Siri

Siri debuted with iOS 5 on the iPhone 4s, and at the time was really the first virtual assistant integrated into the core of a mobile OS. It has faced steady competition from Google Now and now from Microsoft's Cortana, and in my experience it seems that Google Now still holds an advantage as far as speed and accuracy goes. However, at WWDC 2015 Apple detailed a number of statistics relating to Siri, and showed how Siri is being improved in iOS 9. According to Apple, Siri serves over one billion requests every week, and has gotten 40% more accurate in the past year, with a word error rate of just 5%. Siri has also gotten 40% faster in the last year, and having tried using Siri again for the purposes of this review it does seem that it has improved in these respects.

iOS 9 focuses on making Siri more intelligent and proactive. Part of this just involves simple improvements, such as how conversions are now done natively instead of referencing Wolfram Alpha, which ends up being much faster. In other cases, the fact that Siri is more aware of context allows for new uses that weren't previously possible. You can see above how asking Siri to remind me to read an article created a reminder which would have an embedded link to the webpage I was reading when it reminds me after I arrive home. You can also use Siri to make specific searches, like looking for photos based on a time and location. However, the contextual awareness doesn't go near as far as Google Now on Tap which will be launching in Android M and will allow you to ask questions in natural language about the content you're viewing and get relevant answers.

Ultimately the local and front end improvements to Siri as a voice assistant are not enormous, and the real improvements are those that Apple continues to make on the back end to make Siri more accurate and responsive when you use it. Since these improvements have nothing to do with the timeline of iOS releases - a consequence of Siri being as much a service as it is an OS function - there's not much I can say about them beyond what Apple has said. However, Siri has been expanded in iOS 9, and has now taken over what was previously Spotlight Search. The new search screen and enhanced universal search on iOS are what I'll look at next.

Universal Search

iOS 3 brought Spotlight Search from OS X to the iPhone. It was a screen you could access by swiping to the left of your first home screen, and it allowed you to search for applications and a limited set of content on your device. With the iOS 7 redesign this screen was eliminated, and Spotlight was now something you accessed by swiping down on any home screen. iOS 9 changes things up, and in a case of what you might call indecision Apple has decided to put a search section both in the old Spotlight Search area, and the screen accessed by swiping down on a home screen. However, this new search section to the left of your home screens has a couple of new features which are worth mentioning.

In addition to having search, the new search screen displays suggestions from Siri for apps you may want to open or contacts you want to call or send a message to. My problem is that I don't understand the reasoning behind the suggestions that I'm being given. The contacts seem to be chosen well, but only because I only contact four or five people frequently. The apps just seem nonsensical. I am very sure that I have never opened the YouTube app at 12:30AM in my entire life. The news selections are also terribly irrelevant. That isn't to say that all the stories themselves are irrelevant, but considering the fact that the majority of my Apple News sources are technology related I would love to know why I have never ever seen a single technology article in this list.

As for the searching itself, that's where things improve. Search has been given the same upgrades as Siri, with support for making conversions. You can also do voice searches which is a long overdue addition. Searching for general terms is also greatly improved. For example, searching for Samsung gives me the Samsung website as a suggested site, news from Apple News, general results from Bing, apps from Samsung on the App Store, Samsung's Wikipedia page, contact suggestions from people at Samsung that I've sent emails to, and even more. This is honestly the level of depth that search should have had on iOS for a long time now, and it's great to finally have a reliable way to search for something on the device with only a simple search term.

With iOS 9 Apple is also providing a search API for developers, which will allow them to add their own applications to the sources that are searched through. This means that an app like Twitter could allow you to search for tweets that you favorited or retweeted using the built in iOS search bar, and Microsoft Office could show you a document based on your search for a phrase that is inside it.

Search is definitely an area where iOS has been lacking for a long time now, and the additions Apple is making in iOS 9 are welcomed but definitely overdue in many cases. I think being able to search through many applications is great, and the integration with Siri to provide results like contact suggestions can be very helpful. At the same time, I really think the screen to the left of the home screens is poorly thought out and not useful because you can access search itself from any home screen. I feel like there was an initiative at Apple to create some sort of competition for the Google Now card screen, but it really didn't turn out well.

iCloud Drive

This is more of a power user app, and it's put in the OS somewhat like an easter egg. Basically there's an application that lets you view, download, and open files stored in iCloud Drive. The UI is essentially just the iCloud Drive picker put into an app with some changes, and you can see it below.

There's really not much to say about the app. Everything is organized the same way iCloud Drive is in Finder on OS X and on the iCloud website. You can download files, move them to different folders, and open them or copy them to an application of your choosing. It's just something to make note of if you ever want to manage your drive from your iPhone or iPad.

Low Power Mode, Notes, A Better iPad Keyboard Multitasking On The iPad
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  • nafhan - Wednesday, September 16, 2015 - link

    Wrong. iPads get used by professionals (in addition to "prosumers") all the time for content creation tasks while on the go like music recording, viewing tablature, reviewing photos with clients, etc. Just because the content creation isn't happening on the tablet doesn't mean it's not getting used as part of a content creation workflow.

    That said: they are not a professionals primary content creation device. They're a secondary device that gets used when it's not reasonable to use the primary device for some reason.

    The Surface is going to fall into the same boat. Someone who does these types of content creation tasks is probably going to want something more powerful than Surface for their regular work. The iPad Pro and the Surface will both be used when the primary device is not available.

    Also, you are absolutely correct in that the vast majority of iPads (and computers) sold are as consumption devices. That's why the iPad mini exists!
    Reply
  • superflex - Wednesday, September 16, 2015 - link

    Yikes.
    A koolaid fight has broken out and everyone is drunk on their brand of OS punch.
    You clowns are worse the the GPU fanbois.
    Makes reading the comments at AT a waste of time.
    Now get back to your respective OS shrines.
    Reply
  • lilmoe - Wednesday, September 16, 2015 - link

    You're contradicting yourself;

    "Just because the content creation isn't happening on the tablet doesn't mean it's not getting used as part of a content creation workflow".

    That was exactly my point, and the point you emphasized in your last paragraph. iPads (even the lateset "Pro") can never be used for standalone, real professional work. The iPad "Pro" might be good for simple sketching at best... I mean, the new "pencil" doesn't even support hover or palm rejection, nor does the "Pro" run any full blown professional programs.

    There's nothing an iPad can do that a Surface can't (provided the mobile app is there). But the Surface can also replace laptops for many consumers, they can be the sole PCs of many prosumers, and they can be the mobile workstations of professionals because they can run the full blown programs their used to. Something iPads can never do.

    Android was never a real threat to iPads. However, while Apple isn't worried about the Surface series in particular, the real threat to iPads lies in Windows 10 and Universal Windows Platform.

    I can't wait for a Samsung made Wacom Windows 10 tablet with a Core M7.
    Reply
  • nafhan - Wednesday, September 16, 2015 - link

    I'm not contradicting myself.
    Your argument seems to be that since it could be used as an all around replacement for every computer, professionals are using the Surface that way. My observation is that you are wrong. People who make money doing creative work generally don't have an MS based workflow, at all, and that even if they did, they'd probably still only use the Surface as a primary computer when absolutely necessary. If you're making money at your job and doing creative work, you're going to want a more powerful computer with more storage than the Surface as your main computer.

    I have a feeling that you have never worked with any professionals. They don't want Swiss Army knives. They want dedicated tools to get their work done easily and quickly. I'll sort of take that back: they do want the Swiss Army knife device, just as a secondary or tertiary device, not as a primary.
    Reply
  • The-J-Man - Friday, September 18, 2015 - link

    This is changing. Some creatives are moving to Windows-based workflows as there are shifts in the industry, and Surface Pro is significant part of that. Ever since the first Surface Pro came out, the question among creatives is "Can it run Photoshop?" (Yes, it can.) Since that day, I think most creatives realize that iPads are consumption only. If you can have a tablet that is a presentation device that also lets you do actual work on a train or at a coffee shop between meetings, then isn't that better, even if it doesn't have iMessage?

    Apple has had some missteps lately in the creative world. The garbage can look-alike Mac Pro is selling so poorly that I don't know anyone who owns one. Adobe's Premiere Pro takeover of Final Cut market share is significant and seems to be accelerating. It is getting harder and harder to justify the IT costs of supporting a department of Macs in an otherwise Windows environment, just to get the graphics work done. (Yes, Macs need support. They are not magic.) Most artists are getting used to using Windows through Boot Camp, and Windows 10 is actually a really nice experience.

    You are right that it is fairly safe to assume a creative is working on a Mac these days, but devices like Surface Pro are very impressive, even to us creatives. iPad Pro, to me, looks like a Surface Pro without the ability to run any of the apps that I really want to run. Let's face it, Creative Cloud programs like Photoshop and After Effects are where the money is, not those silly ideation apps Adobe keeps trying to push.

    Most creatives work on a workstation with a Wacom tablet and multiple monitors for maximum productivity. Given the creative's standard equipment of a primary workstation, a secondary tablet/laptop, and a smartphone, I am guessing a lot of creatives would choose Surface Pro over iPad (Pro or otherwise) as their secondary device.
    Reply
  • robinthakur - Thursday, October 1, 2015 - link

    Most proper creatives doing it as a job that I know still use Apple, mainly for historic reasons it has to be said (try getting creatives to change tooling!) and the fact that the Surface Pro 3 runs Photoshop avoids the question of how well it runs it. The pen accuracy and pressure sensitivity as well as the display scaling are significant issues which hobble the SP3 to some extent and mean that it can't be used as a dedicated tool. The pen is designed primarily for OneNote, after all.

    The great unknown is the software for the iPad Pro. If Appl ecan persuade Adobe to release versions of CC and Micrososft to release versions of Office which are compiled for it with pen compatibility, then I can see it doing very well as all the User interface problems of not having a precision input device or keyboard will be solved.
    Reply
  • KoolAidMan1 - Wednesday, September 16, 2015 - link

    A Macbook Pro is a much better laptop than the Surface and an iPad is a much better tablet. The value of the Surface is that it combines both. If you want to combine both devices while introducing compromises then its a good option. There's certainly something to be said for having fewer things. Reply
  • Sc0rp - Wednesday, September 30, 2015 - link

    The pencil supports palm protection dude. Reply
  • Morawka - Wednesday, September 16, 2015 - link

    they'll lose imessage and facetime.. they dont care about safari, and everyone can agree that itunes is garbage. you seriously cited itunes as a reason to stay apple? Simplistic device are great and all, but it severely limits how you can improve them 5-10 years down the road without inherently making them more complex (therefore losing the simplicity)

    they are made of metal and are nice looking. the ui looks like a candy shop. they are successful because the iphone is successful. you think it will stay this way for much longer tho? It remains to be seen, but odds are not in their favor.

    apple is pushing everyone to apps, even website developers (by ad blocking). apple is a compartmentalized experience on each device. They created lots of devices that only do a few things (but do them well) and then hope you buy all of them so they make lots of money.

    meanwhile competitors with complex systems which allow you to do much more with fewer devices, but has steeper learning curve. do you want to pack 3-4 devices that each do a couple of things good, or 1-2 devices that can do everything.

    let the market decide over the next 10 years, but eventually people will wise up and spend less money and pack less gadgets
    Reply
  • centhar - Thursday, September 17, 2015 - link

    Apple users are the Pakleds of the computer world. "We can make it go, no intelligence is required" Reply

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