iOS 9 and watchOS 2 Thoughts So Far

It’s already been two years since Apple redesigned iOS. It’s hard to believe this is the third version of iOS with the new design. It’s hard to argue that there are a ton of drastic changes in iOS 9, although there are some game changers for anyone who uses the iPad with an external keyboard. Instead some of the best improvements in iOS 9 seem to be the minor ones.

“Global” Back Button

Android has long had a universal back button that takes you back to the last place you were, iOS finally adopted something similar, and now when leaving one app and going directly to another (either via share sheet, notification banner or other links within an app) it is easy to return to the place you came from without returning to the home screen or double tapping the home button to bring up the app switcher. This is a minor thing, but it saves a small amount of time very often. It is especially useful when an email or text notification pops down and you don’t want to use the quick actions. It is also useful in something like Pocket or Tweetbot when you want to view something in Safari but quickly get back to where you were.

Highlighting the Back Button

Spotlight Changes

Renamed just “Search”, and mostly centered around Siri at this point, the search screen and “extra” home screen have gotten better; swiping to the right now shows suggestions and news. So far the “nearby”, news and other new search capabilities haven’t done a lot for me, but using Search as an app launcher seems better than ever. It’s fast and the icons/touch areas are larger and easy to hit. The suggested apps seems to show a combination of recent and frequently used applications, but seems to skew mostly towards frequently used, which isn’t a bad thing.

Siri Search Default

Siri Search With Results

Universal Linking

Basically the concept is that iOS can intercept links to certain websites and redirect them to an application. So when clicking on a link to Amazon or IMDb instead of Safari loading the page, the app get’s loaded instead. Not only is this very hit or miss for me, but it can actually be frustrating at times. For example, this seems to work as advertised on my iPad, but does not work with the same links on my iPhone. Also, because Split View/Slide Over has to be implemented in every application it can mess up workflow when trying to use it. For example, when writing things (like a blog post) in an app, then using Slide Over to bring up Safari and search for something on IMDb, clicking on a link doesn’t bring up the IMDb app in the Slide Over, but instead opens the entire app full-screen. This will become less of an issue as more apps add support or Split View or Slide Over, but in the meantime it’s annoying.

Miscellaneous

  • The ability to sort Notifications by “Recent” and not group by App is a nice touch. This removes the ability to clear all notifications by a single application (replacing it with the option to clear an entire day). Depending on how you use notifications this could either be good or bad.
  • iOS remembers what app you use most with connected devices and suggests these in the handoff area of the lock when connected. For example, when my phone pairs with my car Bluetooth Downcast shows up since I mostly listen to podcasts in the car. This saves some tapping around if I want to play something other than what I last played or I am having problems resuming playback (which happens sometimes).
  • The new Music app (which hit before iO 9) is atrociously bad. I was super excited about the “Up Next” queueing system borrowed from iTunes, but it’s so much harder to find what I want to listen to, and it’s completely unintuitive in many ways.

watchOS 2

The  Watch has been mildly disappointing for me so far. While it serves some nice utility it’s not a “must have” device for me like the iPhone is. If you offered me the option of a secondary device to the iPhone I would pick iPad over  Watch at this point. The promise of watchOS 2 was supposed to take this product up a notch, but so far the change has felt extremely subtle.

The two changes I was most looking forward to were third party complications (basically what widgets you could display on the watch’s face) and third party apps actually running on the the watch itself. The latter was supposed to make up for the original state, which forced apps to display information from the phone paired to the device each time it’s loaded. This caused apps on the watch to take time open and/or refresh, which not only seemed annoying, but kind of silly. The downside is that most apps have not released new versions of their apps yet, and so there are very few that are benefitting from this new capability. As a result, if there is a titanic shift coming with watchOS 2, it still has a ways to go.

There was a couple of minor things I really liked. The addition of a multi-color watch face livened up the look of things a bit. Previously the watch face would only show headings in one chosen color (the left picture below). The multi-color face allows for the different complication specific colors in the right picture.

Watch Face with One Color Watch Face with Multiple Colors

Most of the other features haven’t done much for me. The “time travel” feature that allows you to spin the dial on the side of the watch and adjust time forward or backward and have complications update for the specified time, seems just OK to me. With the complications I am using only the date, calendar and weather move forward. I could have sworn that the battery indicator was supposed to adjust as well, but no dice.I can’t really see for the most part how this is faster than just looking at both you calendar and weather separately for the remainder of the day versus spinning this dial furiously forward. Oddly when turning it back in time only the date changes. The calendar, weather, activity dial and battery indicator could all make sense to show back in time. Since none of them do it’s hard to see why going back in time is even a function.