Apple unveils iOS 9 update with improvements to Siri, iPad multitasking and more

Apple is refreshing its mobile devices with a new update to iOS that was shown off at its Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco on Monday.

Siri, Apple’s virtual assistant, now lets users set voice reminders that are triggered by events such as when a user connects their phone to a car or arrives at home. Users who want to get access to content deeper in their phone can ask the assistant something like “show me photos from Utah” and have Siri pull up the relevant images from inside a user’s photo library.

The iOS update also makes Siri more proactive, so that it will suggest applications based on where a user is, and what accessories are connected to the device. Siri will also automatically add calendar invitations to a user’s calendar and then offer up reminders based on traffic conditions. All of the intelligence features are handled on a user’s device, so that information is kept private.

Apple also added support for searching within apps from iOS’s Spotlight feature using a new API in iOS 9. For example, people can search for recipes inside food apps they have on their devices, without having to open them.

Starting next month, Apple Pay will be available for use in the U.K., with support from merchants like grocer Waitrose. Customers will also be able to pay their fares on the London transportation system using their iPhone or Apple Watch.

The iOS 9 update will also allow the use of rewards cards in Apple Pay. All of those cards will be stored in the Wallet app, which is Apple’s new name for the Passbook application introduced in iOS 6.

The built-in Notes app got an update that brings it into closer competition with Evernote and OneNote. Users can now add checklists to their notes, along with rich formatting and images. Notes also includes a new set of drawing tools that let people sketch diagrams on their iOS devices and then insert them onto notes.

Public transit users get a new view inside Apple’s Maps app that emphasizes transit lines when a user needs to get around without a car. People can now get transit directions in selected cities that include multiple modes of transit. Apple has surveyed all of the transit stations in the cities included in the transit program, so that users get directions straight to the correct subway entrance or bus stop. The Maps update also includes a change to merchant pages that tells users if a particular location accepts Apple Pay.

iOS 9 includes a News app that pulls together articles from a variety of publishers. Users give the app a list of their preferred publishers and topics, and the app will create a personalized feed of articles for them. News can pull in information from around the web, but publishers can also create an article using a new Apple News format to bring in rich animations and other content.

The New York Times will be delivering 30 free news articles to users of the app every day, along with other content providers like Conde Nast and The Verge. The app will first roll out to customers in the U.S., U.K. and Australia when iOS 9 launches later this year.

Apple also focused on improving the experience of using the iPad by adding the ability to multitask on the tablet. On the iPad Air 2, you can now run two applications side-by-side, so it’s possible to compose email and reference the calendar at the same time. Users of the iPad Air, iPad Mini 2, iPad Mini 3 and iPad Air 2 will be able to pull in content from other third-party apps alongside the app that they’re currently using to quickly reference outside content. Apple also included support for picture-in-picture video, so people can keep up with what they’re watching while taking care of business.

iOS device owners will see performance improvements with the update, including serious improvements to an iOS device’s battery life. Apple’s testing showed that iOS 9 adds an average of one hour to an iPhone’s battery life. In addition there’s a new battery-saving mode that senior VP of software engineering Craig Federighi said “pulls levers you didn’t even know existed” to add an additional 3 hours of battery life by shutting off power-draining features.

When the update arrives later this year, users will only need 1.3 GB of free space on their devices in order to install it over the air. That’s a major difference compared to iOS 8, which required that users have 4.6 GB of free space on their devices before they could update.

The update will support all of the devices that ran iOS 8, including the aging iPad 2 and iPhone 4S. In addition to a developer beta that’s available Monday, Apple will launch a public beta for the operating system in July of next year.

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