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Finding your way around Apple's iOS 9

Michael deAgonia | June 29, 2015
Ever since the move away from skeuomorphics in version 7, iOS has been in a state of flux -- one that many iPhone and iPad users and reviewers noted came at the expense of stability. With iOS 9 due out in public beta next month and to the general public this fall, Apple continues refining the appearance and behavior of the software that powers the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. And just as it's doing with OS X 10.11 El Capitan, Apple is adding a variety of under-the-hood improvements and new tricks that focus on proactivity, UI refinements, and best of all, stability and performance.

Get there faster

When using guidance in Maps -- tell Siri to take you to work, for instance -- iOS 9 will prompt you when to leave based on current traffic, and then volunteer traffic updates along the way, as well as alternative routes around traffic any tie-ups ahead. (That'll come in handy when Siri suddenly announces that there's traffic two miles ahead due to an accident and suggests ways around it.)

The built-in Maps application has been updated to display recent locations underneath categories that automatically search for local selections -- the same kind of information that populates the search screen when you swipe left off the Home screen. Categories such as Food, Drinks, Shopping and Transit are listed, and tapping any of those selections conveniently displays subcategories that help you further refine what it is you're searching for, all without typing anything in.

That Transit view is new to Maps, and is designed to help you plot detailed instructions on how to get to a destination using public transportation. Though only a few major cities in the U.S. will be supported initially, the ones that are built in have detailed instructions including the exact entry and exit points to subways stations and bus stops. So if you live in New York City, San Francisco, London, Berlin, Mexico City or in one of the 300 cities in China Apple cited, you're in luck. (Turns out that China had a detailed database Apple could use for the transit information, hence the large number of Chinese cities included.)

Room to grow

When iOS 8 was released last year, a lot of users ran into installation problems because they lacked the space needed to download the software and update their devices. That shouldn't be a problem this year. iOS 9 can now stream updates so that the data doesn't have to be first downloaded and fully unpacked; this means updates require less space to run. In addition to that, the software update sizes are much smaller -- again avoiding the error that prevents installation due to insufficient disk space. (iOS 8 needed 4.6GB of room; iOS 9 only needs 1.8GB.)

iOS 9 is also better at discerning which application assets are needed; they're selected, downloaded and installed on a per-device basis, automatically and without user intervention. The components for apps and software updates downloaded are exactly those needed to run on your current device. That helps eliminate space being taken up by app features and libraries that are never used.

Finally, Apple has added a workaround for devices without enough space to install updates: automatic app deletions. The technology will keep your app data intact while removing the largest apps to temporarily allow space for the update. Once the update is done, the apps are automatically downloaded and installed again. It's a deceptively simple solution to a nagging problem.


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