iOS 9: Best New Productivity Features for iPad and iPhone

iOS 9: Best New Productivity Features for iPad and iPhone

iOS 9

Apple released iOS 9[1] last week. I signed up for the public beta so have been using it for the past month. While the new operating system looks basically the same as iOS 8 there are some pretty cool changes that can help make you more productive. I’ll outline some of my favorite productivity enhancing features below.

iPhone and iPad

Back to App: Let’s say a friend send you a link via text message. Once you click the link it will open in Safari. Previously, if you wanted to get back to the Messages app you had to double-click the home button to open up the app switcher then tap on Messages. In iOS 9 the top left of the status bar will say “Back to Messages” when you are in Safari. This works in all apps and once you get used to it you will wonder how you lived with out it.

Notes App: The Notes app received a major update. I’ve never really been a huge fan because it has always been so simple to the point that it was basically useless unless you just wanted to save some text. I always advocate Drafts, Byword, Evernote, and other note taking applications while never even thinking about Apple’s default note taking application. This is now changing.

First, you can finally adjust the formatting of your text. You would think that this would be a basic feature of a note taking app but in all previous versions you could not change the formatting of your text. Along with basic formatting for bold, italics, and underline you can also create bulleted lists, numbered lists, and checklists.

Second, the Notes app added URL previews. If you are in Safari click the share sheet then the Notes app to save the link and add a note.

Third, you can also add images, PDFs, and other documents. When I am finished taking notes on a particular article I can drop the PDF right in the note file for easy reference.

Remind me of this: If the app supports handoff then you can invoke Siri and say “Remind me of this” and it will create a reminder with an icon that allows you to go back to the exact screen that you were on when you did this.

Content blockers: Gone are the days of slow page loading, ads everywhere, and companies tracking your every move. Apple now allows content blockers, which allow you to block all of these things. Companies nowadays add so much under the hood for advertising and tracking that it makes for a less than ideal web browsing experience.

Check out Ben Brooks’s review of the content blockers out there.


Slide over: You can now bring up a compact version of the app by swiping left on the right side of the screen. This is usefull if you want to add something to your task manager, add a quick note, check Twitter, look at a website, etc. In order to switch the app just swipe down from the top to view compatible apps for slide over.

Split view: This allows you to work in two apps side by side…finally! From a research standpoint this is great because I can have my reading document on the left hand side while taking notes on the right hand side. Note: Split view is only available on iPad Air 2, iPad Mini 4, and iPad Pro.


iOS 9 is a refinement of the previous operating system. There is nothing drastic about many of the changes but it is another step in solidifying a great system. Above I have just highlighted some of my favorite features for academics but there are many other helpful features you should check out. What are your favorite new features that are helping you get things done on your iOS device?

If you are wanting a more in-depth review of iOS 9 you should check out the following links:

  • Federico Vittici’s review on MacStories is the review if you are wanting the most comprehensive overview of iOS 9. Grab a cup of coffee and find a comfortable seat because it is long but well worth your time. Oh, and he did the whole review from his iPad.
  • Renee Ritchie over at iMore also has a fantastic review of iOS 9. iMore also have several other helpful articles on specific features on this page as well.
  • Jason Snell reviews some of the productivity features on iPad with iOS 9.

  1. If you scroll to the bottom of the page you can check to see if you iOS device is compatible. Most likely it does as it goes all the way back to iPhone 4s and iPad 2.  ↩

Brian Renshaw is pursing a Masters of Divinity at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is currently a member of the Evangelical Theological Society, North American Patristics Society, and the Society of Biblical Literature. His research interests range from the Gospels, Catholic Epistles, history of interpretation, theological interpretation of Scripture, and discourse grammar. Regarding his involvement with the Center for Ancient Christian Studies, Brian serves as Director of Digital Production and is also on the editorial staff. Currently, he attends Sojourn East with his wife, Jen Renshaw. You can follow him on Twitter @renshaw330, he blogs at his personal website.