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iOS 9's "back to" button helps you master multitasking

Joel Mathis | Oct. 12, 2015
This powerful new feature makes switching between multiple apps on your iPhone smoother than ever before.

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Blink or you'll miss it: The "back to" button sometimes appears in the upper left-hand corner of the iPhone screen. It's not easy for all users to see or find.

Multitasking is all the rage these days. Certainly that’s the case on the iPad, where the recent release of iOS 9 has brought about split-screen multitasking for the first time to choruses of hallelujahs from users and quick revamps of well-established apps. No doubt it’s handy.

Nearly overlooked, though, is a powerful new feature in iOS 9 that makes operating multiple apps on your iPhone an easier, more fluid task than ever before. It’s the “back to” button, and it’ll make the phone’s power users wonder how they ever lived without it. It’s already changing the way I use and view content in my iPhone.

Here’s how it works: You’re working in an app, when all of a sudden you come across a link or another type of content that requires a re-direct to another app. Once you get to that second app, the upper lefthand corner displays text inviting you to go “back to” the first app. When you’re done in the second app, you hit that text and go back to the original app. The old way—double-tapping your home button to find the orignal app—wasn’t awful. This is simply much better.

Here are five ways to use the function to make your iPhone use easier and more enjoyable:


The feature has completely transformed my use of email newsletters—until iOS 9 was released, I hated reading link-heavy email newsletters on my iPhone because the back-and-forth between Mail and Safari was kind of a hassle. (The Gmail app was an exception—it opened a browser in-app.) Now I find it easier to check my newsletters on the bus to work.

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Remember when Facebook was one app instead of two (Facebook and Messenger)? Now you can at least use them in sync again: If you want to chat with a friend while on the social media site, you can easily hop over to Messenger, then hop back again.

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Scheduling from mail

Hit a link in mail to schedule a meeting; hit the “back to” button to get back to the original mail.

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Checking push notifications while working

This one was suggested by my friend Jonathan Kealing at Public Radio International, who suggested the ability to check notifications but quickly return to an app made him feel like those notifications were less of an interruption to his flow. “It feels like a ‘pause’ instead of a ‘stop’ to what I’m doing,” he said.


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