How to Get the Most Out of Apple’s New iOS 9

iOS 9 apps on iPads and iPhone


So you’ve downloaded iOS 9. You’ve checked out the new app switcher, taken note of how much smarter Siri’s gotten, and noticed a few changes throughout your favorite apps and system services. But you probably feel like you’re missing a lot, since many of the best features of the new operating system — especially the first one designed to work with the new 3D Touch display you’ll be able to experiment with on the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus — seem to be hidden in less obvious places than usual.

Luckily for you, Apple has released an “iPhone User Guide,” which it’s updated with an exhaustive breakdown of all of the details of iOS 9. The user guide puts an overview of all the tips and tricks you need to know in a single place. But it’s also a long and overwhelming guide to everything iOS can do — which you may or may not need, depending on how familiar you are with the iPhone and what past versions of the operating system were able to do. So we’ve boiled it down to the most important functions and the biggest things that have changed with the major new operating system update.

Read on for an A to Z breakdown of some of the most important apps and systems services in Apple’s mobile operating system, complete with all of the best shortcuts and hidden functions that are peppered throughout iOS 9. Everything is arranged in alphabetical order by app or service for quick reference to anything you’re curious about. Or peruse the whole list to find out about changes and features you didn’t know were hidden on your iPhone.

Alerts and notifications

iOS 9 update on iPhone and iPad


Alerts and notifications are now smarter with iOS 9. Some apps can include a badge on the home screen to let you know how many items you have waiting for you or if there’s a problem, like a message that didn’t send. Alerts appear briefly at the top of your screen, or remain in the center of the screen until you acknowledge them. You can respond to an alert without leaving your current screen by pulling down on an alert when it appears at the top of the screen, or respond to an alert when your iPhone is locked by swiping the alert right to left.

You can customize the Notification Center, which collects your notifications all in one place, by setting Today options, setting notification options, turning on government alerts, and choosing whether or not to show Today or the Notifications View on a locked screen.


When looking at your iPhone’s home screen, as always, you can tap an app icon to open the app. Press the Home button to return to the home screen, and swipe left or right to see other screens. You can switch between apps by double-tapping the Home button, and iOS 9 brings a new app switcher that you can swipe through to see all of the apps you have open. In iOS 9 on the iPhone 6s and the iPhone 6s Plus, you can press the left edge of the screen, and then swipe right to switch apps. You can drag an app up from the app switcher to close it, or search for apps by dragging right from the home screen to open the Search screen or dragging the center of the home screen down to see the search field.

You can take advantage of app extensions to extend the functionality of the apps you have on your iPhone. App extensions can appear as sharing options, action options, widgets in the Notification Center, file providers, or custom keyboards. You can install app extensions by downloading an app and following its instructions. You can rearrange or turn sharing or action options on and off by tapping the share icon and then tapping More.

Basic navigation

General navigation in iOS 9


The same multi-touch gestures you’re already familiar with — tap, drag, swipe, and pinch — are still all you need to navigate the iPhone and its apps on an existing iPhone. But if you’re upgrading to the iPhone 6s or iPhone 6s Plus, you can also use the pressure-sensitive 3D Touch display to see previews and find shortcuts. 3D Touch introduces two basic gestures: In Photos, for instance, a light press will enable you to peek at an image, then swipe up to share or copy it. Or you can press the image deeper to pop the image to full screen. You can also press an app icon, an image, a contact, etc. to get a Quick Actions menu.

Another feature to familiarize yourself with is the iPhone’s assortment of buttons — which are unchanged with iOS 9 and the iPhone 6s, but still worth a refresher if you haven’t used an iPhone in a while, or ever. The Sleep/Wake button turns your iPhone on, unlocks it, and turns your iPhone off. The Home button enables you to see the apps you’ve opened (with a double-click), or use Siri or Voice Control (when you press and hold). The volume control buttons adjust the volume for the ringer, alerts, music, and other sound effects. And the Ring/Silent switch enables you to switch between ring mode and silent mode.

Battery life

iOS 9 brings a number of optimizations that help maximize your iPhone’s battery life. You can monitor how you’re using your phone’s battery from the Settings app, or take advantage of a new Low Power Mode when your iPhone battery is low or when you don’t have access to electrical power.


Camera and Photos apps in iOS 9


The camera is one of the most important functions of the iPhone for many people, so you can access it quickly by swiping up from the camera icon on the lock screen. Or on the iPhone 6s or iPhone 6s Plus, you can start shooting from the home screen by pressing the Camera icon and selecting an option. When you take photos and videos, you can drag the screen left to right to choose Time-Lapse, Slo-Mo, Video, Photo, Square, or Pano. You can take a selfie with the new Retina Flash feature, which uses the display as a True Tone flash for pictures taken with the FaceTime camera on the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus.

You can also take Live Photos, an option that’s new with the iPhone 6s and captures 1.5 seconds of motion before and after you take a photo. To play a Live Photo, tap the thumbnail image and press the Live Photo. You can share Live Photos using iMessage, iCloud Photo Sharing, or AirDrop.


Continuity, while not new with iOS 9, is a valuable feature if you have an iPad, iPod Touch, or Mac in addition to your iPhone. You can use Handoff to begin a task — in Mail, Safari, Pages, Numbers, Keynote, Maps, Messages, Reminders, Calendar, Contacts, and even some third-party apps — on one device and continue it on another. Switch devices by swiping up from the bottom-left edge of the lock screen, or going to the multitasking screen, and tapping the app. Then open the app you were using on your Mac. You can make a phone call on your iPad, iPod Touch, or Mac by tapping or clicking a phone number in Contacts, Calendar, FaceTime, Messages, Spotlight, or Safari. You can switch between iOS devices and your Mac when sending SMS and MMS messages, or use Instant Hotspot — in the WiFi section of the Settings app — to provide Internet access to your other iOS devices and Mac computers from your iPhone.

Entering and editing text

Multitasking features in iOS 9 on iPad


When you tap a text field, you’ll get an onscreen keyboard to type. You can tap shift to type in uppercase, and with iOS 9, the letters of the keyboard will change to show you whether you’re typing in lowercase or uppercase. If you hit a wrong letter, you can drag your finger to the correct one, since a letter won’t be entered until you release the key. You can also dictate text instead of typing and add punctuation or formatting by dictating punctuation and formatting commands.

You can revise text by touching and holding to show the magnifying glass, then dragging it to position it where you need to make a change. On the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, you can press the keyboard until it turns light gray to turn it into a trackpad, and then you can move the cursor around by dragging across the keyboard. Without lifting your finger, you can press a little deeper to select a word, press twice to select a sentence, or press three times to select a paragraph. After pressing, you can drag to select more text. If you need to undo the last edit, just shake your iPhone, then tap Undo.

In iOS 9, you can also create shortcuts, which let you enter a word or a phrase just by tapping a few characters. For instance, you could type “omw” to enter “On my way!” You can add your own shortcuts by opening the Settings app, tapping General, and then selecting Keyboard. Choose Text Replacement to add a shortcut, or enter text without a replacement to keep the keyboard from correcting an abbreviation you don’t want it to change.


Maps app in iOS 9


The Maps app hasn’t changed substantially in iOS 9 with the exception of an important and much-anticipated addition: public transit information and directions. You can find places by asking Siri, zooming in or out, searching for places, or finding things nearby. You can get directions from the Maps app or from the home screen on iPhone 6s or iPhone 6s Plus by pressing the Maps icon and tapping one of the relevant options. When you get directions, you can choose an alternate route; switch among driving, walking, or transit modes; or even share a route.


When it released iOS 9, Apple redesigned the app for its new Apple Music streaming service. When you set up the app, you can tell Music about your preferences by choosing your favorite genres and artists, and you can save music for offline listening for times when you won’t have a reliable cellular signal or WiFi connection. Another great feature of Music is its integration with Siri or Voice Control, which you can use to play or pause music; play an album, artist, or playlist; find out more about the current song; play music in random order; play similar music; browse Apple Music; or add music from Apple Music to your collection.


News is a brand-new app with iOS 9, and its main feature is suggesting stories for you to read based on your favorite stories and the topics that interest you. You can explore recommended channels, search for specific topics, and save your favorite stories. When you initially set up the app, you can add channels and topics. The For You tab will then show you stories you’ve missed and new stories. On the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, you can press a story to peek at it, and swipe up for options to like, save, or share it. When you like a story, News takes your feedback into account for future recommendations.


Notes app on iOS 9


The Notes app may not be the most exciting of the built-in apps you get with every version of iOS, but iOS 9 bring some useful updates to the workhorse app. You can now set up the Notes app to sync across your device, and you can access new options like sketching, checklists, and paragraph styles. You can also add attachments to notes, including a location from the Maps app or a webpage in Safari, by tapping the share button and then tapping Notes. You can use different drawing tools to add sketches to your notes, and organize, search, and share notes.

Privacy and security features

iOS 9 offers a number of privacy settings for you to control which apps and system services have access to Location Services, and to contacts, calendars, reminders, and photos. In the Privacy section of the Settings app, you can turn Location Services on or off, turn Location Services off for system services, or turn off apps’ access to private information.

The security features of iOS 9 include the ability to set a passcode or save fingerprints for the TouchI D sensor, or set your iPhone to erase its data after ten failed passcode attempts. You can set up iCloud Keychain to keep your Safari usernames and passwords, credit card information, and WiFi network information up to date. Additionally, you can restrict or reset ad tracking if you’re concerned about your privacy (and haven’t yet decided whether you’re going to download one of the controversial ad blockers that third-party developers have created for iOS 9).

Proactive assistant

Proactive Assistant on iOS 9


Proactive assistant is a new feature with iOS 9, and gives you suggestions for what you might want to do next based on how you use your iPhone. When you plug in your headphones, proactive assistant recognizes that you might want to listen to an album you started earlier and will enable you to play it from the lock screen. When you begin adding people to an email or a calendar event, proactive assistant will suggest contacts that you’ve included in past emails or events. If you get a call from an unknown number, proactive assistant will let you know who might be calling based on the phone numbers in your emails. And if a calendar event contains a location, proactive assistant will assess traffic conditions and notify you when to leave. (You can turn off contact or event suggestions via the Mail, Contacts, and Calendars section in the Settings app.)


iOS 9 makes the iPhone’s Search function much more capable. You can search your iPhone, the Internet, and your apps for information including sports scores and schedules, weather forecasts, stock prices, quick conversions, calculations, places nearby, media, websites, and app content. Siri provides useful information before you start to type, and suggests relevant people, apps, places nearby, and news items.

To search with the iPhone, drag right from the home screen to show Search. Tap an item for more information, or tap the search field. To hide the keyboard and show more results on the screen, tap Search. Tap an item in the list to open it.


Siri in iOS 9 on iPhone


Using the iPhone’s personal assistant, you can send messages, schedule meetings, place phone calls, open apps, turn on system features, and search for information. You can summon Siri by pressing and holding the home button, or saying “Hey Siri” when your iPhone is connected to a power source (or anytime if you’re using an iPhone 6s or iPhone 6s Plus). Siri can work with built-in apps including Phone, Messages, Maps, Clock, Calendar, and more. You can tell Siri who you are, and let Siri know about relationships. You can also give Siri corrections by tapping to edit a request, or make adjustments to Siri’s settings via the Settings app.


The new Wallet app enables you to keep boarding passes, movie tickets, coupons, reward cards, and more in one place. On iPhone 6 and later, you can add credit and debit cards to Wallet to use them to make purchases in stores that accept contactless payments with Apple Pay. You can find apps that support Wallet on the app’s Welcome pass. Passes can appear on your lock screen based on the time and place; for instance, your boarding pass will appear when you get to the airport for a flight.

More from Gear & Style Cheat Sheet: