Apple's iOS 9 is due this fall, and you can expect some new features like News, but mostly the release will bring much-desired enhancements. To preview the update, you need an iPhone 4S or later, an iPad 2 or later, an iPad Air, or an iPad Mini, and then you can download the iOS 9 beta (be sure to create an iTunes backup, in case something goes awry or you want to revert to iOS 8.4). Read on for our tour of iOS 9's highlights.
New and improved apps
The all-new News app brings together your favorite newspapers, magazines, websites, and blogs. Tap Explore to see a list of suggested channels (such as BuzzFeed, The New York Times, and Vanity Fair) and topics (such as Movies, Tech, and Home and Garden) and select your favorites. Or you can search for specific brands or categories. The more you use News, the more personalized the app's recommendations become. Articles are optimized for iPhones and iPads, so you can enjoy beautiful magazine layouts the way they were intended to be viewed.
Notes was once a bare-bones note-taking app. In iOS 9, Notes enables you to add maps, Web links, photos, and more; scribble your thoughts with your finger in various brush styles (from pencil to marker) and colors; and quickly find photos, maps, and more in the new Attachments Browser. With the power of iCloud, your notes will be updated across all your devices.
Besides driving and walking directions, Maps now includes a Transit tab that provides detailed public transportation directions from your starting point to your destination. The Nearby feature offers popular points of interests around you.
You may have already used Apple Pay to make purchases with major credit cards. You can now add Discover to that list, as well as your department store cards and rewards cards. When your phone is locked, double-click the Home button to access your Wallet and use Apple Pay.
If you're coming to iOS from Android, the Move app transfers your existing data -- contacts, photos, calendars, and more -- from your old operating system to your new one. It will also help rebuild your app library with suggestions.
App Switcher redux
You'll still double-press the Home button to conjure the App Switcher and swipe up to quit recent apps. But there are some changes to this feature in iOS 9 that you should be aware of. Recent contacts have moved to the Spotlight search screen, apps now appear as a deck of pages (with the home screen moving from the left to the right side), and apps cycle as you swipe through them.
When you're typing an email or a document, you'll notice new shortcuts on your keyboard. On the top right, you'll find a BIU button that you can select and toggle across for bolding, italicizing, and underlining text. On the top right, you'll find buttons for copying and pasting.
When you typed a text or email in the past, it was difficult to tell what case you were in, since the keyboard remained in upper case whether shift was selected or not. But now when you tap the shift key, all the keyboard characters shift to upper or lower case, making it easier to see which case you're in.
Search becomes smarter
Siri has become even smarter, as well as more predictive and responsive. Tell Siri that you need directions to a particular location, a restaurant reservation, or a particular song to play, and Siri will do it. The search assistant can also set reminders for later.
Siri also offers smart suggestions for an app you may want to use, a contact you may want to add to an email, an event you may want to add to your calendar, and an optimal time to leave for an event based on current traffic conditions. Siri will even identify an unknown number if that number appears in an email.
Siri also powers the Spotlight search bar, so you can get the information or the contacts you need right from the search page. The search page now comes pre-populated with suggested apps (based on time of day) and contacts (who you are scheduled to meet), nearby businesses, and relevant news.
Power, performance, and security
More efficient processes and Low Power mode have slashed battery drainage. Smaller, more convenient updates require less space and can be completed at your preferred time -- as in, when you don't need to use your phone. Thanks to Metal, apps perform a lot faster. Six-digit passcodes and two-factor authentication make your phone more secure.
One of our favorite new features is the iPad keyboard doubling as a trackpad. Touching and swiping the keyboard with two fingers takes you up, down, and across a document, note, or email in no time, which enables you to edit words or sentences more quickly than by the old touch-and-hold method.
If you have a third-generation iPad or an iPad Air or Mini, you'll be able to take advantage of three new multitasking features: Slide Over, Split View, and Picture in Picture. To activate Slide Over, pull over from the right side of the screen to the left to open up a second window that lists all your apps. Click one and open. Then pull the panel over to bring you into Split View. So now you can do two things without leaving your original screen. If you're watching a video and want to work in another app simultaneously, then activate Picture in Picture video by clicking the Home button, which shrinks your video window down and enables you to move it around. You can then work on other apps while the video runs more discreetly in the corner of your screen.