iOS 8 vs iOS 9 comparison review

WWDC 2015 saw the announcement of Apple’s latest mobile operating system, iOS 9. Instead of focusing on adding a barrage of new features, the company said that the update would concentrate mainly on performance and battery life enhancements - which we were happy to hear. The company discussed a new battery-saving mode, a new News service and even announced Apple Music - so how does it compare to iOS 8?

With iOS 9 due to be released for download tomorrow evening, we thought it’d be a good idea to compare Apple's latest operating system with its predecessor, iOS 8.

See also: iOS 9 vs iOS 10 | Android M vs iOS 9 comparison and Advanced iOS 9 tips

iOS 8 vs iOS 9 comparison preview: Typefaces

With the introduction of iOS 7 came the Helvetica Neue system font, a font that received criticism for sacrificing readability for style. While some weren’t sure of the new font at first, many have now warmed to it - but that looks to have changed with the introduction of iOS 9. It seems that Apple has opted to use a new system font named "San Francisco" for iPhones, iPads and Macs running iOS 9 and OS X 10.11.

If the new font sounds familiar to you, it may be because it’s the system font used on the Apple Watch OS. It should provide an easier reading experience, as the font was developed "specifically for legibility" to be used on the miniature screen of the Apple Watch. This is possible because San Francisco scales more dynamically than Helvetica Neue, allowing it to "maintain clarity and legibility" regardless of text size. It’s a welcome change for OS X/iOS as a new font can refresh an operating system and stop it from becoming stale.

Although it took us a little while to get used to, we’re really warming to San Francisco (the font!) and we’ve found that it does make for an easier reading experience, especially on smaller displays.

Read next: iOS 9 review | iOS 9 vs iOS 8 | iOS 9 release date and new features | iOS 9 tips & tricks | Can my iPad/iPhone get iOS 9? | How to update to iOS 9

iOS 8 vs iOS 9 comparison preview: Siri and Search

As part of the iOS 7 overhaul, Apple showcased a redesigned Search feature. Avid Apple fans may remember that before iOS 7, Search took up a whole page and was accessible by swiping right from your home screen. It wasn’t as powerful as it is these days either, and could only be used for basic tasks. 

iOS 8’s Search feature was one that we found ourselves using quite often, and had definitely come a long way since the pre-iOS 7 days. In iOS 8, you can use Search to search Wikipedia, find the latest news, nearby places, apps from the App Store, songs from the iTunes Store and suggested websites, as well as your contacts, messages, emails and notes. Just been told about a new app? Typing in the name will display the app listing from the App Store including its icon and rating, and tapping on this information will display it in the App Store.

If you thought that was handy, Siri and Search are about to get a lot better in iOS 9. The company wants to offer a range of additional information and features based on the users habits and an understanding of context, making your iPhone a "proactive assistant". Want to see this in action? Take a look at this video:

With iOS 9, you’ll be able to ask Siri things like “Hey Siri, can you show me videos I took at Iva’s birthday party?” and Siri will find the exact videos that you’re looking for. It can also remind you to do things at specific times  - say for example you need to be reminded to call your wife when you got into the car before you left to head home from work. Tell Siri to remind you to call your wife when you’re in the car and Siri will do so! We’re not sure how Siri knows you’re in your car, but it’s pretty cool if not slightly creepy.

The updated Search interface is accessible by swiping down on the home screen (much like in iOS 8) or by swiping right from the first page of your home screen (like pre-iOS 7). You'll be greeted with Siri suggestions including relevant people based on contacts you talk with most, the last contacts you spoke to and even contacts that you’re scheduled to meet. You can use it to search for everything from contacts to calculations to the latest sports results with results displayed directly within the search window - no opening to go to Safari.

Search will also display categories of nearby places including food, drink, shopping and fun. You’ll also be served with trending news story based on your current location so you’re always in the loop.

It’ll also suggest apps as your iPhone learns your habits. Say, for example, you always check the Weather app when you first wake up in the morning, Proactive will offer a little bubble to open the app with a single tap. Or if you like to listen to music on the way to work, plugging in your headphones will activate Music on your iPhone and a shortcut to the app will be presented on the lock screen for quick and easy access.

We listen to music on our way to work every day, and we think Proactive has picked up on this. We found that the Music app would automatically pause once we’d reached work – although we’re not too sure if this was a feature of Proactive or a perfectly timed Apple Music glitch.

It’s more than just that though – say for example, you’re creating an email in iOS 9. When you start adding recipients, iOS will suggest the people that you usually include and will also suggest recipients for commonly used subject lines or event titles. If you get an email with an event included, iOS will create a suggested event in calendar for you. Once it’s time to head to the event, iOS will assess the traffic and advise you on the ideal time to leave.

Proactive can be compared to Google Now, and like Google’s offering, Proactive will offer a Personal Assistant, Siri. However this isn’t the standard Siri that’s featured in iOS 8, it’s a more intelligent, context aware personal assistant to quickly respond to your questions and queries.

You can find out more about Proactive in iOS 9 here.

iOS 8 vs iOS 9 comparison preview: HomeKit

In iOS 8, a smart device can only be controlled via its own dedicated app and is unable to communicate with other apps/devices. Ironic how they’re called “smart” devices but can’t communicate with one another, eh? Anyway, HomeKit is Apple’s answer to an Internet of Things platform, which enables users to control a manner of smart connected devices from their iPhones using Siri and a much-rumoured Home app. Apple announced this platform at WWDC 2014, but we’re yet to see any real integration with iOS.

We thought that was going to change with iOS 9, as HomeKit enabled smart devices started to appear on the market back in June, boasting unique features that include Siri control. Sadly, there’s still no sign of the reported “Home” app, an app that our colleague Caitlin McGarry explains will “cluster your HomeKit devices by virtual rooms, so you can easily see which accessory you want to turn on, turn off, or adjust without actually looking at it."

Apple did mention HomeKit briefly during its WWDC 2015 event, noting that you’ll be able to control smart devices via both your iPhone and Apple Watch, however it didn’t showcase the reported Home app.

See also: Apple rumours and predictions 2015

iOS 8 vs iOS 9 comparison preview: Maps

Apple Maps had a rocky start in life, with (sometimes ridiculously) inaccurate mapping and an icon that instructed users to drive off a bridge onto a motorway. But gladly, it’s come a long way since the dark days and is now our go-to Maps app for iOS – we even compared it with Google Maps recently. Apple Maps offers 3D mapping, turn-by-turn navigation and Yelp! Integration to quickly get information about businesses around you. 

However, there's one feature of Apple Maps that has been missing, a feature that many have been waiting for with bated breath: transit directions. Thankfully, that has completely changed in iOS 9 as the company now provides transit directions for 10 cities worldwide, with London being the only supported UK city. If you think 10 countries is a poor effort for the company, you may be interested to know that it supports a whopping 300 cities in China from day one.

Transit directions in Apple Maps is one of the key features of iOS 9, allowing you to plan routes that include buses, trains (both underground and overground) and the DLR, as well as displaying step by step instructions that include walking times and even which station entrance/exits to use. You can also select the Transit view to display the location of each tube line, which is very handy for people that visit London as the Tube map isn't geographically accurate - it's laid out for simplicity. It's also pretty cool to see if you're living directly above any tube lines!

As well as public transport directions, Apple Maps in iOS 9 also suggests nearby locations within categories such as Food, Drinks, Shopping, or Fun. For example, if you tap on Food you'll be given more choices such as Popular, Restaurants, Groceries, Fast Food, etc. so you can easily browse and find exactly what you're looking for.

See also: Everything you need to know about OS X El Capitan

iOS 8 vs iOS 9 comparison preview: Newsstand and News

Newsstand was a feature introduced to Apple’s iOS way back in iOS 5 and emulates a newsagents’ shop with virtual shelves filled with your digital magazine subscriptions. It featured a Store button in the corner that took you to the Newsstand category of the app store to browse for new subscriptions. It was pretty cool back in 2011, but since then the world has developed with people flocking to free personalised news apps like Flipboard in favour of reading paid digital magazines.

Apple knew Newsstands days were numbered and has included its replacement in iOS 9, News. News, like Flipboard, collates stories from a number of publications based on your interests and displays them in a beautiful way. It combines digital and print with a design similar to print magazines, but with the interactivity of digital copies with embedded photo galleries, animations and videos. It’s exclusive to the US in iOS 9 initially, with it rolling out to the UK and Australia in iOS 9.1 later on this year.

You can explore over a million topics from both top news publications and indie blogs according to Apple. The best part isn’t the variety, it’s the intelligence behind it – the more you read on the News app, the more personalised the app becomes. It’ll start to select stories relevant to you and your interests, saving you from having to switch between different apps. It also offers an offline-viewing mode for those early morning tube rides too.

What will happen to the paid magazine subscriptions? Apparently they’ll still be viewable from within the News app, but you’ll be prompted to open them within their own dedicated app after reading a handful of articles.

See also: Everything that was announced at WWDC 2015

iOS 8 vs iOS 9 comparison preview: Notes

Notes have been a part of iOS since the early days, but it’s always had a similar look and feel to it. Sure, it might’ve had a facelift for iOS 7 but with regards to features, the app has always stayed largely the same. In iOS 8, you’re able to create notes that sync between the Notes app available for iPhone, iPad and Mac but largely, that’s it.

For those of you that use the Notes app often (like we do) you may have noticed that formatting options are already available on the Notes app, but iOS 9 is bringing more than just formatting options. You can now add smart cards to the Notes app, which allow you to include photos, URLs, documents, and even maps to your notes. Once you’ve found an attachment you want to add to your note, simply tap the Share button and tap the Notes logo.

We’ve all used Notes for shopping lists, but in iOS 9 checklists make an appearance in the Notes app. It allows you to list everything you need and check them off the list one by one, similarly to the Reminders app. You can also sketch in the Notes app in iOS 9 by tapping the draw icon at the bottom of the app and offers a variety of brush styles and colours. We think iOS 9 is the year that people will start to use Notes for more than just random scribbles and thoughts. 

See also: Everything you need to know about Apple Music

iOS 8 vs iOS 9 comparison preview: Passbook and Wallet

Passbook is a feature of iOS that you either use regularly or not at all, there’s no in-between. In iOS 8, Passbook is used to store all your loyalty cards, airline tickets and more recently, Apple Pay. Passbook was supposed to open relevant cards for easy use depending on your location, but we rarely found this to be the case.

In iOS 9, we wave goodbye to Passbook and say hello to Wallet. In terms of looks, it’s almost identical to the Passbook app it replaces but will now support rewards cards to receive and redeem awards using Apple Pay. All you need to do to access your Wallet is double click the Home button when your iPhone is locked, or via the app icon on the home screen.

iOS 8 vs iOS 9 comparison review: Multitasking

Let’s talk about multitasking on the iPad. The iPad has evolved over the years and finds itself at the centre of many peoples lives, using it for everything from reading books and playing games to editing photos and videos. But for all the success of the iPad, there’s one feature missing – true multitasking with the ability to run two apps at once.

That was until now anyway, as iOS 9 brings with it true multitasking for the iPad. One new feature is called Slide Over; a feature that lets you open a second iOS app (that’s the width of an iPhone app) alongside the app you’re using. Received a text message while playing a game? Swipe in from the edge of the screen and open the Messages app to reply (while the main app is suspended in the background) and then simply swipe it away again to hide it. Slide Over is compatible with the iPad Air and Air 2, as well as the iPad mini 2 and 3.

The next step on from Slide Over is Split View, which as you may have guessed, enables two apps to be open and active side by side. The best part of this functionality is that you can drag and drop elements between the two apps. Want to save a photo into Notes? Just drag it over from Safari. You can also re-arrange the size of the apps from 50/50 to 70/30, much like you can in Windows 8. Unfortunately only the iPad Air 2 and recently announced iPad Pro are strong enough to support the Split View functionality.

If Slide Over and Split View aren’t enough for your iPad browsing needs, iOS 9 has another trick up its sleeve – Picture in Picture. While using FaceTime or watching a video, simply press the Home button to exit the app and shrink the video down to be corner of the display, allowing you to perform tasks such as emailing without having to stop watching the drunken videos of the night before. You also have the ability to manually resize and move the video once its been minimized in case it covers crucial elements of the app you want to use.

See also: Apple Pay is coming to the UK

iOS 8 vs iOS 9 comparison preview: Performance and Battery life

The focus of iOS 9 was to improve functionality and performance of the operating system, so as well as introducing a handful of new features and improving general performance, your iPhone will last for an additional hour before requiring a charge. As well as this, the company has built in a battery saving mode, which will disable things like animations and push email to give you an extra three hours of battery life.

Those of you with small capacity iPhones may be glad to hear that iOS 9 updates won’t be as large as those in iOS 8 – in fact, you’ll only need 1.3GB of space to install iOS 9, 3.28GB less than what was required to install iOS 8. Apps will also be smaller in size, mainly thanks to new behind-the-scenes processes that occur when downloading an app from the App Store.

See also: Everything you need to know about iOS 9

OUR VERDICT

We're really excited about iOS 9, as it brings a plethora of features that were desperately needed – especially a power saving mode, transit maps and the ability to search within the Settings menu. It also improved our overall battery life, which is never a bad thing. Although with this being said, we’re running iOS 9 on an iPhone 6 Plus so the enhancements may not be as noticeable on older devices. If you’re able to, we recommend updating to iOS 9 when the time comes!

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