If Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference was all about new features last year, this year seemed aimed much more at improving what’s already there.
It was altogether a more subdued tone coming out of San Francisco this week, with several small announcements alongside a couple of larger ones.
Even the most ardent Apple fan will likely admit that many of the changes draw inspiration from the likes of Google and Microsoft — but that’s not a bad thing. As the market for smartphones, tablets and computers continues to mature, expect to see more “borrowing” from the best ideas rather than continual innovation.
If the end result is a better experience for everyone, regardless of the logo on the gear they carry, we’re all for it. After sifting through what was (and wasn’t) said during the keynote, here are the relevant bits for travellers from WWDC 2015.
The next version of Apple’s mobile operating system is due to ship in the (northern hemisphere) fall, and the focus is definitely on performance and stability over new features. That said, there are still several things we’re happy to see make an appearance.
Extra Battery Life
Fact: No smartphone ever has enough battery life. It doesn’t matter who the manufacturer is or what kind of phone you’ve got, it’ll always run out of juice when you need it most. Realising that all the bells and whistles in the world don’t matter when your phone’s dead, Apple has focused on eking more life out of existing hardware.
By itself, iOS 9 is supposed to provide an extra hour of battery over iOS 8 on the same device. In addition, a new ‘low power mode’ will give up to three more hours on top of that by shutting off automatic mail fetching, disabling background apps, lowering brightness and various other tricks.
It’s nothing we haven’t seen from Android phones already, but regardless, it’ll be a very welcome improvement for Apple-owning travelers.
More Available Storage
If running out of battery is the most common complaint from smartphone-wielding wanderers, running out of storage space has to come a close second. It’s a particular problem for travellers from countries like the US where locked phones are common — they’ll often take an older, out-of-contract smartphone on their trip, because it’s easier to get it unlocked.
Older phones = less storage = less space for downloaded maps and music, not to mention all of those all-important holiday snaps and videos of new friends at the hostel bar.
iOS 8 needed nearly 5GB of free space to download and install, which was a challenge on 16GB iPhone models and damn near impossible on 8GB ones. iOS 9 will only need about a third of that, which should also mean a lot more space left once it’s installed.
A bigger change comes with a variety of ways to get apps to use less space. Without going into excruciating detail (this article does, if you’re interested), the new operating system will ensure apps only download and store exactly what they need to run on a given model of iPhone or iPad. There’s no word yet about exactly how much space this will save, but for larger apps especially, it could be significant.
As screens have gotten bigger and devices more powerful, there’s been less and less reason to only allow one app to be usable at a time on mobile gadgets. There have been hints of an early version of screen sharing on Android recently, but Apple beat it to the punch with the first official announcement. With iOS 9 and a recent iPad, running two apps at once will become a reality.
“Split View” does as the name suggests, giving two apps half of the screen each and letting users interact with both simultaneously. Want to read a guidebook in one window and check map directions in the other? Watch a movie while keeping an eye on your photo uploads? Now you’ll be able to — but only on an iPad Air 2.
For those with the earlier iPad Air, or iPad mini 2 or 3, there’s ‘Slide Over’ instead. A list of apps can be pulled into a narrow window on the right-hand side, and the chosen app expanded into that window with a tap. You’ll only be able to interact with the app in the main window, though, making this a somewhat less-useful option.
We’re keen on the expansion of iPad capabilities like this — after all, for many travellers, a more useful tablet provides even more reason not to bother with the weight and size of a laptop.
In an obvious nod to both Google Now and Microsoft’s Cortana, the new Proactive feature of Siri will dive into your email, address book and calendar to deliver more useful, timely updates.
Got a flight confirmation in your inbox? Siri will remind you about it. Need to get to a show across town? It’ll let you know when it’s time to leave, based on your current location and traffic conditions along the way.
As well as iOS 9, there were a few other new and improved Apple products that got a mention.
As anticipated, Apple Pay is starting its international expansion. As of next month, you’ll be able to use it in 250,000 locations in the UK — including the London transport network. There’s also now over a million places to use it in the US, and it’s supported by all four major credit card companies.
As mentioned earlier this month, Apple Maps is (finally) getting transit directions, at least in selected cities. Train, bus and subway directions will be rolled out for a small number of cities at first, but there’ll undoubtedly be many more to come.
So that’s about it. There was nothing particularly earth-shattering, but a range of small improvements will should still prove very welcome for travellers with Apple gear. Now we just need to wait until it all actually ships!
Will any of the new features be useful for you? Was there anything else announced at WWDC that you think travellers should care about? Is the new Apple Music streaming service of interest? What about the next version of MacOS X? Anything else? Sound off in the comments!
Images via Apple