If you want to use the new gee-whiz features of iOS 9, like Picture in Picture to FaceTime with your significant other while you write a paper in Pages, or you want to Slide Over a Twitter app to keep track of all the goings on while you surf the web, you’re going to need a newer device.
However, all is not lost if you have an older device. Most of the power of iOS 9 is under the hood, making even older devices just a little more battery efficient, just a bit more useful.
The basics of iOS 9
Apple really does great supporting older devices, up to a point. My iPad 3 is still pretty useful, and it runs iOS 9 as well as it ran iOS 8. In fact, any device that supported iOS 8 will also run iOS 9. That’s pretty amazing. If you’ve got an iPhone 4s, iPhone 5 of any flavor, and any of the iPhone 6 series, you’ll be able to run iOS 9.
If you have an iPad 2 or later (3, 4, Air, Air 2, or Pro), or an iPad mini or later (2, 3, or 4), you’re able to run iOS 9 and get all the internal improvements and little iterative touches Apple’s added to the system, like 6-digit passcodes, extra battery life and Low Power mode, updated News and Notes apps, and Siri’s proactive features that make searching for photos and performing common tasks just a little bit easier.
Newer iOS 9 features
If you’re itching to try out Picture in Picture to watch Hulu while studying in iBooks, or Slide Over to pop out a Facebook tab while you’re diligently trying to write a post on the internet (just sayin’), then you’ll need to have at least an iPad Air, iPad Air 2, or an iPad mini 2, 3, or 4 to make it happen.
Split View, where you can bring up two apps at once so you can chat in Slack while you look for citations in Safari at the same time, is limited to the very latest iPad hardware, meaning iPad Pro, iPad Air 2, and iPad mini 4.
However, the new QuickType features work on any iOS 9-capable iPad. For example, sliding two fingers around on the keyboard like a trackpad to move the text selection cursor around works just fine on my iPad 3, and will probably work just fine on any iPad from the 2 on up. You’ll also get the new shortcut bar when using the on-screen keyboard and be able to use keyboard shortcuts (Command-V to paste, Command-X to cut, etc.) when you’ve got an external board connected.
Siri works on every supported device from the iPhone 4s up and the iPad 2 up, as well, though Apple’s digital assistant isn’t available in all languages or areas. If you want to use the “Hey Siri” feature, too, you’ll need to be connected to power, but it should work on any iOS 9 supported device; my iPad 3 lets me call Siri’s name just fine.
Facedown detection, which helps your iPhone’s battery life by not lighting up when you set it down on a table or other flat surface, works on the iPhone 5s and all iPhone 6 models, so don’t expect it to work if you’re still rocking an iPhone 4s or iPhone 5.
New and updated iOS 9 apps
When you upgrade to iOS 9, you’ll get a host of new apps to play around with.
Notes has a new sketching feature, so you can scrawl that hottie’s number down without having to mess about with a keyboard and auto-correct, and some great checklist features to turn your iPhone into a shopping list. You’ll also get Apple’s new aggregator for timely information, News. Both apps work on any iOS 9 supported device.
Maps gets some new public transportation features that should work on every device that runs iOS 9, though turn-by-turn navigation is only available on iPhone 4s or later, iPad Pro, iPad Air or later, iPad 2 or later, and iPad mini or later with cellular data capability. Flyover, which gives you a beautifully rendered real-world look at your maps, is available on all of those devices, plus the 5th generation iPod touch or later.
Apple Pay isn’t an iOS 9 invention, but it does get some added features when using your supported iOS devices to pay in stores, like being able to choose the card you use without unlocking your iPhone or Apple Watch. You’ll need an iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s or iPhone 6s Plus to pay in stores or apps. If you have an Apple Watch paired with an iPhone 5, 5s, 5c, or any of the iPhone 6 or Plus series, you’ll be able to Apple Pay in retail stores. The iPad line gets the short end of the stick, with only iPad Pro, iPad Air 2, iPad mini 4 and iPad mini 3 able to use Apple Pay, and only then in apps, not at stores.
So don’t throw that older iOS device out just yet – give iOS 9 a try and see if it improves your iOS life a bit more. It should make things a little better and a little easier, even for an old iPhone or iPad.