Apple's iOS 9 arrives, while Watch OS 2 faces delay

Owners of iPhones and iPads can start moving to the next version of the software. If you have an Apple Watch, your software update is on hold.

Apple's iPhones and iPads can now move to iOS 9 software. Sarah Tew/CNET

It's a mixed bag for Apple fans: They won't get an expected update today for the software that runs the Apple Watch, but iOS 9 for iPhones and iPads is now available.

Apple on Wednesday delayed the Watch OS 2 software update for its wearable device, citing bugs. The company didn't say when the software would be available.

The Cupertino, California-based company did release the iOS 9 software at about 10 a.m. PT. Many people reported problems downloading the software when it became available, with an error message that said the "software update failed." Apple didn't respond to a request for information about the issue, though it's not uncommon for users to face delays and other download issues amid high demand when a new version of iOS launches.

The delay of Watch OS 2 echos a setback from a year ago when Apple's iOS 8 mobile software launched with numerous bugs that caused problems with Wi-Fi, the Touch ID system and other functions. An update that quickly followed caused even more issues. Apple finally resolved the problems more than a week after iOS 8 launched.

Apple, which updates iOS every year, needs to keep the system fresh to maintain customers' interest in its products and to ensure that software developers keep making apps for its devices. The refreshes are also vital to keep Apple in step with competitors like Google; predictive technologies in iOS 9 serve as a counter to the predictive capabilities that Google Now and Google Now On Tap can deliver to Android device users.

A high percentage of Apple's device owners update their phones and tablets within a few weeks or months after the software hits the market. As of August 31, 87 percent of Apple mobile device users had upgraded to iOS 8, while 12 percent were still using iOS 7, leaving a tiny fraction running yet older versions of Apple's mobile software. By comparison, as of September 7, only 21 percent of Android device users had installed Lollipop, the latest version of Google's mobile software, which launched in late 2014.

Some iPhone users had issues downloading iOS 9 when it became available Wednesday. Screenshot by Shara Tibken/CNET

iOS 9 incorporates changes that make iPhones and iPads far more able to predict an owner's needs and interests. The iPhone can learn about someone's habits at particular times of day or in certain locations. For instance, a device can load up music selections ahead of regular morning runs or bring up an audiobook that someone wants to listen to in the car. The operating system can automatically suggest apps to load or people to contact based on a person's usage patterns. iOS 9 also comes with updates to Siri to give the digital voice assistant a new interface and allow it to remind a user of appointments without being told to ahead of time.

Also in iOS 9, Apple's Maps app has been enhanced with more mass-transit information, including schedules and subway station entrances, for certain major urban locations such as New York City, the San Francisco Bay Area, Mexico City and Beijing. The Notes app was refreshed, and new multitasking features for iPads were created. Apple also created an app called News, which is designed to aggregate various news sources into an easy-to-read interface.


Watch OS 2, meanwhile, lets apps run directly on the Apple Watch, meaning they can tap into features like the heart-rate sensor, microphone and video playback. Previously, all apps had to run through an iPhone, which limited their capabilities and caused many Apple Watch users to complain about slowness and lack of functionality. Other features include new watch faces, a nightstand mode and a "time travel" feature to look at upcoming appointments, alarms and events.

Some apps that take advantage of Watch OS 2 include the AirStrip patient-monitoring app, CNN, Facebook Messenger, the Kayak travel-booking app, the iTranslate language translator app, the Strava fitness-tracking app and the GoPro app that acts as a remote viewfinder for the camera.

The hiccups that came with introduction of iOS 8 last year showed that it's not always the best idea for device owners to download the new software the minute it's available. When it launched on September 17, 2014, iOS 8 brought glitches that caused Wi-Fi connectivity problems, battery drain and slow performance in the Safari Web browser. Apple released version 8.0.1 on September 24 to address the issues, but that update caused even worse problems. The company finally achieved some stability with the release of iOS 8.0.2 on September 25.

Updated at 11 a.m. PTwith information about iOS 9 download glitches.

Featured Video