One of iOS 9’s flagship new features is “Proactive”, new technology that will bring contextual smarts to the Siri personal assistant. Proactive works hand in hand with Siri for improved and more intelligent responses and search results, but it goes far beyond that.
How to use Proactive in iOS 9: What is Proactive?
If you're willing to allow it, Proactive will learn about your habits throughout the day and offer relevant shortcuts to apps and functions (including calling contacts) based on your previous actions, as well as habits based on your current location. These shortcuts will be presented to you in the bottom left hand corner of your iPhone/iPad's lock screen, a space usually reserved for Apple's "Handoff" feature (which enables you to use an app on your Mac and continue where you left off on your iPhone).
Proactive also embeds itself in the Search menu, which has reverted to its position to the left of the home screen, as it was prior to the iOS 7 update. For those of you that have got used to the pull down Search menu, don’t worry - this is still available too, but won't show Proactive categories by default.
(Read definitions of more Apple-related tech terms in our Apple users' tech jargon dictionary.)
How to use Proactive in iOS 9: Contact Suggestions
So, if you allow Proactive to monitor your habits, what kind of things can you expect it to do? For starters, it’ll suggest contacts based on a number of factors – call/text frequency, location and even past habits. Let's say, for example, you always call your other half when you leave work to let them know you’re on your way home. Instead of having to manually open the Phone app, select the contact and call them, you can instead swipe to the left of the home screen and access the Search menu.
You’ll be presented with icons of frequently contacted contacts, with a similar look to how frequent contacts are displayed in the multitasking menu in iOS 8. Tapping on an icon reveals shortcuts to message, call or FaceTime (if applicable) them, as well as an info button to open the contacts details in the Contacts folder.
Additionally, if you create an event invitation or email, Proactive will suggest contacts that you usually include with them. Proactive bases this information on past events and emails with similar subject lines and event names, which both speeds up the overall process and makes sure that you haven’t forgotten anybody.
See also: iOS 8 vs iOS 9 comparison
How to use Proactive in iOS 9: App Suggestions
There are two ways in which Proactive can suggest apps for you in iOS 9. The first is via the Search menu – underneath your suggested contacts, you should see a line of suggested apps. These suggested apps are ones that are frequently used, and the list can be extended from four to eight suggestions by tapping the “More” option to the right of the screen.
However, we’re far more impressed by its second way of suggesting an app. Let's say, for example, you always listen to music when you walk to work in the morning. As your iPhone learns your habits, it’ll automatically start playing music when you plug your headphones in – but only at times when you usually play music. As well as this, it’ll offer a shortcut to the Music app via a greyed out Music icon in the bottom left hand corner of the lock screen.
It’s not just limited to music though, it can be for any app – Craig Federighi gave an example during the WWDC 2015 keynote. He claims that he habitually meditates as soon as he wakes up in the morning, and showed his iPhone prompting him with a meditation app at the relevant time.
How to use Proactive in iOS 9: News
As well as suggesting contacts and apps for you, Proactive also has another trick up its sleeve – news. Using your current location, iOS 9 will find the trending news stories in your area for you to read. This is accessible by swiping to the left of the home screen to access the Search menu, and scrolling down to the News subheading.
Four articles will be displayed by default, but more can be displayed by tapping the “More” icon on the right hand side. Featured articles (around our location in London) come from major publishers including The Independent, The Telegraph and Sky News. You’ll be presented with its featured image, headline and the first three lines of the article.
Once iOS 9 is released on 30 September, the article will open in Apple’s new News app. This Flipboard-esque app allows readers to create their own news stream based on topics and publications that interest them, and loads all articles in-app.
However, in the beta version of iOS 9 tapping on the article opened it article in Safari. From there you could quickly get back to the Search menu by tapping on the “Back to Search” button that’s displayed in the top left hand corner whenever you open an app via Search.
How to use Proactive in iOS 9: Nearby Locations
This feature will be a lifesaver for those of us that travel a lot. When you access the Search menu, you’ll be presented with vividly coloured icons of nearby points of interest. These icons allow you to one-tap search for points of interest around your location including car parks, petrol stations, fast food restaurants and even bakeries. Tapping on an icon will take you to Apple Maps, where you’ll be presented with a list of nearby locations that apply to your search.
These results don’t only include the name of the business, but also a star-based rating system, Yelp! reviews and total distance to the location. You can also visually see the results, with a litter of Pins being dropped around your current location on the map. Tapping a pin will highlight the result in the list and will present an option to get either walking, driving or public transport (if in a supported area) directions to the location.
How to use Proactive in iOS 9: Siri commands
Thanks to the new Proactive assistant, Siri has become a lot smarter and is able to do more than ever before, including the ability to ask Siri to search for a particular set of photos and videos. For example, if you went to New York City for a holiday, you could activate Siri and say, “Show me photos I took when I was in New York City” and you should be presented with the photos you were looking for. How’s this done? Siri searches through your photos and bases its results on dates, locations and album titles.
That’s not all Siri can do either; it can also remind you about things you’re looking at in your apps at a later date. If you’ve found a new restaurant in Apple Maps that you want to check out later, you could say “Remind me to check out XX when I get to my car” or if you’re half way through writing a document in Pages and need to stop, you could say “Remind me to carry on with this tomorrow”.
How to use Proactive in iOS 9: Intelligent Search
The combination of Proactive and Siri in iOS 9 doesn’t only result in suggestions and an improved Siri, but it also results in a much-improved search utility. Prior to iOS 9, your search results would include Wikipedia entries, Bing search results and App Store search results in addition to the standard contact, message, email and note results.
In iOS 9, you can search for much, much more. You’ll be able to search for sports scores and schedules, allowing you to search for the latest Arsenal score instead of asking Siri out loud to find it. You’ll be able to search for the weather in any location around the world, see the latest Stock prices and do calculations and conversions, many features that were Siri-only until now.
However there’s one other feature of the intelligent search that we can’t wait to use. If developers add support, you can search for keywords in third-party apps. This means that if you have a recipe app installed on your iPhone, you could search for “sticky toffee pudding” and the search results will display the recipe, direct from the app.
See also: How to search in iOS 9
How to use Proactive in iOS 9: Smart caller ID
We can’t be the only ones that hate answering calls when we’re not sure who’s calling, right? Well Apple has decided to address this issue in iOS 9 with a smart caller ID. How does it work? Whenever you get a call from a number that isn’t stored in your contacts, iOS will search through your emails to find a possible match. If a match is found, the senders name will be displayed underneath the number.
But what if you don’t have the number in any emails? Not everyone emails first, so don’t expect to get a heads up about those annoying PPI calls. However if the caller is calling from a landline, the origin of the call will be displayed underneath the number, giving you a better idea of who the caller could be.
How to use Proactive in iOS 9: How to get the most out of Proactive
So, the question is “How do I get the most out of Proactive in iOS 9?” and the simple answer is to use your iPhone or iPad as often as possible. Proactive becomes more accurate and useful the more it learns your habits, so by using your device as much as possible, it allows iOS to get to know you (so to speak) and should make your life a little easier.
Macworld UK Poll
So, we at Macworld UK are curious - are the likes of Proactive, better battery life and split screen multitasking on the iPad making you want to upgrade to iOS 9, or will you stick with iOS 8? Fill out our poll in one click below and let us know your opinion.