Hands-on with the Apple iOS 9 public preview: Eight things I like and two I don't

Apple just made iOS 9 available to anyone interested in testing out beta 3. You shouldn't risk your primary device, but so far everything is working well and the new features are worth the risk.

(Image: Apple)

I have never tested out an iOS beta before, but after reading that there is now a public preview available I couldn't resist since my Apple iPhone 6 Plus and Apple Watch are my current favorite mobile devices.

It's not recommended that you install this on your primary device, but given that I have plenty of other phones to fall back on I decided to take the risk. There are some compelling features of iOS 9 that I wanted to test out for myself.

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Here are the things I like about iOS 9 so far:

  1. Keyboard capitalization is clear: I could never stand that my on-screen iOS keyboard characters were always shown as upper-case letters. With iOS 9, the characters now reflect the mode you are in, just like Android and others have been doing for years. It's much clearer to me to see all characters change rather than one key staying lit up.
  2. New font: Apple replaced the Helvetic font with the San Francisco font that is used on the Apple Watch. I personally like the new font better as it makes reading text easier for me.
  3. Proactive: Sliding all the way to the left home screen panel now reveals the Siri Proactive screen, which seems to function much more like Cortana than Google Now. I like the location and time-based Siri suggestions and news feed. This will take some time so that even more context can be provided, but so far I like what I am seeing.
  4. News: I currently use Flipboard, Google News, and Yahoo! News Digest to stay abreast of what is going on in the world. The News app looks nice and seems quite functional so far. Siri integration could be key as Siri continues to be improved.
  5. Notes: Notes has always been with iOS, but seemed to be an after-thought with no changes for a long time. In iOS 9, Apple added in checklists, photos, finger sketches, and folders. I'll still likely stick with OneNote and Evernote, but I do use Notes for some quick thoughts.
  6. Low-power mode: My iPhone 6 Plus lasts forever and the standby time is better than any other device I have seen. However, it is nice to see an option for low-power mode in case you really need to power through a period of time. It can be tedious to change a bunch of iOS settings so a simple toggle to low-power mode is handy.
  7. Selfie folder: I know selfies are vain, but since I travel a lot for business by myself I do take them around the world to share with my family. I like that the Photos app now has a selfies album to make them easy to find.
  8. Improved security: While I use TouchID to unlock my iPhone 6 Plus, I do have a four digit PIN. With iOS 9, your PIN changes to six digits. You can still use your four digit PIN until you update it when six digits will become the default length.

Here are a few things that still need some work before the full release of iOS 9 and changes I don't really like:

  1. App switcher: I liked that the app switcher on iOS 8.4 gave me thumbnails of apps along with a row of my most recently contacted people. Granted, I can now simply swipe all the way to the left so see Proactive and Siri suggested contacts, but I liked the double tap access. I also still want an easy way to close all apps as swiping up a couple at a time can be tedious.
  2. Maps and transit directions: I live on Google Maps when traveling to New York City. Apple Maps is starting to integrate transit directions, but doesn't yet have Seattle data integrated. I'll test Apple Maps in New York next month.

I will continue to us iOS 9 and install updates as Apple releases them. I understand that Siri has received some major improvements, but need to spend more time asking her things over the coming weeks. If things go bad, it's a fairly straightforward process to get back to iOS 8.4 and join the masses.

Are you running iOS 9 on your device? If so, what's your favorite feature(s)?

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