculations.
12. Photos: selfie album
The Photos app has a dedicated album for selfies. The app automatically pulls in relevant photos for quick access to all your selfies.
13. Shift key
It's a small tweak that you'll likely notice immediately: Apple has adjusted the native iOS keyboard so the case of the letters changes with the shift key. Previously, letters were always capitalized, even when the shift key wasn't enabled, which was often a source of confusion.
14. Navigation between apps
Think of it like a "back" button for iOS. When you switch to a new app from, say, search, iOS now includes a small navigational menu in the top left corner that lets you easily get back to the previous app.
15. Siri: app suggestions
If you have tons of apps, Spotlight Search is by far the fastest way to find what you're looking for. With iOS 9, this search gets even easier as Siri will automatically provide suggestions on apps to launch based on your previous habits and time of day.
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