iOS 9 pre-event rumours

What did we expect to see in iOS 9 ahead of WWDC? Read on for the rumours, so you can see what really happened, and what proved to be pure fantasy. 

iOS 9 new features: Trusted Wi-Fi

If we can turn to desktop software for a moment, it's understood that the next version of Mac OS X, 10.11, will incorporate a new security feature called Trusted Wi-Fi - but this will spill over into security improvements for iOS 9 too.

If your Mac or iOS device tries to connect to a router that it recognises and has been designated as 'trusted', it will do so without requiring security measures. The security measures kick in when connecting to a non-trusted router: data submitted while connected to this router will be heavily encrypted.

App developers may be furrowing their brows at this point, wondering how this will affect their software's performance. We hear that Apple has been testing its own apps and a selection of third-party apps to make sure that they still work when this feature is enabled, but there will plenty more testing going on in dev offices around the world once the beta of iOS 9 is released next week.

Read more about Trusted Wi-Fi in our roundup of Mac OS X 10.11 rumours.

iOS 9 new features: Siri and Spotlight transform into a 'Proactive' personal assistant

New reports - principally from 9to5Mac - suggest that Apple has been quietly working on a major update to its Spotlight search feature for some time, heavily expanding its functionality to offer a range of additional information and features based on user habits and intelligent contextual prediction. This update, currently codenamed 'Proactive', may make an appearance in iOS 9.

The Proactive interface, which sources say will be accessible from the left of the Home screen as well as in the form of a pulldown (like the current Spotlight search), will present information that is selected on the basis of apps used recently, imminent events from the Calendar app, nearby locations pulled from Maps and so on. 9to5Mac gives the example of a boarding pass appearing when it's nearly time for the flight (although Passbook has been able to pull off tricks like this for a while).

But it gets much smarter - and/or creepier - than that. Proactive will learn your habits and, like a well-trained butler, learn to anticipate your needs before you're aware of them, and respond to Siri queries in context-appropriate ways. If there's one particular app you nearly always open at a particular time of day - the Weather app when you wake up, for instance - then Proactive will help you to do this, offering a little bubble to open the app with one tap. If you call someone habitually, you'll get a button for that at the appropriate time. It's partly a shortcut, and partly a reminder of what you normally do but might have forgotten.

iOS 9 new features: Updates to iCloud Drive

We're expecting Apple's iCloud Drive feature - which makes it simple to directly access documents saved online, and was introduced with iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite at WWDC last year - to receive a number of updates at WWDC 2015.

First, it's been reported that Apple will start syncing the content of several of its IMAP-based apps via iCloud Drive rather than via an IMAP-based back end. We don't know which apps, unfortunately, but possibilities include Notes, Reminders and Calendar. iCloud Drive syncing should lead to faster syncing between the apps as well as stronger security (thanks to the system's end-to-end data encryption).

The transition is likely to be a major project for Apple, but we're assured that users will just see a dialogue box offering to import the data.

The second anticipated iCloud Drive update is a bit vaguer: Apple is said to be upgrading its servers to cater for expected increase in usage - partly due to the previous change, we imagine.

Finally, and perhaps most interestingly for iOS users, we understand that Apple is preparing a dedicated iCloud Drive app for launch with iOS 9. This app would let you view files stored on the service. (Mac users can easily examine the iCloud Drive folder in Finder, but iPhone and iPad users currently have no easy way of accessing iCloud Drive content.)

See also: How to use iCloud Drive for Mac, iPhone & iPad and Everything you need to know about Apple's iCloud Drive.

iOS 9 new features: 'Rootless' security system will make iOS 9 impossible to jailbreak

Hard to see this one as good news: for those of us who don't jailbreak, it'll make no difference, and it'll be a nightmare for jailbreakers who want to update to the newest version of iOS.

It's believed that iOS 9 will be unprecedentedly difficult to jailbreak thanks to a new security system that Apple is working on called 'Rootless'.

Redmond Pie reports that this system "is aimed at preventing even administrator-level users from gaining access to certain file systems on an iPhone, iPad or Mac - though it's believed that it can be disabled on the company's desktop OS… Apple has been plugging holes in iOS for years, holes that jailbreakers have historically used to gain access to parts of the system that they would normally not be able to interact with. It's this opening up of iOS at a fundamental level that is likely to be thwarted by Apple's 'Rootless' technology, leaving jailbreakers very much at the beginning of what could be a long and difficult journey."

Since we don't know Redmond Pie's unnamed sources, we can't verify this report for ourselves; and the site admits that it doesn't know if Rootless will make an appearance in the next software updates (to both mac OS X and iOS) or at some point after that. But jailbreakers will be awaiting the WWDC announcements with some concern, we imagine.

How to jailbreak an iPhone or iPad

iOS 9 new features: Updates to the Swift programming language

The next change in iOS 9 that we're going to talk about is clearly of principal interest to developers, but it could lead to some small benefits for we humble users too.

It's anticipated that Swift, the programming language that was introduced with iOS 8, will be updated for iOS 9's launch. The single significant change that we've heard about so far is that code libraries will be included as part of iOS itself rather than as part of individual Swift-based apps. This could lead to a larger iOS install file (boo!) but would avoid duplicating data across multiple apps and, in the long run, should actually free up more room on your device (hooray!).

Remember that WWDC is for developers really, and the rest of us are spectators, so Swift is exactly the sort of thing that Apple is likely to want to talk about. Watch this space, as they say.

iOS 9 new features: Music streaming service

We think that Apple's long-rumoured, Beats-branded, Spotify-killing music-streaming service might actually turn up before the full public launch of iOS 9 - many Apple fans expect it in the iOS 8.4 update. But that timing would still fit with a major announcement at WWDC.

Read all the rumours of an Apple music streaming here.

iOS 9 new features: HomeKit hub, possibly called 'Home'

HomeKit is Apple's take on the Internet of Things concept: a platform that will allow you to control home appliances and other non-traditional connected devices from your iPhone or Mac. Apple has announced the platform, but we are still waiting for the official launch. This is expected to happen later this year, with HomeKit-compatible devices arriving as early as June 2015.

Naturally it makes sense for this important new product area for Apple to be a focus of attention in future software updates, and we expect to see a new HomeKit-focused app in iOS 9 called, most likely, 'Home'. That's what the reports say, anyway.

This app would be a little like Health: a central hub that's used to communicate with a wide variety of external devices and collate their data. As my colleague Caitlin McGarry explains it, "The app 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."

We can't wait: by the end of this year we could all be using our iPhones to examine the contents of our fridges and turn on the heating shortly before we arrive home.

iOS 9 new features: Public transport directions in Maps

One we've been waiting for since iOS 6, when Apple Maps launched to widespread public derision.

Apple Maps has got a lot better since then, of course - take a look at our Apple Maps vs Google Maps comparison review to see how much ground Apple has made up on its big rival - but one big gap in its feature set is public transport directions. (Google has offered this since before Apple Maps even launched.)

This may be about to change:

"Apple has been busy collecting mapping and transit start-ups over the last couple years, including the recent purchase of GPS company Coherent Navigation, but we haven't seen those acquisitions at work yet. A new report indicates that the Maps reboot on deck for Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference in June will finally add transit directions, including trip-planning."

Expect coverage outside the US to lag behind a little, but this would be a big addition - and about time.

iOS 9 new features: Contact availability status

A patent that has recently been granted shows that Apple is considering a new feature that would enable iPhone users to view at a glance whether their contacts are available for a conversation, and where they are.

The abstract of the patent reads:

"A command is received at an operating system of a first mobile phone for displaying contact information of a remote user having a mobile phone number of a second mobile phone. In response to the command, a request is transmitted to a remote server from the first mobile phone over a cellular network requesting an operating status of the second mobile phone. The operating status of the second mobile phone is received from the remote server over the cellular network. The operating status of the second mobile phone is displayed on a display of the first mobile phone as a part of contact information of the remote user associated with the second mobile phone, where the operating status includes current locality of the second mobile phone."

Which sounds complicated, but can be further summarised as a system that detects where your friends are, and whether they're available and the operating status of their iPhone (such as silent or Airplane mode), and presents that information in the Contacts app. If you're thinking that has the whiff of surveillance about it - well, it does, but only to the same extent as Find My Friends, and it would presumably be optional for both parties.

iOS 9 new features: Contact availability status patent

iOS 9 new features: Improved reliability & stability

Aside from this, the main rumour we've been hearing so far is that iOS 9 will focus on speed and stability. Wake up at the back.

9to5Mac quotes sources who reckon that the Apple team working on iOS 9 are waging a "huge" effort to improve stability and increase speed, as well as zapping bugs that may hamper performance - to the extent that these efforts could even be touted as the principle benefit of updating.

Many iPhone and iPad owners may be baffled by this, since the iOS experience on reasonably up-to-date iPads and iPhones is extremely slick and smooth. But for anyone who's tried to stick with an iDevice for more than a few years, this will actually sound like a godsend. iOS 7 and iOS 8 were both widely criticised for hobbling the speed of devices at the lower end of compatibility; my own faithful iPhone 4 essentially came to the end of its useful life after installing iOS 7, and many iPhone 4s models encountered a major speed hit after upgrading to iOS 8.

We'd certainly like Apple to make iOS less RAM-hungry.

iOS 8 features: Continuity

You can't keep adding whizz-bang features and expect legacy devices to cope with the extra demands without suffering performance dips, which is why an iOS update that takes that side of things seriously would be something to applaud.

9to5Mac adds that iOS 9 will also see more serious efforts to minimise the size of install files, which makes a lot of sense after the debacle surrounding iOS 8.

(There will be more new features than just these, of course. We've also been hearing that Apple may overhaul the directions offered in Maps, for a start, and take a look at our features wishlist lower down to see some of the other functions we want to see in iOS 9.)

[We have the latest rumours about the Apple iCar here.]

iOS 9 rumours: Which iPads, iPhones and iPods will be able to run iOS 9?

Each time Apple updates iOS, it adds a couple of new iPads and iPhones to the list of compatible devices, and knocks one or two older ones off.

Well, that's what it normally does. But this year Apple changed the record. iOS 9 is compatible with all the same devices as iOS 8 (plus, presumably, the iPhone 7 and other new devices that will launch in the autumn).

Which means you can get iOS 9 if you've got any of the following devices, which are compatible with iOS 8

  • iPad 2, iPad 3, iPad 4, iPad Air, iPad Air 2
  • iPad mini, iPad mini 2, iPad mini 3
  • iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus
  • iPod touch (fifth generation)

iOS 9 will launch to the general public alongside a new iPhone (or set of iPhones) in September and will of course be compatible with them. Most likely it will be followed by new iPads a month later, and again, will work with them.

A final word on updates: rather brilliantly, Apple listened when we complained about the vast size of the install file for iOS 7 and iOS 8, and this time around it should be a lot easier to make the update. Apple boasts that installing iOS 9 will take up only 1.3GB of your device's free space.

Update, 1 June: Support for older iPhones

We had already heard promising reports that, whereas iOS 7 and iOS 8 both introduced such a lot of advanced features that some devices slowed down noticeably when they were updated, iOS 9 was going to focus on reliability and performance. That rumour has now solidified into a report that the new OS will support devices as old as the iPhone 4s, and could even speed them up a little.

It's understood that the software development team at Apple have changed their working practices this time around, working on - and optimising features for - older hardware from day one rather than developing for the latest devices and working backwards towards the end of the development cycle.

Some pundits have speculated that iOS 9 could take the performance of the iPhone 4s back to iOS 7 levels, and after the disappointing loss of speed caused by iOS 8 this would be hugely popular.

iOS 9 rumours: Images, screenshots and concept videos

It's very early days, and we don't expect leaked screenshots to start appearing for a while yet. But a few designers and artists have started coming up with design ideas for iOS 9's interface. (See also: The 10 weirdest Apple concept art designs.)

One we particularly like is this one by Yasser Farahi, part of a set devoted to conceptualising the iPhone 7:

iPhone 7 release date rumours: Concept illustration by Yasser Farahi

That's right: Farahi has imagined the unimaginable and turned iOS's icons into circles.

It was said that the rectangle with rounded corners was Steve Jobs' favourite shape, and we've all been tapping rounded-square icons for so long that circular icons just look wrong - but also radically new and vaguely exciting.

The primary-school mathematician in me feels the need to point out that circles tessellate less effectively than squares (and even rounded-corner squares) and the above system reduces the available space for developers to design in. But we're used to circular icons in Mac world - iTunes, the Mac App Store, most of the browsers - so why not?

On the next page: Our iOS 9 features wishlist >>