If you’re a fan of living life on the edge, then you may be considering trying out the iOS 9 beta. Beta software is notoriously buggy, unfinished and designed purely for testing purposes — so Apple has decided for the first time in nine releases to make it a public affair.
So in the spirit of self-sacrifice, I have upgraded my iPad to iOS 9 and decided to take it for a spin in the hope of helping you, dear reader. Here are the lab results.
It’s a Beta, So Be Careful!
This bears saying, even if it is plainly obvious. Since iOS 9 is currently a beta (a test build), it is not the final finished product, therefore it is not 100% stable. Expect to experience app crashes, the occasional device shutdown, apps not working at all, data loss, your toilet flushing by itself, and Donald Trump’s hair taking off and flying away to Mexico.
You can mitigate the data loss issue by backing up to iTunes once a day, every day. But nevertheless, this will be a buggy OS until the final version is released sometime in September. So before upgrading, think seriously about whether this is what you want to do. At the very least, don’t do this on any devices you totally depend on, such as your primary iPhone.
OK, I Am Brave Enough! Point Me In The Direction of Danger!
The following should be performed on the device you wish to upgrade, not on a Mac or Windows PC running iTunes! You should first make a complete backup of your device in iTunes, particularly if you think you’re going to want to revert to iOS 8 at some point.
Note: You cannot restore a backup created in iOS 9 to iOS 8, so the creation of this backup is vital if you want the option of downgrading. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
First go to beta.apple.com/profilein the Safari app (it doesn’t work in Chrome). Sign in with your iCloud/Apple ID credentials.
Once you’ve signed in, a profile appears on the screen. Go ahead and Install that.
When the profile has been installed, restart your iDevice.
If you now go to Settings > General > Software Update, you will see iOS 9 Public Beta 1 listed. Go ahead and install the update. This will take about 10-15 minutes to download and install, depending on your Internet speed, and how busy the server is. Your iDevice will then restart again.
Congratulations. You now have iOS 9 Beta 1, and are now in the Beta program. Expect to receive further builds as they become available.
Apple Wants To Hear From You!
When you start iOS 9 Beta for the first time, you are going to notice a new icon, called Feedback.
The whole point of Apple letting you into iOS 9 early is because they want you to put the OS through its paces. After all, a beta is a test build.
So if you see any bugs, anything you think Apple should know about, open up Feedback and fill in the form. Remember to get a screenshot, and tell them how to reproduce the problem (if possible). Then pat yourself on the back for finding the nasty critter running wild within your iDevice.
It’s extremely unlikely, given how many of these reports they must get on a daily basis, that you will get a reply. However, your bug report will most likely be read, and if deemed urgent enough, will be acted upon.
So What’s In iOS 9 To Make It Worth Upgrading?
So it’s completely natural to want to know what’s in it for you, if you go to all the effort of upgrading. Here are the Greatest Hits.
Apple has launched a news app to rival all other news apps, but the only problem is that not everyone has it. Only the US has it right now, and it’s anyone’s guess when the rest of the world will have it. But it is already being touted as a possible Flipboard Killer.
It asks you to choose some news sources, and apparently it learns from you as you go along, what you like to read. If you choose “Android” as one of your subjects, apparently, this becomes the cover image on your screen :
A Complete Redesign To Notes
I am not one to use Apple Notes that often, being more of an Evernote fan myself. But it’s good to see the notoriously lacklustre Notes app finally get a lick of paint.
You can now change fonts, add photos, add checklists, draw with your finger inside a note, and add stuff you find from apps such as Safari and Maps, directly to a new or existing note.
Improvements To Apple Maps
Maps now has a new Transit view for select cities around the world. This shows you transport lines and stations, so you can plan your trip. It also has a “Nearby” feature, so you can see what kinds of shops, cafes, and restaurants are on the route to your destination.
A Multi-Tasker’s Wet Dream
One of the snarks I had about my iPhone and iPad previously was that you could only do one thing at a time. I am your classic multi-tasker. I am doing about 10 different things at once. Right now, I am writing this, drinking tea, wrestling the dog, and reading War & Peace in its original Russian.
Unfortunately the new multitasking features only work on newer iPads, with the most exciting feature — Split View — limited to the newest iPad Air 2. Slide Over (a less-useful feature that allows you to pin certain apps to the right-edge of your screen) works with the iPad Air, Air 2, mini 2 and mini 3, along with Picture in Picture which displays videos or FaceTime call in a draggable window.
To access the feature simply use your finger to “pull” the right-edge of the screen to open up a second window, which takes up just under a third of the screen (note that the app in the background will be paused while the second is in use). On an iPad Air 2, pull across further to enable Split View, which provides true multitasking in that two apps can run at the same time.
Siri Gets An Intelligence Boost
Siri and I have a love-hate relationship. Sometimes she gives me what I want, but other times she can be really bitchy and say no. Or give me the wrong information. But now Cupertino has given Siri an intelligence boost, meaning my queries are likely to be better understood in the future.
You can tell it to search your photos by date, locations, and titles, to find what you are looking for. Also, if you are using something such as Safari or Maps, you can tell Siri to remind you of something in that app at some point in the future (“remind me about this place when I get to my car”).
Better Spotlight Search
When you type in the search field, your iPhone comes up with better context-aware answers, and helps you find what you are looking for in an app you have installed. It will also show you the people you talked to last, places nearby your location, and Siri will even try to anticipate what apps you want to use, depending on when you normally use them.
I actually like it, even though I don’t have the split screen options that iPad Air owners have, nor do I have Apple News, due to seemingly arbitrary geographical restrictions. But I am really impressed by the fact that it hasn’t crashed once, and no app has (yet) refused to open.
Even though some people have found it buggy, I would say that it is stable enough for a beta. I use my iPad on a daily basis, and I have found absolutely no problems with iOS 9. Of course, this is just my experience — install at your own risk (and preferably not on your primary iOS device).
I Hate It! How Do I Downgrade to iOS 8.4?
Impressed, are you not? Don’t worry — you can always downgrade back to iOS 8.4 until the official iOS 9 release in September.
Downgrading is not difficult at all, but it will take quite some time, so you may want to do it overnight when you are snoozing.
First of all, disable “Find My iPhone” on the iOS device in question from Settings > iCloud > Find My iPhone.
Open iTunes on your computer and connect your iOS device to the computer via USB cable.
Once connected, press the power and the home button for ten seconds.
As soon as you see the Apple logo appear on the screen of your device, let go of the power button and keep pressing the home button.
A few seconds later iTunes should alert you that it has detected an iOS device in recovery mode. Click on “Restore device” and follow the on-screen instructions.
The latest stable release (iOS 8.4) will now be copied to your iPhone, and you can restore the original backup you made before you installed iOS 9 (told you it would come in handy) to get your phone back to its normal state.
With Carplay wireless connections, more payment options with Apple Pay, improved security, and under-the-hood tweaks, iOS 9 is a step in the right direction for iOS. It is not a huge bells-and-whistles redesign, but it has things which are nonetheless useful, and the final release will hopefully provide the speed, security and stability improvements we all yearn for.
Have you decided to try out the iOS 9 Beta? What do you think?