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iOS 9: The 9 best new features

Updated Dec 19th, 2018 9:05PM EST
iOS 9 Release Date
Image: Zach Epstein, BGR

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Apple fans, iOS 9 is finally here. Well, “finally” certainly won’t apply to many of you out there, as a huge portion of enthusiastic iPhone and iPad users have likely already been using iOS 9 for months. Developer accounts only cost $99 per year, and Apple decided to release a public beta this year as well, giving average users access to stable beta releases.

If you don’t already have iOS 9 though, today is a big day and you’ll want to know what you’re in store for. In this article, we’ll cover the nine best new features you can look forward to in iOS 9.

DON’T MISS: Hands-on: The sleek aluminum iPhone 6 and 6s bumper we deserve is finally (almost) a reality

Low Power Mode

Let’s start things off with what is hands down one of the best and most important new features in iOS 9: Low Power Mode.

This is a special setting that can be activated at any time to extend your iPhone or iPad’s battery life. Needless to say, it’s far more crucial for the iPhone than the iPad, since Apple’s smartphones are anything but leaders when it comes to battery life.

Low Power Mode disables things like background app refresh, automatic downloads and mail fetch in order to extend battery life as much as possible. Pop-ups when a device’s remain charge reaches 20% and then 10% provide quick access to Low Power Mode, and it can also be enabled at any time in Settings > Battery.

In a future update, it would be nice if Apple added a shortcut to the Control Center, considering how crucial this feature is.

A back button

You read that right, ladies and gentlemen: Your iPhone is finally about to get a back button.

Well, sort of.

iOS still doesn’t have a universal back button like Android phones do, but now there’s a back button that appears in the top-left corner of the screen anytime you jump from one app to another. So for example, if you click a link in an email that opens a web page in Safari, you’ll see a back button appear in the corner that will take you back to Mail.

Here’s what it looks like:


Up through iOS 8, Apple’s virtual keyboard has been painfully behind the times. The typing experience itself has always been top notch since Apple’s displays are consistently more responsive than rival screens, but the keyboard itself fell short in a few key areas.

With iOS 9, that changes.

First of all, you can now actually see when your shift is activated because the letters on the keyboard finally switch better lower case and upper case. Finally. Beyond that, you can look forward to enjoying new shortcuts, better predictions and more.

Super Siri

In iOS 9, Siri finally gets some of the proactive features that make Google Now great, providing users with key information and helpful suggestions before they even ask. For example, I go to a specific dog park many evenings after work to let my dog run around a bit before dinner. Now, when I leave my house each evening around that time, Siri automatically tells me how long it will take me to get to that dog park, and whether or not there are any traffic issues I need to know about.

This is a fantastic feature, and it made me start to wonder why I still use Android.

Siri can also handle a much wider range of queries and requests, and you can chain things together now. Here’s more info on what Siri can do in iOS 9.

Split View

If you have a newer iPad with at least 2GB of RAM, iOS 9 is about to rock your world.

Split View is a feature that Samsung’s Note tablets have had for quite a while, but iOS 9 marks the first time it will become available on an iOS device. As you might have gathered from the name, Split View allows you to open two apps at a time, side by side.

There’s also a related Slide Over feature that lets you open an app in one-third of the screen to interact with it quickly and then close it back to the background.

Picture in Picture

There’s one more great iPad-only feature in iOS 9 you need to know about, and it also only works on newer iPads.

With iOS 9, you can continue watching a video or using FaceTime while in another app by enabling this nifty feature. As is the case when you active picture in picture on a TV, the second picture is minimized to a tiny box so it doesn’t block the other app you’re using.

Here’s what Picture in Picture looks like in action:

Wallet updates

Passbook is now called Wallet in iOS 9, and it’s getting a bunch of new features. For one thing, Wallet can now hold store credit cards, rewards cards and membership cards. This is a huge step toward the era of the digital wallet, especially when coupled with Apple Pay )which also get some key updates in iOS 9, including Discover card support).

Transit directions

This is huge.

iOS 9 adds public transit directions to the Maps app, but it’s not like most other mapping solutions that include public transit information. Apple’s new app tells you more than just which bus to take to Port Authority and then which train to find once you get there, it also gives you walking directions through Port Authority to make finding that train impossibly easy.

Now, the bad news: At launch, the new transit feature will only be available in these 10 locations.

New Notes app

Several of Apple’s own iOS apps have been updated in iOS 9, but the new Notes app deserves to be highlighted.

Apple has completely overhauled the Notes app and added tons of new functionality. You can take photos from within the Notes app and add text, you can draw and sketch in the Notes app, and you can even quickly and easily turn any list into a checklist. So long, wish list and to-do apps!

Also great is the Notes app’s new share sheet, which lets you embed websites, photos, maps and more in a Note without ever leaving the app you’re in.

Zach Epstein
Zach Epstein Executive Editor

Zach Epstein has been the Executive Editor at BGR for more than 10 years. He manages BGR’s editorial team and ensures that best practices are adhered to. He also oversees the Ecommerce team and directs the daily flow of all content. Zach first joined BGR in 2007 as a Staff Writer covering business, technology, and entertainment.

His work has been quoted by countless top news organizations, and he was recently named one of the world's top 10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes. Prior to BGR, Zach worked as an executive in marketing and business development with two private telcos.

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