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Apple's iOS 9 Ups The Ante On Google With A News App, Search API And Improved Maps And Siri

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iOS 9 pushes Apple farther into Google's world with a more intelligent Siri, a search API, improved maps, a news app, iPad multitasking and even an open source programming language.

Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of software engineering, unveiled iOS 9 at the WWDC 2015 conference on June 8 in San Francisco.

Following CEO Tim Cook's lead, Federighi took numerous swipes at Google, emphasizing Apple's commitment to privacy as he introduced more and more apps and features to compete with Google.

"None of your data is shared with third parties," he said in a not-so-subtle reference to Google and Facebook. "Why would you do that? You're in control."

Rumors in the lead up to WWDC had suggested that iOS 9, codenamed 'Monarch' after one of the quieter ski resorts in Colorado, would be more about performance, efficiency and speed than any new glitzy features, but the opposite was true with the unveiling of the News app, some really cool new iPad features and the introduction of a new open source programming language, Swift 2. 

Federighi emphasized how important iOS updates are to Apple users with another swipe at Google which showed that 83 percent of iOS users currently run iOS 8 whereas only 12 percent of Android users have the latest version of the Google mobile OS.

For the first time there will be a Search API for iOS 9. This will allow search results to link directly into third party apps. The example Apple used was a quick link into french fries recipes on the Yummly app when the user search for potatoes. The search results looked a lot like Google search which will surely only add fuel to the rumors that Apple will be launching its own proprietary search engine.

Siri will be more intelligent in iOS 9 maturing into what Federighi called a "proactive assistant". Like the new Google Now showcased last month, Siri will make contextual suggestions based on your routines and current activities. For example when you plug in headsets Siri will automatically play audio, in the morning it might play your upbeat workout tunes or when you're in the car it could start your favourite audiobook or podcast. It also has smart reminders. The command "Remind me of this later"will automatically create a reminder of whatever you're looking at on the phone at that moment. It can also search your photo library and return pics of a particular friend or relative just like in Google Photos.

Arguably the most significant addition to iOS 9 is the News app. The app features personalised content with photo mosaics from top publishers like The New York Times, Conde Nast, ESPN, Buzzfeed and a host of other big names. The NYT will provide 30 new articles every day. Apple doesn't usually aggregate content from third parties into it's apps so again its a step into their rival's territory, and the demo didn't look entirely different from Facebook's instant articles. 

Federighi outlined improvements in performance, an extra battery hour of battery life (plus 3 more hours in low power mode) and improvements in a range of developer kits. But the biggest cheer from the audience of developers was for the announcement that Swift 2, the new programming language for iOS9 and OSX would be open source. That's a big deal for Apple, which has often criticised the open source nature of Android.

The other big upgrade in iOS 9 is the multitasking features for the iPad. There's a new quicktype keyboard which has a range of new shortcuts and allows you use the keyboard as a trackpad with two finger swipes. You can also now easily switch between apps like in Android, but the cool part is that you can now run two live apps side by side in an adjustable split screen. Probably most impressive is the new Pip (Picture in Picture) video feature. In a demo, Federighi loaded up an ESPN video on fullscreen and then was able to switch to read his email and have the basketball video run in a small screen on the corner of his iPad. It's a pretty useful feature especially for a world full of people used to tapping away on their phones whilst watching TV.

Other notable announcements were upgrades to Notes, Apple Pay and Car Play which will go wireless. The payment system is adding a wave of new partners including the Discover card, Trader Joe's and Baskin Robbins. It'll also allow you use reward cards from retailers and Apple Passbook is being improved and renamed Wallet (Where have I heard that name before?).

iOS 9 will be available to the public in the Fall in a compact download size of 1.3 GB (almost a third the size of iOS 8) which should encourage a high participation rate. There will be a public beta starting in July and the developer beta is live as of June 8.

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