NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — The trope used to be that Android was for nerds and iPhones were for technophobes.
But as Android has gotten easier to use over the years, iOS has grown more complex. With iOS 9, Apple’s latest mobile operating system that will launch in the fall, the iPhone is officially “all growns up.”
By adding complicated features into iOS 9, Apple is giving the iPhone a somewhat steeper learning curve — but also making it far more useful.
Come the fall, your iPhone will be able to better understand the world around you and provide handy information based on where you are, the time of day, who you know and what you’ve recently been up to. It will also give you a tailored news feed, let you take notes more easily, and it will come with a vastly improved Maps app.
With the major caveat that this is beta software and still unfinished, here’s a quick glance at some of the new iOS 9 features that will soon be coming to an iPhone near you.
The most important, most useful new feature in iOS 9 (which is still in preview mode) is the Siri upgrade. In the new version of iOS, Siri powers search, suggesting contacts, apps and news to you based on the context in which you ask them.
That lets you speak to Siri in even more natural language than you’ve become used to over the past few years. For example, you can say, “Remind me about this when I get home,” and, in many circumstances, Siri will understand what “this” refers to. You can ask Siri to show you photos you took while you were in Brooklyn, and it will deliver the correct pictures.
Siri-powered search will also give you smart results. When you search for weather, you’ll get the forecast instead of just a link to a website. When you search for a contact, you’ll be able to call him or her right from search. And when you search for a sports team, it will give you the latest scores — even if they’re depressing.
Although Android and Windows still offer better voice assistants and contextual search, the iPhone’s most glaring missing feature will at last be available in the fall.
The new iOS 9 News app is really nicely laid out.
It’s complex, but intuitive, and the complexity lets you drill down into specific subjects that few other news apps (other than Google News) let you discover. For example, “open source software,” “street food,” “initial public offerings” and “sunglasses” are actual topics available on the News app.
It also ain’t Twitter. It’s not entirely clear how the News app orders stories, but It’s not by time — there was a two-day old story in the New York Times about Pluto that appeared above a 52-minute old story from The Gloss about “A brief history of Lady Gaga’s changing eyebrow looks.” Let’s chalk that up to beta glitches.
Apple’s new Notes app lets you scribble, take photos and turn easily turn notes into checklists. The checklist option is particularly smart. If you had a nickel for every time you started a list and had to start again because you weren’t in “bullet” mode….
But let’s hope that Notes is still very early in development, because it’s in serious need of a common sense engineer. What’s the first thing you want to do when taking a note? Write it down. What’s the first thing Apple shows you in Notes? “Folders.” Huh?
To take an actual note, you have to create or tap on an existing folder, then tap the tiny compose button on the bottom right.
To say that Apple Maps is not Google Maps is setting the bar unfairly high — Google Maps is the single best mobile app ever created, and it does maps and local searches so much better than any competitor on the market.
With that said, the new version of Apple Maps is definitely an improvement over the past iterations, particularly with the addition of transit directions. The new “nearby” buttons that show up in search are a particularly nice touch.
Though when you search for a category like “restaurants,” the map zooms out way too far to be useful.
The extra complexities in iOS 9 take some getting used to. But once you master them, your iPhone will be a much smarter smartphone.