What are the most important productivity, security and administrative features of iOS 9?
First announced at Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) earlier this summer, iOS 9 is ready to be downloaded by the millions of compatible iPhone and iPad devices around the globe and will come pre-loaded on the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus – the company’s newest handsets.
The release has major impactions for businesses, especially as more iOS devices make their way into enterprise network environments through BYOD policies and as Apple seeks to secure more of the enterprise market with its IBM partnership and the new iPad Pro.
Apple has included a number of new features, security enhancements and admin tools designed to make using the iPhone and iPad in the workplace easier for both employees and IT departments.
The most obvious productivity improvement is true multitasking on the iPad, with the newest models gaining access to three such features. Owners of an iPad Air or IPad Mini 2 or later will be able to use ‘slide over’, which opens up a new app on top of another, occupying a third of the screen. For example, if you’re reading TechWeekEurope in Safari and want to Tweet one of our stories without leaving the browser, now you can.
‘Picture in Picture’ lets you continue watching a video or a FaceTime video call while using another application and owners of the iPad Air 2 will be able to use two apps simultaneously – a feature that will dramatically improve mobile productivity.
While digital publishers might disagree with the move, iOS 9 can now block adverts in Safari. This reduces the security risk from dodgy ads, saves the processing power required to run resource intensive materials and reduce the bandwidth used to download them, allowing workers to be more productive, use less data on corporate mobile plans and reduce the strain on enterprise networks.
Productivity App upgrades
Apple has upgraded a number of its standard applications and Siri in iOS 9. Notes is now more like Microsoft OneNote or Evernote, with to-do-list, photos and attachment support, while the Calendar app can now offer travel estimates for appointments. Apple’s digital assistant Siri now accepts contextual demands, so if you are reading an email and want to be reminded about it later, Siri will know which mail you are taking about it if you ask it to ‘remind me later about this message’. Oh, and you can finally uninstall basic apps too.
Mail hasn’t received the wholesale changes afforded the aforementioned applications, but there are a number of significant improvements. Attachments like PDFs and images can be annotated, while there is expanded support for a greater number of file types. Another neat feature will see iOS check your inbox if you receive an incoming call from an unrecognised number to see if it has been included in any messages.
Longer battery life
By some accounts, iOS 9 should extend your battery life anyway, but for those moments where you’re scraping the barrel, the software has included a low power mode. This reduces screen brightness, makes certain background processes like mail fetching less frequent, and shuts down other entirely, giving you up to three hours extra juice.
Six digit passcodes are now enabled by default, making it difficult for thieves to gain access to important corporate data if a device falls into the wrong hands. IBM has praised the move, even if it believes IT departments must balance the security benefits with the ease of use that has made the iPhone so popular as many people are used to remembering just a four digit code.
“With the addition of two digits, iDevices will instantly become tougher for cybercriminals to crack, now thwarting them with 1 million possible combinations versus the previous 10,000,” said Caleb Barrow, vice president of mobile management and security at IBM.
New device restrictions
Security has also been boosted by new restrictions for managed devices. Admins can now turn off features like automatic app downloads, iCloud Photo Lbrary, the News app, Apple Watch pairing, screenshots, keyboard shortcuts, wallpaper changes and pass code alterations. Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) provider MobileIron is most excited about the AirDrop restriction, which it says can be a data loss risk.
Easier and safer app distribution
Admins can now distribute apps without having to enable the App Store. Previously, admins would enable the marketplace just long enough to push software to managed devices, but this was a time consuming process and opened up a window where unauthorised applications could be downloaded onto an iPhone or iPad. This loophole has now been closed.
Apps can now be installed or updated using device-based rather than user-based licensing. The latter required all managed devices to have a random Apple ID assigned to it by the IT department and also meant an invite had to be issued for any software bought as part of the Volume Purchasing Program (VPP). This process should now be automatic. Speaking of the VPP, it has now been expanded to 26 countries, making it cheaper to bulk buy apps for multiple users.
Quicker and simpler device deployment
iOS 9 should make it simpler to deploy devices and policies – essential for Apple’s enterprise ambitions. iPhones and iPads are kept in ‘setup assistant’ until it is fully configured, ensuring all policies are implemented and eliminating the need for IT to follow up, while automated rollout means the process can occur without anyone needing to tap the device at all.
“iOS 9 includes several updates that directly respond to enterprise customer needs by greatly simplifying both device and app deployment processes for IT admins and end users,” said MobileIron. “Now IT can accelerate deployments by setting up a fleet of iPads with just a few touches, which allows employees to start using them with no additional configuration required.”
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