During the keynote address yesterday at WWDC (Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference), CEO Tim Cook and other Apple executives had lots of announcements that relate to the Mac, iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch. Today, I focus just on the announcements that concern iOS 9, the operating system for the iPhone and iPad that Apple will release as a free upgrade this Fall — my guess is September of 2015, but we'll see. Apple may be holding back some new features so that there are still some surprises later this year, but based on what Apple showed off yesterday, lawyers and other professionals who use an iPhone and iPad to get work done will find lots to love in iOS 9. Here are the new features that jumped out at me.
Multiple windows on the iPad
If you have a newer iPad, you will be able to be much more productive with new features for using multiple windows at the same time. First, you can swipe from the right side so that a Slide-Over window covers the right edge of your current window. In that window, you can temporarily access another app without leaving the app in which you are currently working. So just like you can now swipe up from the bottom of the screen on an iPad to launch the Control Center, in iOS 9 you can swipe in from the right to launch another app that temporarily covers up the right part of the screen of your current app. This should make it much easier to quickly get some information from another app.
Second, you can enable a Split View so that you run two apps side-by-side at the same time. For example, you can look up information in Safari while you are simultaneously writing something in another app. The split view is resizable, so you can either give two apps 50% of the screen, or have one app have more of the screen while another app has a smaller portion.
I can see it being really useful to use the Microsoft Word app on the right part of my screen while I am looking at a PDF document in GoodReader in the left part of my screen. And Split Screen would be even more useful if Microsoft brings the great Reflow view that is in the iPhone version of Word to the iPad. That way, the text can be larger when Word is only filling up one part of your screen. For attorneys like me who leave the laptop at home and just take an iPad when traveling to a deposition, meeting, etc., tools like this are great for increasing productivity.
Third, a picture-in-picture mode lets you continue to watch a video in a small window while you are using another app. You can move that small video window around your screen (so that it isn't covering up something that you need to see or tap), and there are controls to play, pause, etc. even while a video is in the small picture-in-picture mode. I'm not sure how useful this is as a productivity feature, but it will certainly be fun.
To take advantage of some of these new features (such as two apps running at the same time), you'll need to have an iPad Air 2. Thus, you may not be able to use these features with your current iPad, but they will work with your next iPad. And if the rumors are true about Apple releasing an iPad with a larger screen later this year, these features would be even more valuable with the increased screen real estate.
Improvements to the iPad keyboard
When the keyboard is visible in iOS 9, if you touch the keyboard with two fingers instead of one finger, the keyboard dims and turns into a virtual trackpad that you can use to control the cursor. It is similar to how you might use a mouse or trackpad to control a cursor on a PC or a Mac. You can also use this feature to quickly select text. I can't wait to try this one in person, but it looks like a big boost to productivity once you get used to it.
Also, just above the keyboard, there are now small icons on the left that you can tap to quickly cut, copy and paste. On the right there are small icons that can be used to format text. And these new buttons can be app-specific, so developers can provide the most useful buttons for each specific app.
If you use an external keyboard, there are new keyboard shortcuts. By far the most useful to me will be Command-Tab (or Control-Tab) to switch apps, just like you can do on an PC or Mac.
Improved shift key
Speaking of the keyboard, have you ever looked at the shift key on the iPhone or iPad screen only to find yourself confused whether shift was on or off? It happens to me all of the time, even though I really should know better by now. In iOS 9, the keys on the keyboard change to lower case when shift is off and upper case when shift is on, making it far more obvious which mode you are in. Amen.
6 > 4
You may not like this change at first, but it a security improvement so it is good for you. If you have a newer iPhone or iPad with Touch ID (the fingerprint sensor), in iOS 9 you will be required to use a six digit pin to unlock the device instead of a four digit pin.
The change from four to six numbers means that there are a million different possible passcodes, versus 10,000 with four digits. This should make it harder for a malicious hacker to gain access to your iPhone or iPad without your permission.
Fortunately, you still only have to enter the pin after a restart; otherwise your fingerprint can still serve as your password.
Siri will be more intelligent in iOS 9. For example, Siri will have more awareness of what you are doing, so that if you are, say, looking at a web page and you tell Siri "remind me of this later," Siri will know that you want a reminder to go back to that web page. You will also be able to ask Siri to remind you of something when you get into the car. And Siri will do a better job of understanding how you use your device so that it offers more helpful advice. Apple calls the added intelligence in Siri "Proactive Assistant."
Siri will also look different, more like how Siri looks on the Apple Watch. Also, your device will also quickly vibrate to indicate that Siri has started to listen to you.
It will now be faster to find the photograph that you want because there will be a new scrubber (tiny thumbnails) at the bottom of the screen in the Photos app. This should make it faster to jump to the right picture.
More battery life
Apple says that improvements across iOS should result in your device getting about an hour of additional battery life. Everyone will love that.
One specific and interesting example of saving battery life: an iPhone running iOS 9 will be able to sense when it is face down on a table and, if so, won't light up when there is an incoming notification.
But what if that isn't enough? Do you ever find yourself down to just an hour of battery life left on your iPhone or iPad when you know you need it to last longer? iOS 9 gives you the option, in Settings, to turn on a Lower Power Mode. This dims the screen and makes other changes to the device, which should give you about three more hours instead of one. You'll lose some functionality (new email won't show up automatically, apps won't refresh in the background, motion effects and animated wallpapers will turn off, etc.), but when you are running out of power and getting desperate, the tradeoffs will likely be worth it.
Improved Notes app
I sometimes use the built-in Notes app to quickly jot something down, and this will be easier in iOS 9. For example, the Notes app in iOS 9 supports sketching, so you can draw a quick diagram or other shape when necessary. Your notes in iOS 9 can include bullet or numbered lists, checkable lists (useful for a grocery or packing list where you tap an item when it is done), formatted text, images, etc. Apple says that half of all users use the Notes app, so these improvements will help a lot of people.
Another way to search
Ever since iOS 7, you could pull down from the middle of a home screen to search on your iPhone. In iOS 9, this gesture remains, but you can also swipe to the left of your first home screen (the way that search worked in iOS 6) to get not only a search bar but also suggested search items.
Perhaps the most useful improvement to Maps will be the integration of public transit maps and schedules for buses, trains, subways, etc. The only U.S. cities to support this feature at launch will be New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Baltimore and Washington D.C., plus it will work in cities in other countries such as Berlin, London, Mexico City and Toronto, and will work in a larger number of cities in China. I'll appreciate this feature whenever I travel to these cities — I especially look forward to trying it in New York — and I'm sure that even more cities will be added in the future. The Transit feature will even understand all of the different entrances/exits in a subway.
Maps also gains the ability to show you certain establishments that are nearby your current location.
Switching to the iPhone
I've heard from quite a few attorneys who tell me that they use an iPad, but they also use an Android phone, although they are thinking of making the switch to iPhone. There are lots of advantages to using an iPhone if you use an iPad, such as universal apps that you can buy once and use on both platforms, handoff between iPhone and iPad, and the large number of legal-specific apps on the iPhone that simply don't exist on Android.
Yesterday, Apple announced a new set of apps for Android and iPhone called Move to iOS. These apps ease the transition from Android to iPhone. The apps move your contacts, message history, photos etc. from your old device to the new device. They download on the iPhone all of the free apps that you used to use on Android, and give you an App Store wishlist for the paid apps that you used on Android and will have to purchase again for the iPhone. These apps also move your DRM-free media such as songs and videos.
Switchers will only need to use this app once, but for that one use I suspect it will be very useful. It has to be much better than the current way of moving everything manually.
And the rest...
Those are the big new features for me, but there are other changes as well. For example, the App Switcher will look different, but I'll have to try it to see whether I think it is an improvement. A new News app will present information from different sources – newspapers, magazines, websites, etc. — in a single, beautiful interface. (It looks similar to Flipboard, if you have used that app.) Apple Pay will soon support merchant rewards cards.
Apple also is improving the parts of iOS that you don't see every day, stuff that should make iOS faster and more stable. (This is probably how Apple was able to get more battery life in iOS 9.)
Put it all together, and all of us who use an iPad and iPhone to get work done should find that we can be even more productive with iOS 9, all without getting new hardware. Having said that, you know that around the same time that iOS 9 comes out, Apple will have some tempting new iPads and iPhones as well.