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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  • Speedfriend - Thursday, September 17, 2015 - link

    @melgross I have recently seen numerous tablets being used by businesses (restaurants, delivery companies) that were clearly no-name Android tablets designed for that specific tasks. Why would a corporate that needs a tablet for a single task buy a $500 iPad when they can get a $200 Android?

    iPad is now caught in the middle between cheap single task Androids and multi-task windowns 2-in-1s. Our CEO is obsessed with Apple products but we have gone Windows tablets and it looks like we are going to go full surface range soon (3 and Pros). Why, because an iPad is too limited even as something you just take to meetings with you.
    Reply
  • FunBunny2 - Wednesday, September 16, 2015 - link

    -- a respected history of hardware-design and innovation..

    really, really now? Apple has always bought their silicon, 99.44% is off-the-shelf. Yeah, I know, the fanbois brag that the Ax chips are somehow blessed by Apple. Fact is: Apple only tweaked around the edges, using industry standard silicon design tools, a bit of cache added here and there. Just look at the BoM from any of the usual teardown sites. You'll see the fact: it's always other people's parts.
    Reply
  • osxandwindows - Wednesday, September 16, 2015 - link

    So why is apple not using 8core chips ha? Reply
  • Intervenator - Wednesday, September 16, 2015 - link

    I hope that post was sarcastic or it would really be funny. Reply
  • damianrobertjones - Thursday, September 17, 2015 - link

    ...Because that would be too far a jump. Apple wants to MILK its customers for everything then can hence the small updates. Someone like Nokia committed a mortal sin as they released a 41Mp (36+5mp) camera phone while others are still messing with 20Mp.

    All about the cash.

    P.s. Android NEEDS more cores as it runs like a bag of crap.
    Reply
  • calden - Monday, September 28, 2015 - link

    Actually Android runs just as smooth as iOS. The problem is skinned, custom versions of Android, i.e. TouchWiz. When I replaced TouchWiz with CM 12.1 on my Note 4, the system took up only 580MB, where as TouchWiz took up more than 1.5GB before a single app was even installed. I also installed the launcher SmartLauncher 3, the whole experience is lightning fast. Even when running multiple apps in the background, something iOS still can't do. I think it is ridiculous that a modern OS in 2015 cannot do something as simple as stream a movie to your TV and still allow you to use the device, iOS simply pauses, even disconnects the stream in some cases if you want to do something as simple as look up an actors name in IMDB. With my Android tablet I can not only stream a film to my TV but play a game like Modern Combat 5 at the same time. As a programmer I need to run a terminal app to stay connected to my firms server during trading hours as I have monitoring tools. IOS has terminal apps as well but I can't run them them in the background the entire day without iOS terminating it's connections. Again, I find this to be absolutely ridiculous as who wants to stare at a terminal the entire day, especially when I need access to my tablet or phone to do other tasks. Apple adding Pro behind the iPad doesn't automatically make it a pro device. IOS still has one of the worst document, file management systems on the market today. My Nokia 9500 from 2004 is light years better than what iOS provides, apps should never be allowed to manage their own files. Default apps, I still can't change the default apps in iOS, why? I have no use for Apple's included apps, if I had the choice I would immediately delete them from the system, as such I need the ability to select my own browser, email client, messenger, media player, etc. as the default applications. I find this tactic of not being able to select my own default apps in iOS highly anti-competitive. The EU went after Microsoft for including Internet Explorer in XP, even though the user had the option of choosing another browser as their default. Why hasn't Apple be scrutinized about this? Reply
  • calden - Monday, September 28, 2015 - link

    I'm aware of those few audio and GPS apps that can run in the background in IOS, but this is a far cry than allowing any app that the user needs in the background. No, this has nothing to do with battery life, if it is than Apple really needs to rewrite iOS. My BlackBerry Passport, running three apps in the background, easily lasts the entire day on a single charge, actually it lasts a day and a half with moderate to heavy use. Android has the ability to select how many apps are allowed to run in the background, you can even set it to 1. So if people feel like their apps are eating up their battery they can control the amount of running apps. Apple could easily implement such a feature, they don't though, which means they have all the control, they dictate how the user uses their own devices. iOS is a wolf in sheep's clothing, looks pretty, inviting but once you start to do real work you encounter a brick wall a 20 stories high. How many times have you iOS users logged into iCloud on your device, I had to do it over 25 times to cover every app. Why, why do I need to log in even twice, once should be enough, in Android upon setting up my Google user that was it, from that point on every app that could communicate with Google Drive would automatically be setup. This is because the apps talk to the system at the lowest level, iOS requires spaghetti API's, a spiderweb of tunnels trying to pass info to each other. The Share TO function in iOS works only if the app dveloper has created a share profile. Why can't the system just dynamically create these Share To lists like Android 5.1.2, SailFish 2.0, Windows Mobile 10, BlackBerry OS 10.3.2 by looking for every compatible app that is installed and than listing. No, instead iOS uses this half ass API system. What about mult-user support, will never happen in iOS because of the way it handles files. To support multi-users in iOS each user would have to reinstall each app over again to distinguish each users. They could embed the users info in the file's metadata so the app can distinguish each user but that is just hacky at best would and how would these modified files react when used on other systems. IOS is definitely not a pro system and anyone thinking differently is either lying to themselves to protect their beloved Apple brand, aren't professionals themselves so don't reall understand the meaning or are working around these limitations, fighting the system at every point to get their work done which falls in line with point one, their lying to themselves.

    I'm not saying that iOS devices don't have their uses, they do. They make great consumer devices for media consumption, social media, gaming, drawing and other artistic apps, music and music creation, etc. However as a productivity tool these devices are highly limited and can't compete with the likes of a Surface Pro 3 or even Surface 3. Even an Android tablet would be a better option. With my Nexus 9 I can log into the LDAP and gain access to all my allowed users NAS storage, mount it as a local asset. Set file extensions to open up certain apps, etc. Trying to do this in iOS is like trying to put a round peg into a square one. You can do it with a bit of force but your going against it's designed purpose. Apple needs to completely rewrite iOS, combine many functions found in OSX before I would ever consider using another mobile device from Apple.
    Reply
  • mikhapop - Monday, September 28, 2015 - link

    you really nailed it, i am a web developer and i often fail to tell my friends how the ios is very limiting for even the basic stuff (my basic stuff). android is far better as far as the os go. Now i am using a surface pro 3 and never looked back, very good in meetings, and it is now my main machine for 98% of my work. Reply
  • blackcrayon - Wednesday, September 16, 2015 - link

    Sounds like you know close to nothing about the Ax chips. They are custom Apple designs, and they also optimize their OS for them. I bet you thought Intrinsity and PA Semi were just marketing facades that didn't actually do anything before Apple acquired them years ago, right? Reply
  • KoolAidMan1 - Wednesday, September 16, 2015 - link

    Apple spent billions acquiring semiconductor companies and is one of the few companies along with Qualcomm that has a license to make ARM chips. Anand himself highlighted this while showing that Apple's custom designs matched or exceeded Intel's Bay Trail.

    You really think their custom designs are something to be dismissed just because of the name on the package? The fanboy is strong in your posts
    Reply

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