Guide to iOS 9: Everything You Need to Know

Our guide to iOS 9 is here to soothe your software updating fears. In Apple's latest iOS update, Siri gets an IQ boost, Apple introduces ProActive suggestions, performance and security improves, and old Apps get new life. We’ll tour the major changes, explore some helpful tweaks, and look at iPad-specific updates.     


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Apple's new Google Now-like service, Proactive, can save you time spent navigating your iPhone by learning your schedule and offering timely, contextual recommendations. For example, when you get in your car to leave work, Proactive might send you a notification showing traffic conditions and time-saving route suggestions. If you work out every morning, you can plug in your earphones and the music playback controls will already be on your Lock screen. If you often buy coffee, Proactive will suggest your local coffee shop’s app for tracking stamps towards a free drink. While you’re buying that coffee, if you get an email invitation to an evening dinner party, Proactive will ask if you'd like to add that event to your Calendar. 

Siri + Spotlight

Intelligence is the name of the game in iOS 9. Not only is Siri continually getting sassier, but the AI is getting smarter. Siri can now remind you about the content of apps such as an event in Messages or an article in Safari at a later time, search photos by date and location, and it is taking over Spotlight.

Spotlight, which is now known as Siri Suggestions and is opened by swiping left from your Home screen, could previously only search through certain data on your phone, such as finding an app or an email or a song. With iOS 9, Siri can now search the content of third-party apps and go deeper on the web. Siri now scours the web, apps on your iPhone, and more, then organizes the results by category. You can also access frequent Contacts, get suggestions for useful nearby locations that change according to the time of day, and read the latest headlines. 

At WWDC 2015 Craig Federighi demonstrated how this improved search works using the example of potatoes. Using Spotlight, he searched for "potatoes." The app Yummly, already downloaded on his phone, suggested recipes including potatoes which he could then view in the app. 


What's New in Apps


Apple has added transit directions to Maps. If you live in a city with bus service or a subway system, you can now navigate public transit with the Maps app. 


Taking what was virtually a useless app, Apple has given Notes an upgrade with the ability to sketch, add photos and website links, and create to-do lists. Say you find a recipe online that you want to make for dinner, you can now share the link to a Note, create a shopping list, and check off ingredients as you go. 


Goodbye, Newsstand: I don’t know anyone who actually used you. Welcome to News app. The navigation is simple, but the content is top-notch. In the new News app, you can easily follow your favorite magazines and journals, visit your personalized newsfeed, and scroll through subjects and stories of interest to you. Especially in today’s world, with so much news and media coming from all directions, the new News app is (dare I say) delightful.


For the first time, Mail allows you to add attachments when composing from your iPhone. In the same way you’d attach a video or photo, you can now attach a document from your Dropbox or the new iCloud Drive app (below).


Apple has included reproductive wellness in the Health app update. With the ability to track data such as basal body temperature, menstruation, and sexual activity. You can also now find hydration and UV light monitoring.


A search bar is now included in Settings. You no longer have to browse through various menus to find what you’re looking for; instead you can find what you need with a simple search. This update is a huge time and frustration saver.

Apple Music

The “Shuffle All” button is back. We lost this feature with the addition of Apple Music in iOS 8.4. I was personally devastated to lose this button; luckily, it’s back! Also new to iOS 9 is the ability to adjust audio playback  and control audio quality.

iCloud Drive

In iOS 8, I admittedly had no clue how to find things saved in iCloud Drive. Clearly I wasn’t alone in this, because Apple has made it possible to add an iCloud Drive app to your Home Screen. This makes it incredibly easy to sort, add, remove, and view files stored in the iCloud across all of your devices. 


Helpful Tweaks

The iOS 9 update is truly about improving all the little things. These little things add up to a lot less frustration and fewer general "hiccups" when using your device. We’ll take a look at some of those little tweaks below.​


If you’ve ever had the experience of an unreliable Wi-Fi signal, you’ll appreciate Apple’s simple solution. With iOS 9, there’s now Wi-Fi Assist. If your connection is faulty, Wi-Fi Assist will automatically switch to your cellular data plan. You can also disable the feature via Settings.

Battery Life

In the past, a battery level of 15 percent meant your phone was as good as dead. Now, when your iPhone is running out of juice, you’re prompted to switch over to Low Power Mode. A simple solution to extending your battery life until you can plug it in, Low Power Mode reduces or turns off power-draining functions such as mail fetch, background app refresh, automatic downloads, and some visual effects. 


To boost phone security, Apple is introducing a six-digit passcode. This allows for a vastly expanded number of possible lock combinations; however, the option to use a four-digit passcode is still available.

Storage Space

The biggest issue with iOS 8 was its size (nearly 5 GB); Apple heard our cries of storage space woe, fitting all the new iOS 9 updates into 1.3 GB of space. Apple has also included an Insufficient Space For Download option. If necessary, when upgrading to iOS 9, your phone will request permission to temporarily delete applications taking up the needed space and will reinstall those apps afterwards, with no data lost. 

Keyboard Shift

Another small but helpful change is the Shift key’s function. Before the keyboard was always capitalized; however, now the keyboard’s letters are lowercase unless the Shift key is highlighted, or the new function is turned off in your Settings.

Go Back To...

For ease of navigation, there’s now a (tiny) button in the upper left hand corner of your screen. If you follow a link from Spotlight Search into an app, such as Twitter, a button will appear, allowing you to return directly to the previous app..


Apple Pay

Apple Pay availability continues to expand. With the release of iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, Apple is expected to introduce Canada and China to their easy pay system next. In America, Apply Pay is now supported by 2,500 banks and will soon include reward cards). Remember the Passbook app? Now it’s the aptly titled Wallet app. 

Apple has also added the ability to make Apple Pay purchases from Lock screen and doubled Touch ID’s "check-out" speed.

iPad-Specific Updates


Slide Over

Slide Over lets you open a second app without leaving the app you're currently using. By swiping from the right edge of an iPad screen (iPad Pro, iPad Air or later, and iPad mini 2 or later), you can now quickly send a message or look something up in Safari and then slide that app away and return to what you were doing.


Split View lets you use two apps simultaneously. Instead of switching back and forth between apps, users of the iPad Pro, iPad Air 2, and iPad mini 4 can use one app while referring to another. While Slide-Over takes up about 1/3 of your total screen in Split View, you can drag that screen further until half of your screen is running one app and the other half a different app.

Picture in Picture

Picture in Picture lets you continue watching a video when you open a new app. So you can refer to an email while continuing a FaceTime call or read your Messages while watching YouTube videos as long as you have an iPad Pro, iPad Air or later or an iPad mini 2 or later. 

Shortcut Bar

Tthe keyboard bar for iPad now includes shortcuts for actions such as copying, pasting, attaching documents, and italicizing text. 

Easy Text Selection

In iOS 9 you can hold two fingers on your iPad keyboard to turn it into a touchpad for easy text selecting. It takes a little bit of practice, but makes highlighting paragraphs quicker than before.


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Top Image Credit: Denis Rozhnovsky /

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Author Details

Conner Carey's picture

Author Details

Conner Carey

Conner Carey's writing can be found at She is currently writing a book, creating lots of content, and writing poetry via @conpoet on Instagram. She lives in an RV full-time with her mom, Jan and dog, Jodi as they slow-travel around the country.