One of the most important areas that was vastly improved with the arrival of iOS 9 was search as the latest version of Apple’s mobile OS has brought natural language searches, deep link connections and, of course, Proactive. Spotlight searches have never been better as Apple’s new search features enable its users to find whatever they are looking for and sometimes, it even helps you find content you did not even know you wanted to find.
Natural language in iOS 9
Natural language technologies are extremely vital in human-computer interactions yet the technology has never been entirely consistent so most major tech companies have held back on applying them widely. With iOS 9, Apple users can actually use natural language to search for virtually anything in their devices and Siri will do its best to help with their queries. The search terms still need to be a bit specific, as you can imagine, but you are no longer bound by a list of specific commands.
The best part of this is that iOS 9 and Siri now support far more complex searches which take multiple points into account. For instance, saying “Photos I took in London last year” will allow Siri to bring up a gallery of photos taken on that specific time and that specific location. This works in most things that Siri does though some experimentation is certainly required before you can really work with natural language searches. Content such as videos and photos is much easier for Siri to scout through and location-based searches can be also be incredibly complex without presenting issues.
Deep links in iOS 9 apps
As an avid fan of third-party apps, deep linking is one of the most exciting features of iOS 9 as you can now search within third-party apps with ease. This allows for incredible interactions that would otherwise be impossible and it will completely change the way you conduct certain searches. For instance, searching for a movie while having Netflix installed will allow you to instantly watch it through the movie streaming service instead of having to open the app and going through the motions.
In addition to that, developers can also link their websites so you can search both the pages and the apps. Developers are free to choose whether their apps will support this feature or not so there is no guarantee that your favorite apps will work with it. That inconsistency may prove somewhat problematic but once you find a few apps that support deep linking, you will never be able to go back.
While the two features above are aimed to enhance the kinds of searches we are used to already, Proactive takes an entirely different approach. As its name suggests, Proactive aims to anticipate your needs and offer suggestions before you actually do anything. Anyone who uses iOS 9 will quickly notice that the search window is now populated with suggestions about contacts and apps that are completely personalized and customized based on how you use your iOS device.
As an example, consider an average day for a person working in an office far away from home. The day starts with a coffee, perhaps a quick glance at the news and then a ride to the office. The way Proactive fits into that depends on how that person uses their iPhone. So if they read the news with their morning coffee, Proactive will instantly offer news suggestions that will cater to their usual reading habits as well as their current location. Then when they get into their car, Proactive will immediately suggest directions to the office with Maps.
This preemptive approach to handling suggestions is deeply integrated into iOS 9 and the experience is quickly tailored to each specific user. Most of Proactive is meant to augment how you already use your device but combined with the other search features, users will be able to access a wider variety of features without any additional effort.
With that said, Proactive can also be used to anticipate your future wants and not just your needs, especially via its suggested nearby locations. An area of the Search menu is now dedicated to proving quick access to details about all kinds of points of interest near your current area such as restaurants, shops, car parks and other locations you may want to visit when you are out and about.
Finally, Proactive also supports a lot of features that were previously only accessible via Siri. Apple’s virtual assistant was the only way to handle complex searches and command-like queries, such as doing calculations or searching for the latest score results of your favorite team. The more you use your device’s search features, the better the search results will be and they will only improve over time as Proactive and Siri learn more about your habits and which suggestions you actually interact with.