Get to know your iOS 9 tweaks
After eight years of upgrades and interactions, we’ve come to expect certain things with iOS updates. Each time around, Apple offers a few new apps, a couple marquee features, some fresh wallpaper, and a host of minor speed and usability improvements that give users plenty of reasons to seek out the upgrade button. Apple’s ridiculously high adoption rates aren’t just a result of its handle on fragmentation; downloading a new iOS release can be just as exciting as peeling the plastic screen cover off a shiny new iPhone 6s or 6s Plus, breathing new life into old devices and offering at least one or two must-have apps and features.
iOS 9 slows things down a bit. While there are lots of new things to try out (particularly for iPad users), many of its changes are of an intuitive nature. iOS 9 is a so-called maintenance release, focusing on improving the foundation and making it smarter rather than rebuilding and adding to it. There are far more noticeable little changes in iOS 9 than big ones – like, for example, using watchOS’s San Francisco as the main system font – and while it doesn’t smack you in the face with its newness like iOS 7 did, there’s still a lot to absorb. In some ways, version 9 feels like something of a culmination of what Apple started with iOS 8, smoothing many of the rough edges and bringing a greater sense of coherence and navigation. In a former time, it might have been called iOS 8.5.
But even though you won’t find very many revolutionary changes, the usability and accessibility tweaks throughout iOS 9 make it feel like a complete, polished operating system rather than a work in progress. And as always, if you’ve missed anything, we’ve got you covered with 50 tips and tricks.
- Also check out our collection of how to use iOS 9 guides
1. Change emoji skin tones
You probably noticed that, a couple of minor iOS updates ago, Apple added a ton of new emoji to its already sizable collection. But did you know that many of these come in various skin tones? Try touching and holding on many of the hands or faces; sometimes a window will pop up with various skin-tone options, letting you further personalize your picture prose.
2. Send massive files with Mail Drop
With iOS 9.2, the Mail Drop feature from OS X finally came to mobile, letting you send files as big as 5GB through iCloud. When you try to attach an especially large file to an email — say, a long video — a pop-up window will ask if you’d like to send it via the cloud using Mail Drop. Handy!
3. Download songs for offline listening
With iOS 9.2, you can download songs and albums to avoid streaming them and using up data. To do this, first play a song, then tap the title at the bottom of the screen to pull up its card (that screen with album art and play controls). Next, tap on the three dots in the lower-right corner. On the window that pops up, tap the plus icon — this will add the song to your My Music section. Now just go to My Music, tap on the song, and touch the iCloud icon to download it.
4. iBooks 3D Touch shortcuts
iPhone 6S or 6S Plus owners can use several 3D Touch shortcuts in iBooks. First, you can press down on the app icon for instant access to recently read books, or to search the iBooks Store. You can also use 3D Touch to peek and pop into pages listed on the table of contents, your bookmarks, or your notes.
5. Quickly create a new playlist
While listening to a song in the Music app, tap the three dots in the lower-right corner of the play screen (the screen with the song’s art and play controls). In the window that pops up, choose “Add to a Playlist.” Now you not only have the option to add the song to an existing playlist, but to create a brand-new one, too.
6. Enter proactive assistant
Back when iOS 7 launched, Apple changed the position of the search bar from its original spot at the left of the first home screen to the top of anywhere you are (accessible by pulling down on the screen). In iOS 9, Apple has rebooted the leftmost search in a big way. Now, when you swipe right on your first home screen you’ll enter the Siri-powered proactive assistant, which offers a series of app, contact, location and news suggestions based on how you use your phone each day. For example, if you check your email first thing in the morning, it’ll offer a shortcut to your favorite email client, and when you go to make your nightly phone call to your mom, her contact info will be front and center.
7. Turn off proactive assistant
It might be one of iOS 9’s premier features, but if you don’t find proactive assistant useful, you can disable it by going to the Spotlight Search settings (in Settings > General) and flipping the Siri Suggestions toggle. You’ll still be able to search by swiping right at the first home screen, but all of the app, contact and news suggestions will be gone, as will the app suggestions that appear below the usual pull-down search.
8. Un-animate the keyboard
iOS users have struggled with the shift and caps-lock key since Apple changed its behavior in iOS 7.1, but iOS 9 should settle it once and for all. Now, when you tap the shift key, the keys will animate their case so you can plainly see the type of character you’re going to type. But if the case-changing letters are too distracting, you can shut it off by heading to Settings > Accessibility > Keyboard and flipping the Show Lowercase Keys toggle from green to white.
9. Turn off character pop-ups while you type
Speaking of the keyboard, Apple has always featured a useful bit of animated feedback via pop-ups when you tap one of the keys. But if you’ve always hated it, you can finally turn it off. Just take a trip to Settings > General > Keyboard and toggle off the Character Preview.
10. Draw, make lists and format text in Notes
Apple has beefed up its Notes app in a big way in iOS 9. With last year’s update, it was nice that Apple finally added rich-text support for using bold, italicized or underlined text, but now Notes might actually be an app we use to, well, take notes. Inside every file you’ll see a gray plus sign just above the keyboard that opens a new menu of options; tap it and you’ll be able to easily create a list, add a photo, change the formatting and even sketch a quick doodle. And when you’re done you can even organize your notes into folders.
11. Save an attachment to a note
iOS 8 changed the way the apps we use share data and interact with each other, and now Notes is getting in on it, too. Whether you’re looking at a photo, reading an article or working on a document in another app, you can quickly save it to any of your notes (or create a new one). And if you lose track of what you’ve clipped, you can see an overview of every link and snap in the new Attachments Browser by tapping the grid icon in the lower-left corner.
12. Get public transit directions in Maps
Maps has made great strides since its melted Brooklyn Bridge days, and if you live in or frequent Baltimore, Beijing, Berlin, Chicago, London, Mexico City, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Toronto or Washington it’s about to get even better. When iOS 9 launches, those cities will include full transit information built right into Maps, including routes, directions, transfers and times. It’ll take some time before it stretches across the world (or even the US), but it’s a great start.
13. Find nearby Apple Pay locations in Maps
When you go to search for a location in Maps, you’ll notice a new series of buttons offering shortcuts to places nearby, like restaurants, bars, shops and hotels. It’s a quick way to find something good to eat in a strange city — and if you’ve forgotten your wallet, you can tap on any suggestion to see if it accepts Apple Pay.
14. Plan tomorrow’s subway trip
If you’re going to be traveling to one of the cities supported by Apple Maps transit directions, you don’t have to wait until you get there to plan out your route. When you’re looking at transit directions in Maps, you’ll see a More Routes button next to the one suggested; tap it and then hit the Options button and you’ll be able to set a date, time and method of transportation for your travels.
15. Turn on low-power mode
There’s nothing more frustrating than a red battery icon on your iPhone. But in iOS 9 it doesn’t have to send you into a panicked search for an outlet. Much like Apple Watch, Apple has introduced a new Low Power Mode in iOS 9 that helps squeeze out every bit of juice remaining in your battery. Flip it on (inside the battery settings, which has moved to its own tab under Touch ID in the main Settings) and your iPhone’s battery icon will turn yellow, indicating that it is conserving energy by reducing performance and networking activity, including Mail fetch, background app refresh, motion effects and animated wallpapers. And if you don’t turn it on yourself, Apple will prompt you once your battery dips below 20%.
16. Customize the News app
No matter what you like to read, chances are you do a lot of it on your iPhone. And now Apple has given us a better way to do it. Among the new apps in iOS 9, Newsstand has been replaced with News (and your Newsstand mags have been moved into an ordinary “Newsstand” folder). But News is very different from the app it’s replacing; inside you’ll be able to create a personalized feed of headlines from hundreds of sources around the web, from major publications to specialized blogs. Apple will even curate the day’s top stories for you. Much like Apple Music, you’ll be able to pick your favorite genres and sources, and the app will learn and offer “For You” suggestions based on what you read. But if you want to give it some help, you can always edit your feeds in the favorites tab.
17. Fill your Wallet
Just like Newsstand, the Passbook app has a new name and a new look in iOS 9, and it’s a whole lot more useful than it was before. You can add cards using the same method, but in addition to the boarding passes, tickets and gift cards it used to store, Apple’s new Wallet app is also the home for your Apple Pay credit, debit and store cards, as well as soon-to-launch rewards cards from stores such as Dunkin’ Donuts, Walgreens and Panera. And now Discover customers can get in on the fun, too.
18. Pick a payment card without unlocking
Apple Pay has transformed the way we pay for things – especially on the Apple Watch, where we can quickly choose a card just by double-clicking the side button. Just like Apple Watch, you can now double-click the home button while on the lock screen to bring up your cards on your iPhone, even if you’re not in range of a NFC reader.
19. Navigate open apps more quickly
Apple has changed the way we multitask in iOS 9. Along with things like Split Screen and Picture in Picture on the iPad, you won’t see a carousel anymore when you double-click the home button. Instead, Apple has designed a series of sliding cards to help switch between apps. But you won’t be using it as much; when you open a link or tap a notification you’ll see a new “Back to…” button at the top left of the screen; tap it and you’ll be instantly transported back to the app you were just using.
20. Show iCloud Drive on the home screen
When Apple unveiled iCloud Drive as a key component in iOS 8, it seemed like it was finally bringing back iDisk, the pre-Dropbox drop box that let us quickly transfer files from our Macs to anywhere they needed to go. And it was, except for one major flaw: we couldn’t access it on our iOS devices without going into a supported app first. Apple has changed that in iOS 9. Head over to Settings > iCloud > iCloud Drive and you’ll find a Show on Home Screen toggle. Turn it green and you’ll be able to access everything inside, just like in the iTools days.
21. Find the new apps (and bury them)
With every new iOS update comes a couple more apps Apple thinks we all need. This year two apps that were previously available as App Store downloads have apparently risen to level of essential: Find My Friends and Find My iPhone. If you didn’t use them before, however, you probably won’t now, since there isn’t much different from the old versions, save better Siri integration and a new Find My Friends Notification Center widget. Oh, and you can add two more apps to the list of ones you can’t delete.
22. Remove apps from deep Spotlight searching
Apple has dramatically improved the intelligence of our searches in iOS 9, adding a natural language engine and the ability to find content stored deep within apps. And it’s all under your control. Visit Settings > General > Spotlight Search and you’ll be able to choose exactly which apps you want to include in the search results.
23. Set a reminder about what’s on the screen
Siri is great for setting reminders, but in iOS 9 it’s using its newfound intelligence to do it even quicker. If you’re looking at something on your screen that you want to be reminded about – whether it’s a website, calendar appointment or point of interest – just tell Siri to “remind me about this” and it’ll scan the page for the relevant information and add it to the Reminders app.
24. Search photos with Siri
iCloud Photo Library has given us access to every single shot we’ve ever snapped on every device we use, but with so many pictures to scroll through, finding things can be a pain. Now, Siri can help. Just ask to search photos taken on a specific day at a specific place or whatever criteria you’ve assigned to them, and it’ll take you right to them.
25. Silence Siri
We all love Siri, but we don’t always want to hear its mellifluous voice. In iOS 9, you don’t have to. A new setting called Voice Feedback (under Settings > General > Siri) lets you choose when you hear an audible voice, with three options: always on, hands-free only (which will only allow audio when using “Hey Siri” or connected to a Bluetooth device) and an all-new option, control with ring switch, which will prevent Siri from speaking when your ring switch is switched to silent.
26. Search inside Settings
As our iPhones have gotten more powerful, the Settings app has become overloaded with so many switches and selections it can be hard to remember where they are. But once you install iOS 9 you won’t have to blindly hunt through tabs to find what you’re looking for anymore. Apple has finally built a live search field into Settings, so all you have to do is type a few letters and it’ll start filtering through the hundreds of toggles and titles in an instant.
27. Boost poor Wi-Fi signals with LTE
We’ve all experienced that no-man’s land between the time our Wi-Fi signal drops and LTE takes over, and Apple understands our one-bar pain. Way at the bottom of Settings > Cellular (past all the installed apps asking to use cellular data), you’ll find a new toggle named Wi-Fi Assist. Turn it on and your phone will seamlessly switch to LTE whenever your signal is weak – even if the network hasn’t completely dropped off.
28. Make a six-digit passcode
Apple has always taken security seriously, and in iOS 9 it’s beefing up one of the easiest ways to prevent theft: the passcode. Instead of the four-digit passcode that has been in existence since the beginning, Apple has expanded the passcode to include six numbers, raising the probability of cracking it from 1 in 10,000 to 1 in a million. Upgraders won’t be prompted to change their old passcode, so if you want to take advantage of the stronger security take a trip to Settings > Touch ID & Passcode > Change Passcode, then select Passcode Options once it’s available and set it to 6-Digit Numeric Code.
29. Quickly trash all in Mail
Finally! With each iOS revision, Apple has added little tricks and tweaks in Mail that help us navigate our messages faster, and there are a few in iOS 9, too. The first is a new Trash All button. Where you previously had to use wonky workarounds to trash everything at once, in iOS 9 simply hitting the edit button will let you clear out your Inbox with just a single tap.
30. Add an attachment to a message in Mail
We’ve always been able to insert photos and videos in our Mail messages, but getting other attachments required a few more steps. Apple has eliminated all of those steps in iOS 9 with the adding of a simple Add Attachment button to the text menu. Tap it and you’ll be able to browse and attach anything that’s in your iCloud Drive, just like you would if you were using a real computer.
31. Remove unknown contacts and events from
Part of iOS 9’s expanded intelligence involves suggesting things that might be useful to you, whether it’s an event you haven’t scheduled or a contact you might want to add to your address book. But if you’re not too keen about your iPhone snooping through your messages, you can limit its access. Inside Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars you’ll find a pair of toggles: Contacts Found In Mail and Events Found in Mail. Turn them off and it’ll prevent any unwanted data from creeping into the suggestions you get.
32. Stream high-quality Apple Music tracks
Apple Music may have made its debut in iOS 8.4, but Apple isn’t resting on its laurels. In iOS 9 you’ll find a slew of little changes to the interface, most notably in the way of simplified menus and a general cleaner look, plus you’ll also find a few new settings to tinker with. Check out the Music settings and you’ll see a new Playback & Downloads section, which lets you choose the quality of your streams over cellular networks. As it stands, Apple Music tracks play at 256Kbps when you’re not connected to a Wi-Fi network in order to save data, but in iOS 9 you’ll be able to listen to your favorite songs in all their hi-fi glory wherever you may roam.
33. Upgrade without deleting your favorite apps
Back when iOS 8 was released, the relatively slow adoption rate was blamed on all those 16GB iPhones in the wild. The problem was that iOS 8 needed a hefty 4.6GB of free space to install, which many would-be downloaders didn’t have. But rather than scramble to delete enough photos and apps to install iOS 9, Apple is helping this time around. For one, it only requires less than 2GB of free space, which should eliminate the upgrade problem for most users. And for those pushing maximum capacity, Apple has added a new feature that will automatically delete enough apps to properly download and install the new update, then put them back when it’s all finished.
34. Use Health to have a baby
The Activity app has taken on a greater role in iOS thanks to Apple Watch, but Apple hasn’t forgotten about Health. In addition to the myriad things it already tracks, Apple has added a new Reproductive Health tab, which lets women and couples keep tabs on basal body temperature, cervical mucus quality, menstruation and ovulation, among other things. Inside you’ll find your data plotted on the same gorgeous charts, and here’s a bonus tip: now you can rotate your phone to get a more detailed landscape view.
35. Use CarPlay without plugging in your iPhone
If you’re lucky enough to drive a vehicle with Apple CarPlay integration, you’re probably a little bummed that you need to plug it in each time you settle into the driver’s seat. But that won’t be the case for very long. The next generation of CarPlay will automatically recognize your iPhone when you enter your vehicle. It’s not entirely clear whether manufacturers will be able to upgrade existing wired systems, but iOS 9 brings some good news for current CarPlay users too: Apple is opening up the SDK to car makers, so you’ll no longer have to switch out of the CarPlay app to access your navigation system’s main controls.
36. Disable Shake to Undo
Some people might not even realize it, but Apple has had an undo gesture baked right into iOS since version 3. In apps like Mail and Messages, all you have to do is shake your phone to undo your last action (and if you change your mind, just shake again to redo it). But if you don’t want this function on your phone, there’s now a way to disable it. Hidden inside Settings > General > Accessibility is a Shake to Undo toggle that will turn it off.
37. Ungroup notifications by app
Each of iOS 8’s two Notification Center view options — sorting manually or by time — creates an unwieldy list of everything you’ve missed for a specific app rather than showing the most recent (and presumably relevant) notifications first. Apple’s changing that somewhat in iOS 9. Inside a new Sort Order tab under Settings > Notifications, you’ll be able to switch your view between Recent and Manual. Choose the former and a new Group By App toggle will appear. Turn it on and it will essentially mimic the Notification Center’s old behavior, with bunches of notifications organized by app. But leave it off and you’ll get a neat running list of your notifications as they arrive, letting you quickly catch up on what you’ve missed.
38. Keep your battery levels in check
Speaking of the Notification Center, there’s a new widget in iOS 9. When you tap on the Today view, you’ll be able to see the battery life remaining in your iPhone and, if you have one paired, Apple Watch. And if you hate it, removing it is no different than any other widget – tap the Edit button at the bottom of the screen and hit the red minus circle.
39. Change the speed of your slo-mo movies
When Apple introduced slow-motion video with iOS 8, it wasn’t the all-or-nothing affair it seems to be. You might not have realized it, but if you tapped the fps number in the top-right corner of the screen, you could switch between 120 and 240 frames per second. In iOS 9, Apple has moved the options to Settings > Photos & Camera > Record Slo-mo, where perhaps more people are apt to find it.
40. Change resolution of recorded videos
Don’t worry, Apple hasn’t forgotten about those who want to record videos at full-speed. Scroll to the bottom of the Camera settings and you’ll see a new Record Video tab. Inside you’ll be able to change the quality of your videos to either 720p HD at 30 frames per second, 1080p HD at 30 fps or 1080p HD at 60 fps. But be warned: Apple notes that recording at the highest setting will be about three times larger than the lowest option, so make sure you have some gigabytes free.
41. Zoom a video while it’s playing
If you’ve ever tried to zoom in while watching a video you recorded on your iPhone, you probably were confused; in previous versions of iOS, pinching to zoom only paused the video, as your pinch was misinterpreted for a tap. In iOS 9, you zoom in on a video (and reposition it on the screen) just as you would a photo, whether it’s playing or not.
42. Quickly return to your photo library
Browsing your pictures in the Photos app has gotten a little faster in iOS 9 thanks to the addition of a small gesture. Now when you enlarge a photo to see it full screen you don’t have to reach all the way to he top left corner to get back to the album your were viewing. Just swipe down on the screen to whisk it away and return to the grid.
43. Use smart albums in Photos
If you take a lot of selfies and screenshots, Apple has given you an easier way to organize them. Inside your Albums tab in Photos, you’ll find two new smart folders, appropriately labeled Selfies and Screenshots. While they won’t remove them from your camera roll, the two albums collect all of your screen grabs and front-camera snaps where they can quickly be shared.
44. Quickly select batches of photos
We all know about the shift shortcut when selecting large batches of files on our Macs, but on our iPhones, we’ve always had to tap each individual photo to select more at a time. That’s no longer the case. In iOS 9, you can simply glide your finger over the photos you want to select and they’ll all get blue checkmarks, ready to be shared, moved or deleted.
45. Hide photos from your photo library
It’s happened to all of us. We’re showing our friends a bunch of photos we took while on vacation and they grab your iPhone to get a closer look. Panic sets in when they start swiping over fear they’ll come across something they weren’t supposed to see. Now you can stop that from happening. If there’s any photo you don’t want in your main library, you can tap on the Share button, then the Hide button at the bottom, to hide it from plain sight (though it will stay in the All Photos album and any others you’ve added it to, so you can always unhide it later).
46. Customize your photo slideshow
Apple has always had a nifty slideshow feature baked into its Photos app, but in iOS 9 it’s gotten a bit of a surprising makeover. For starters, the controls are no longer in Settings; after you initiate a slideshow via the action inside the share sheet, you’ll see a new Options button in the bottom right corner. Tap it and you’ll be able to change the theme, music and speed. A set of five new transitions are available to choose from, as well as matching music to accompany them, in case you don’t want to use something from your Apple Music library.
47. Request desktop site in Safari
iOS 8 included a feature to request the desktop version of a site in Safari, but it was fairly hidden; however, in iOS 9, it’s built right into the share sheet menu (just slide the bottom row to the left to find it). And here’s an extra tip: tap and hold the reload button in the address bar and a Request Desktop Site shortcut will appear at the bottom of the screen.
48. Disable frequently visited sites
iOS 8 introduced a new Safari feature that displays shortcuts to your most visited websites for quick access to them. Individual icons could be deleted by using the usual tap-and-hold method, but there was no way to turn them off entirely. Now there is. Take a trip to Settings > Safari and you’ll see a new Frequently Visited Sites toggle. Turn it off and all of the shortcuts will disappear forever (or at least until you flip it back on).
49. Use two apps at once
Multitasking on our tablets has always come down to the ability to quickly switch between apps, but Apple is improving it in a big way in iOS 9. While working on your iPad, just swipe from the right edge of the screen to bring up the new Slide Over feature, which lets you browse a second app inside a skinny panel. And with the iPad Air 2, you can pull the window further to enter Split View, letting you run two apps simultaneously, side by side.
50. Watch a video while you work
Speaking of multitasking, Apple has added more than split-screen apps. When you’re watching a video on your iPad, you’ll see a new icon in the bottom-right corner of the screen. Tap it and your video will shrink to a small player that floats above your home screen and any other app you open. It’s like a little taste of OS X right on your iPad.
51. Turn your iPad keyboard into a touchpad
The last tidbit about iPad multitasking pertains to the keyboard. Along with a new shortcut bar that puts the controls for cut, copy, paste right at your fingertips, Apple has turned the keyboard into a new kind of virtual touchpad, letting you select text without needing to move your fingers off the keyboard. And if you use a Bluetooth keyboard, you’ll find a full new set of keystrokes and an OS X-style app switcher.
52. Quickly delete an alarm
Apple has brought the super handy swipe-to-delete gesture to most of its apps, but for some reason it neglected the Clock app. To delete an alarm, you needed to tap the edit button first, wasting precious seconds on extra steps. Now all you need to do is swipe on a clock or an alarm to delete it.
53. Find on page in Safari
Find on page has always been a sort of hidden feature in Safari. To get to it before iOS 9, you needed to tap the address bar, type the word you wanted to look for, scroll down to the bottom of the suggestions window and tap on the word you typed. In iOS 9, it’s gotten a lot easier. Just hit the share button and you’ll see a new Find on Page activity button in the bottom row. Select it and a new search bar will pop up right over the keyboard. The old way works too, however.
54. Customize Safari Reader mode
If you use Safari’s Reader to view articles on the web, it’s gotten whole easier on your eyes. After you enter Reader mode, you’ll see a new button at the right on the address bar. Tap it and you’ll get a menu of options that includes eight fonts, two sizes and four color themes. And whatever you select will become the new default until you change it.
55. Adjust the touch sensitivity of the screen
Accessibility has always been a major part of iOS’s superiority. In addition to everything it does for blind, low-vision and deaf users, in iOS 9 Apple has expanded its technologies geared for those with physical or motor challenges. A new section called Touch Accommodations lets users change how the screen responds to your taps. A series of options can tell your iPhone to ignore repeated touches, increase the duration of taps before recognized, and turn on Tap Assistance to allow any single finger gesture to perform a tap.