Monday, July 13, 2015

Thoughts Regarding the iOS 9 Public Beta

It’s that special time of year once again where we have been shown all of the wonderful software enhancements that Apple is cooking up for us this fall.  It is also the time when we, the brave nerds, install not quite fully finished software on our iDevices and Macs.  All of this is done in the name of being nerdy.

Actually, what I’m talking about is the pre-release public beta versions of Apple’s upcoming operating systems: iOS 9 and Mac OS X El Capitan 10.11.

Both of these new operating systems are still under development so it’s not fair to judge either of them on their technical merits, stability or performance.  The completed versions of both iOS 9 and El Capitan are due out "this fall."  What I want to talk about here are some of the user facing enhancements in iOS 9.

Keyboards

Last year, one of the big ticket items in iOS 8 was Apple allowing third-party keyboards to be installed on iOS.  While having alternate keyboards available was fun, I dumped all of them inside a week.

This year, I’m far more interested in the tweak Apple has baked into the iOS 9 public beta: changing keyboard key cap states.  With iOS 8, I could never keep the Shift key state straight in my head: What was the CAPS mode icon state again? Solid white?  Or was that grey?  I can't remember.  Better keep mashing the Shift key and retyping.  At least half the time while I was banging out a long text in Messages, a tweet in Twitter or a long email in Mail, I would get the state wrong.  So annoying!

In iOS 9, now the key caps change state depending on whether or not Shift is engaged or not.  Below is a sample of iOS 9 Public Beta 1 running on my iPhone 5S (left) and iOS 8.4 running on my iPhone 6 (right).


I think I really like that enhancement.

News and iCloud Drive

After installing iOS 9, you will get two new stock apps: News (as featured in the WWDC June 8 keynote) and iCloud Drive.


News appears to be everything Apple showed in the keynote.  I was really excited about News when is was unveiled during the keynote address.  As I said in my summary post on this year's WWDC keynote, I think this will be a worthwhile feature for both the iPhone and iPad.  With Apple's focus on user privacy, I think this could become the go-to alternative for things like Facebook Instant Articles.  The beta apps has lots of great articles from across the spectrum of publishers and topics.  I think the biggest challenge users will face is taking the time to fine tune their news feeds.

iCloud Drive, in my opinion, is a new iOS client app to help round out the features of iCloud document storage that launched as part of iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite last year.  With iCloud Drive, you now have access to the folders and documents that you have stored in iCloud.  iCloud Drive works similarly to Microsoft's OneDrive or Google's Drive iOS apps.


On the left, you can see the top level folder view for iCloud Drive.  On the right, you see the list view of the contents of the Keynote folder.  It's pretty basic stuff to be sure, but is also a utilitarian feature that Apple needs to gain parity with Google and Microsoft.

iOS 9 will be released later this year and is expected to run on any iOS device that is already running iOS 8.

For more information about iOS 9, check out Apple's iOS 9 preview website.

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