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Should You Download Apple's New iOS 9 Right Away?

It's available Wednesday, but beta testers have been helping eliminate bugs since July in hopes of avoiding iOS-8-gate.

Vjeran Pavic for Re/code

The latest version of the software that powers iPhones and iPads is available Wednesday, and Apple has taken extraordinary steps to make it safe to install.

After the debacle around the release of iOS 8, which Wired called Apple’s buggiest release ever, the company set out to do things differently with iOS 9. For the first time, Apple even used early adopters as guinea pigs to test a public beta of the new mobile operating system to make sure the release will be safe for the rest of us.

A million people have been testing it since July, giving Apple ample time to fix problems that users identified — such as poor overall performance, Wi-Fi and networking problems and crashing apps.

IOS 9 is also more compact than its predecessor — requiring only about 1.3 gigabytes of free space — which should make for an easier update. (iOS 8 required 4.58 gigabytes of free space on the device, which some users found too unwieldy to update wirelessly.)

There are good reasons to upgrade.

There’s a far more intelligent search function, new multitasking features for the tablet, and big improvements to Apple’s Maps and News apps.

Apple sent the Siri digital assistant to finishing school, giving it an IQ upgrade. Siri will now anticipate your needs, as Google Now does, and suggest apps to launch or people to contact based on how you use your device. Always check email before you go to sleep? It’ll be there before you turn out the nightstand light. Siri will keep an eye on traffic and automatically alert you when it’s time to leave for the airport or an appointment across town.

Siri does a better job of fetching your photos or videos, based on dates, locations or album names. (For example, you can say, “Show me photos from our family vacation in the Grand Canyon last July” and Siri will retrieve them.) The digital assistant is also better at getting sports scores or weather updates.

The tablet experience has been updated, so that you’ll be able to cram more activities onto a single screen. You’ll be able to open a second app — say, responding to a text message — without leaving the one you’re in using a feature called “slide over.” You can use a split-screen view to operate two apps at the same time, or a television-like picture-in-picture feature to watch a TV show or video while responding to emails.

Apple has also significantly overhauled some of its apps. The Newsstand has been replaced by a News app, which will display articles from newspapers, magazines and blogs in an uncluttered format reminiscent of Flipboard. Maps, meanwhile, will for the first time provide mass-transit information, thanks to its HopStop acquisition. It’ll locate New York City subway or London underground stops, and help you combine various forms of public transit — such as trains and buses — together with walking directions to your destination.

Apple’s mobile payment software, ApplePay, also adds the Discover card to its electronic wallet in this version of the operating system.

Crittercism co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer Andrew Levy predicts that by Sunday, some 20 percent of global iPhone users will have updated their software. Half of iPhone users will have downloaded and installed the new version of the operating system within the month.

“If you’re worried about it, wait at least a week, because Apple will release a patch or two in the first week,” Levy advised the extra cautious. “It won’t kill you to wait the extra seven days.”


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