UPDATED: iOS 9 release date, features and rumors

iOS 9 release date, compatibility and features

iOS 9 is expected to be revealed on tomorrow, making it Apple’s next big project between April’s Apple Watch launch and September’s expected iPhone 6S unveiling.

The company’s annual mobile operating system update is set to make its official debut, in beta form at least, during Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference on Monday.

Yes, iOS 8.4 may take center stage at first, but when WWDC 2015 starts on June 8, it is likely going to be followed by an iOS 9 tease during the software-focused keynote.

The new iOS version is going to favor a few additional features and apps, but focus on stability and skip over any drastic visual changes, according to the latest rumors.

iOS 9 release date

Apple’s WWDC 2015 runs from June 8 to June 12 in San Francisco, and the company always has its keynote on day one of this five-day conference.

That means registered Apple developers can expect to see and then download the next iOS update on Monday, June 8, at least if everything holds to the same-day delivery pattern as past years.

The latest unofficial news seems to indicate that the company may first launch iOS 8.4 instead, debuting an artist-driven social network as part of its fresh Apple Music app.

Soon after that, there may be an iOS 9 public beta too, given all of the iOS 8 problems a year ago, and everyone else should expect the final version in September along with the new iPhone.

That three-month wait can be a good thing. iOS 9 beta 1 will be buggy and unfinished. The best features typically don’t launch until the gold master version in September anyway.

iOS 9 compatibility

Will this be the first iPhone and iPad software update to require a lightning cable?

iOS 9 release date

iOS 8 muscled out iPhone 4 compatibility last year, and iOS 7 said goodbye to iPhone 3GS two years ago. iPhone 4S could be on the iOS update chopping block.

That makes sense. After all, the company is gearing up for its lightning-port-required Apple CarPlay infotainment system and Apple Watch has the same compatibility chart among phones.

On top of that, iPhone 5 and iPhone 5C first introduced 1GB of RAM, up from the 512MB in the iPhone 4S. It’s time to retire these 30-pin dock devices.

All is not lost. New rumors indicate that these older devices may see a “core version” of iOS 9, which seems to suggest it’ll be feature-limited, but not as buggy or slow on the aged hardware.

Apple Pay expansion

With Android Pay demoed and imminent, Apple seems poised to expand its mobile payment platform beyond the US border, namely to the UK, Canada and eventually China.

iOS 9 release date

The Apple Pay UK release date is reportedly in August, so it may actually launch with iOS 8.4 with big banking partners like Lloyds. Other countries may have to wait until iOS 9.

Everyone in the US should expect Apple to add to its list of retailers and unveil some sort of loyalty reward program for stores, one that’s better than the current Passbook QR-based code model.

iOS 9 ‘Force Touch’ for iPhone 6S

It’s like my Uncle Ben always said, with new hardware comes new software responsibilities. That’s exactly the prophecy that iOS 9 may fulfill when the new iPhone comes out.

iOS 9 release date

iPhone 6S is supposed to get a Force Touch display with haptic feedback, just like the new MacBook and Apple Watch. Press harder to drop new pins in Maps and scroll through media players.

Looking up word definitions in a dictionary or adding new Calendar events? That could also become a shortcut of this pressure-sensitive input. We just may not see it demoed until September.

New iOS 9 keyboard

Apple launched what it called its “best keyboard yet” with the iOS 8 QuickType, but it may very well one-up that statement with the iOS 9 keyboard.

iOS 9 release date

iPhone’s confusing shift key will give you a better idea whether or not it’s on or off, proclaims 9to5Mac. You can fINALLY Stop tYPING like this.

Though the next iPhone display size is likely the same, Apple is said to be prototyping a longer keyboard design that fits in more shortcuts, even in portrait mode.

Beats Music integration

Apple hasn’t forgotten about its $3 billion deal with Dr. Dre and company. It’s reportedly readying an iOS 9 music streaming service backed by Beats.

iOS 9 release date

It seems like this will be the iPhone maker’s answer to Spotify and Google Play Music All Access, with a paid tier and some free trials to get people hooked.

To get them to stay, Apple Music is supposed to include an artist-driven social network, according to code found in iOS 8.4. It could very well launch ahead of iOS 9 at WWDC.

Apple is said to be taken an aggressive stand on its music streaming service, lobbying record companies to drop Spotify’s free tier to better compete at the paid level. That’s some NWA stuff right there.

Apple Maps with public transit

You may not know this because you’ve already (wisely) switched over to Google Maps and haven’t looked back, but Apple Maps still doesn’t have public transit directions.

iOS 9 release date

Commuters can rejoice, however, because bus, train and subway routes may finally make their way into iOS 9, at least if you are in one of six support cities.

San Francisco, New York, Toronto, London, Paris and Berlin are expected to be the first metropolitan areas with public transit directions when iOS 9 launches.

More ambitiously, we’ve also heard rumors that Apple is working on an augmented reality view that uses your camera to highlight points of interest on your screen. This could explain all of the camera-equipped Apple vans roaming the streets.

Siri update

Apple’s voice-controlled personal assistant is reportedly receiving a small upgrade in iOS 9 to match the Siri found on Apple Watch.

iOS 9 release date

The silent smartwatch version of Siri has a little more color to its wavy lines at the bottom. That’s all we know so far based on last month’s rumors.

But there’s a good chance if Siri comes with new looks, it also comes with more smarts. After all, Apple’s assistant needs to compete with the more-accurate Google Now and Microsoft’s Cortana.

There’s a report that Apple is working on Google Now competitor codenamed “Proactive” for iOS 9. This could be tied into Siri, if it comes to pass.

If anything, Siri just needs to stop answering to “Hey, Siri” when we don’t say actually say that command prompt. That’d be a step in the right direction.

Small iOS 9 download size

There are still plenty of iPhone and iPad users left behind in the transition from iOS 7 to iOS 8 simply because they don’t have enough internal storage to make the update.

iOS 9 release date

These deprived 16GB phone and tablet owners need up to 5GB of free space to install iOS 8, and that means deleting precious apps, photos, videos and music.

With the iPad Air 2 syphoning off 3.4GB for the operating system alone, this leaves users with a paltry 12.6GB and, if you factor the 5GB needed, that’s just 7.6GB for all of their content.

iOS 9 is expected to change this frustration, which has made paying for iCloud storage seem like a punishment. iOS 8.3 and iOS 8.4 beta are setting a good example with a slightly smaller footprint.

Stability improvements

The No. 1 new, but boring feature we’re going to see from iOS 9 is stability. iOS 8 has been plagued with false starts, glitches and continuing Wi-Fi and battery drain bugs.

iOS 9 release date

Apple’s Health app made a unfashionably late debut in iOS 8.0.1, a botched update it pulled, and its message boards are full of complaints, which Apple alluded to during the iPad event.

iOS 9 is reportedly receiving a lot of under-the-hood attention to prevent the same issues from reaching the post-beta masses in September.

With the quick adoption rate that Apple devices have over Android, there’s really no time for such widespread bug-testing.

More interface shortcuts

iOS 9 is likely to open up new shortcuts, allowing you to quickly navigate menus on your iPhone and iPad with simple taps or gestures.

iOS 9 release date

Apple did a good job of this with iOS 8 via interactive notifications, frequent contacts listed in the “multitasking” menu, inline audio and video messaging and a bunch of mail app tweaks.

iOS 9 could save us even more time. We’d love to see Command Center host shortcuts to individual settings: holding down the Wi-Fi on/off switch should lead to the Wi-Fi menu, the Bluetooth switch to the Bluetooth menu, etc.

That’s much faster than closing the app and heading to the settings menu to make a simple change, like pair a new Bluetooth device. Android has been able to do this trick for years.

Another Google-inspired menu change involves keeping media in the notification menu, not just on the lockscreen. Actively streaming a movie should put the controls at your fingertips.

iOS 9 feature long-shots

The list of iOS 9 feature seems rather thin at the moment mainly because no one can officially confirm much else ahead of next month’s announcement.

Nevertheless, there are plenty of other updates we’d like to see added to Apple’s iOS 9 beta, which is widely expected to launch this summer.

Not all of them may actually become reality, of course. But there is a strong push from users for the following ideas.

Home screen widgets

We’ve been crying out for widgets for years and with iOS 8, Apple is sort of giving us them… sort of.

They live in Notification Center with basic functionality at-a-glance. Pulling down this hidden menu reveals sport scores, OpenTable reservations and a Calendar preview, for example.

But what we’d still love to see is home screen widgets. Apple has kept its interface clean and that’s presumably one of the reasons why widgets have taken so long to arrive in any form.

Empowering users to customise their home screens can only be a good thing, though, and if Apple doesn’t want to go as all-out with it as Android has, it could always look to Windows Phone for inspiration and simply make its icons “‘live.”

This doesn’t have to be completely different to what’s there now, but folders that tell you more information about changes to the apps held within is our top ask for iOS 9.

Guest and kids mode

Does someone else in your family like to get their grubby little hands on your iPad? Kids love playing games on the tablet, which is more accessible than PS4 and Xbox One.

iOS 9 release date

Letting a spouse or child borrow your expensive Apple device wouldn’t be as much of a problem if there was a proper guest mode and, better yet, kids mode.

Sure, there’s a very limited “Guided Access” option that restricts usage to one particular app, but a system-wide guest account for family members would be ideal for the family iPad.

Coupling this proposed guest mode with an instant Touch ID login would be even better and would one-up Google’s existing multiple account interface found in Android 5.0 Lollipop.

Actual multitasking

Let’s be honest: using two apps at once is true multitasking. Switching between two paused apps is not true multitasking.

iOS 9 release date

Apple could upgrade iOS 9 from the latter, fulfilling the side-by-side app functionality that always seems to be rumored but never actually pans out every year at WWDC.

A 12-inch iPad Pro would give mobile power users enough space to work with two or more apps at once, and the speculated 2GB of RAM for upcoming devices would back it up.

iOS 8 code had suggested that Apple was testing out some sort of multitasking and new rumors pop up all of the time, so it isn’t very farfetched that the feature could make its official debut in iOS 9.

iCloud price drop

Ready or not, everything is being saved to the cloud these days and there’s no easier way to back things up on an iPhone and iPad than iCloud Drive.

iOS 9 release date

Apple’s cloud-based ecosystem automatically saves photos, video and documents exactly like every other file hosting platform out there – except it costs more.

Yes, there’s 5GB of free storage space, but that’s not even big enough to remotely back up a 16GB iPhone. Paying for 20GB isn’t big enough if you own more than one Apple device.

1TB of space from Dropbox and Google Drive is half the price of iCloud Drive and that really needs to change with iOS 9’s native cloud storage system.

Ability to default to third party apps

Apple still has the largest and most diverse selection of apps of any mobile OS, but it largely keeps them at arms-length and keeps the core smartphone operations fairly locked down.

iOS 9 release date

There aren’t any third party SMS apps for example and while there are alternatives to the “Mail” app, there’s nothing built into iOS to let you make one of them the default email app.

Even if iOS 9 doesn’t let us open up more APIs to developers, it’d be nice to at least be able to open up a Mail webpage link in the Chrome browser instead of defaulting to Safari, or use Siri to call look up directions in Google Maps.

Hide apps that can’t be uninstalled

Apple clearly doesn’t want people deleting the stock apps that come with iOS, yet we’d wager we’re not alone in saying that we don’t use all of them – they clog up the home screen.

iOS 9 release date

Android has its app drawer and we don’t expect as major an addition as that, but maybe just a ‘hide’ option against them in the settings screen. Then you can always go back in and unhide the forgettable apps if and when you decide that you do want to use them.

This is a feature that would become even more important if Apple let us change the default apps as suggested above.

Less reliance on iTunes

Liking iOS doesn’t necessarily mean liking iTunes and it definitely doesn’t mean liking being forced to use it whenever you connect your iPhone and iPad to a computer.

iOS 9 release date

It’s a rather divisive piece of software and there are times when simply being able to mount your iDevice as a drive, wade through its folders and cut and paste things would seem an easier way to go about managing it, so it would be great if Apple let us do just that with iOS 9.

It doesn’t have to ditch iTunes, just give us the option to use something else.

Embrace jailbreaking rather than trying to prevent it

Apple has always done its best to prevent jailbreaking. Of course, determined users always find a way. There are numerous advantages to having a jailbroken device and we’re not talking about the illicit ones.

iOS 9 release date

Escaping lockdown opens up new apps and features that Apple won’t allow in its walled garden. Often these are things that other operating systems already provide or which Apple will later add.

For example folders were possible on jailbroken devices long before they were added to iOS and SBSettings pre-dated the long-overdue Command Center by five years.

Of course when Apple does add these features they’re normally a lot more polished and stable, but adventurous users should have the option to get new functionality early.

We’re not saying Apple should build in the ability to access these things, just that it shouldn’t block it, much like Google makes no attempt to stop users from rooting their devices.

We don’t see Apple ever doing a 180 on this but we’d love it if the Cupertino company did make things more lax in iOS 9.