Apple Looks To Rivals For the Future of Its Software

iOS 9 and Mac OS X El Capitan offer familiar new features

We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn more ›

It’s said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If so, then Apple was sure flattering its competitors at the annual Apple Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) today in San Francisco. Apple announced updates to its software for iPhones and iPads in the form iOS 9, as well as an updated desktop operating system for Mac computers in the form of the awkwardly named OSX El Capitan. Both updates promise improved stability, fewer bugs, and some new features over their predecessors. Yet as many in the tech press pointed out, it was hard to shake the impression that Apple was playing catchup to its rivals, Microsoft and Google, in terms of some of the biggest new features within the two new operating systems.

“We knew we wanted to build on those strengths of Yosemite,” said Craig Federighi, senior vice president of software engineering, who touted a 55% adoption rate for Yosemite, Apple’s previous desktop operating system.

El Capitan is set to feature enhanced Spotlight and search features, the ability to identify and mute noisy tabs, and split-screen capabilities.

iOS brings updates to Siri as well as Proactive, an addition to the operating system that offers app, music and calendar suggestions based on your daily routine. The data gathered by Proactive stays locally on your device, and web-based lookups are made anonymously.

The update also emphasizes the safety of users’ files in the cloud and on locally on their phone, by anonymizing data sent to to iCloud.

Apple also debuted their News app, a news aggregator with built-in tools to create specialized articles for Apple devices. They partnered with newspapers and publishers like the New York Times, who will provide 30 free articles per day on the News app, and Condé Nast. The News platform will be open to smaller publishers as well (at an undisclosed date), starting in the USA, United Kingdom and Australia.

Notes, the traditionally basic text editor on the iPhone and iPad, is being given the royal treatment, receiving formatting options, checklists and direct access to the camera.

Maps received updates as well, to include greater public transit information, and improved walking directions for major US and Chinese cities.

The biggest announcement for the iPad was improved multitasking support, in the form of split-screen app control and picture-in-picture capabilities. Users will be able to use two apps simultaneously, and even support picture-in-picture video viewing for apps like ESPN. While this feature is new for Apple products, Windows and Android mobile operating systems have had similar multitasking functions since 2013.

Apple also created “Quicktype,” multi-touch support for the virtual keyboard, allowing scrolling on top of the virtual keys.

Apple Pay will be in a variety of larger apps, like Pinterest, where users can now buy products in-app. Looking up businesses on the iPhone and iPad will also show whether Apple Pay is accepted.

Some other additions:

  • Low-power mode, which is slated to add an additional 3 hours of use for iPhone.
  • Apple has reduced the free space needed for over-the-air update to iOS 9.
  • Expansion of HomeKit, to include things like lampshades.
  • Wireless CarPlay

iOS 9 and OS X El Capitan will be available for free downloads in the fall, with developer betas starting today. iOS 9 will also support every device that is supported in iOS 8, so you’ll be able to hang onto that iPhone 4S for a couple more years.