iOS 9 vs. iOS 8 – What Are The Improvements?

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iOS 8 was perhaps not the most successful operating system in Apple history, but the consumer electronics giant has high hopes for its iOS 9 replacement. The day has finally come, ahead of the launch of the iPhone 6s, for iOS 9 to be released, but how does it compare to the last version of the operating system, and what new features has the software introduced?

Every major iOS release sees Apple tweak the interface of the operating system, and iOS 9 is no exception to this rule. Apple has redesigned the iOS operating system for this generation, with major visual and functional changes having been implemented.

Notification Center

One of the first and most notable alterations to iOS 9 is the new Notification Center that has been introduced. Apple has chosen to split the drawer into two separate sections, with the today view and widgets available on the left-hand of the screen, with notifications on the right. This is only applicable to landscape mode, but will make a significant difference to iPad users of the operating system.

It is now also possible to sort notifications by time and date, as opposed to iOS 8 which also took the type of application into consideration. This new system ensures that chronology is easier to implement, and makes a pleasing change to the operating system.

System font

The other major change to iOS 9 over previous versions that will be immediately apparent is the change in system font. Apple had previously moved from Helvetica to Helvetica Neue in iOS 7, while OS X changed from Lucida Grande to Helvetica Neue with OS X Yosemite. But this year both offerings will utilize Apple’s San Francisco font, has introduced by the Apple Watch earlier this year.

It is worth noting that the font utilized in iOS 9 does differ slightly from the Apple Watch variants, with flat edges noticeable on rounded letters, and more space allowed between characters in order to improve legibility.

Apps switcher

Apple has also significantly overhauled the app switcher that is included in iOS 9. This is one aspect of the operating system that has evolved rapidly in recent versions, with the apps switcher merely being a bar at the bottom of the operating system with app icons not that long ago. In iOS 7, this was altered to a list of items with cards to preview applications.

However, with this latest release, Apple has clearly been inspired by the apps tray included in Android Lollipop. This competing operating system features a scrolling stack of app preview cards which are overlaid visually. iOS 9 presents a similar approach, but instead features sideways scrolling as opposed to the forward and back method of Android.

The new scrolling system is explained by the fact that the direction of the forefinger app switching gesture on the iPad has been reversed. This naturally takes a while to become accustomed to, but it works acceptably once one has got used to it.

Apps tray

Apple has made significant alterations to the apps tray as well, particularly related to the way that you access it. In iOS 8, this was achieved by swiping to the left of the card that featured the home screen. But in this latest version of the mobile operating system, the access to an application can be achieved by simply calling up on a card shown at the bottom of the display.

Apple has also utilized the same interface to include the Apple music app when you add a pair of headphones for a speaker connected via Bluetooth or the 3.5mm jack. This can be particularly useful when switching from an application to the music app, as it eradicates the need to search for the appropriate icon from the home screen.

Finally in this section, the recent contacts list that was previously located at the top of iOS has been removed from this version. Some critics and users have suggested that the location of the list wasn’t particularly useful in this position, and it appears that Apple hasn’t bowed to public pressure on this matter.

App changes

Apple has also made several changes to apps included in iOS 9. This means that the next generation operating system generally delivers a more enjoyable user experience.

The mail software now enables users to include more than five photographs in a message, which it must be said is a much welcome removal of a restriction that seemed completely gratuitous. It is also possible to add attachments to the software as well, via the iCloud Drive. Apple has also ensured that searching mail is significantly more sophisticated, with thread topics now activated via keywords, and much more customization possible.

Photos has also been upgraded, with a new feature at the bottom of the iPhone version that enables users to recycle through photographs. The functionality of this so-called scrubber differs slightly from older versions of the iPad, with the software now able to accelerate through photographs considerably more quickly. Apple has also ensured that it is easier to select multiple photographs by pressing on one and dragging to the left or right.

Other visual and functional changes have also been made to iOS 9, and these are really too numerous to document in full. But a few major additions include a slicker share and overflow menu including a separated cancel button, the ability to set recording resolution to 720p in the settings app to save on storage space, and intuitive caller ID estimations made based on previous emails. All of these improvements help to make iOS 9 just that little bit more user-friendly.


iOS 9 definitely should not be seen as a revolution, but then when you have produced the most successful piece of mobile consumer electronics in history, one doesn’t need to make massive changes to the operating system. But the visual appearance of iOS 9 has matured considerably, and numerous applications also work more intuitively. There are some nifty visual and functional improvements to multiple aspects of the system, and this will please iOS aficionados, even if the changes are perhaps not likely to attract too many Android devotees.

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