iOS 8 is being touted as the biggest change to the OS since the App Store was introduced, and the plethora of new features and improvements back up that statement.
Apple has officially announced iOS 8, one of the most feature-packed iterations of the company’s mobile OS, at its WWDC 2014 event.
iOS 7 was about bringing iOS up to modern standards in terms of design, and with iOS 8, Apple has focused on making the OS more flexible and capable. Most of the new features are something that jailbreak, Android and third-party app users have taken for granted for some time now, but they all come together to make iOS considerably more powerful than it has ever been. We’ve summarized the top features down below, so read on to find out why iOS could be a game-changer.
One of the features Android users will instantly find familiar are interactive notifications. With iOS 8, Apple is building in the option for apps to allow users to carry out simple functions right from an app’s notification. For example, users can respond to text messages, like a Facebook post, and more, without needing to move away from the currently open app. Notifications can be interacted with from the lockscreen as well.
In addition to interactive notifications, the notification shade now also supports the addition of widgets. This is similar to how Android does it, except the widgets are limited to the notifications – users can add widgets for weather, sports or similar apps, and get the latest info, while also being able to interact with those widgets.
QuickType, Third-Party Keyboards
The iOS keyboard might have been game-changing when it launched, but over the years it has become almost archaic in functionality. In iOS 8, Apple is finally introducing predictive text with a feature called QuickType, which learns a user’s habits to offer suggestions on what the next word should be, something that has been present on basically every other mobile OS. According to Apple, all this is done locally, so no data is stored online.
But what’s even bigger is that Apple is now open to allowing third-party keyboards on iOS, which means users can now opt for a different keyboard app if they so desire. Popular Android keyboard developers like SwiftKey, Swype and Flesky have committed to bringing their keyboards to iOS 8, and this is something that might make Apple’s default keyboard a thing of the past for most users.
Taking a cue from Google Now on the Moto X and Nexus, Apple has built in the option to activate Siri at any time, by simply saying the words “Hey, Siri.” Siri also has Shazam integration now for recognizing any songs that might be playing when Siri is active. Moreover, users can now control their smart home devices like thermostats, for things such as turning up the heat or turning off the lights, all through hands-free voice recognition.
Sharing files and data between apps has been among the most non-intuitive and cumbersome aspects of iOS, while Android and Windows Phone have made it rather simple since, well, forever. Now, inter-app communication has finally been opened up on iOS. For example, users can be viewing a photo in the default Photos app, and instantly open it in a photo editing app directly from Photos, instead of having to launch the editing app separately and then selecting the image they want to edit. Until iOS 7, only a few apps have been able to integrate themselves as default apps for opening a certain type of file, but that will no longer be the case once iOS 8 hits.
Apple’s email app has been improved as well. It now boasts swipe features – for example, when composing an email, users will be able to swipe the compose window down to refer to other emails. Once they’ve gotten the information they were looking for, they can simply bring the compose window back up to resume typing out their email. Deleting emails will be possible swiping to the right, something that we have seen on email apps like Mailbox.
And that nicely leads us on to iCloud Drive. iCloud’s online storage is fully integrated into iOS 8, and users will now be able to open documents from one app inside another compatible app from a central location. Files synced on a Mac will also be available on an iPhone or iPad – this is basically Apple’s version of a file manager, though it is limited to files stored on the cloud.
For family members using the same credit card on their own iDevices, Family Sharing should come as a boon. The feature will let up to six members of a family share any content they might have purchased on iTunes, as long as the same credit card was used. Calendars, reminders, photos and other data can also be shared across devices, while parents will be able to approve or deny purchases made on their children’s devices.
Messaging: Audio and Video messages, location sharing, and more
Messages is also getting numerous new features, most of them taken from various other messaging apps like WhatsApp and Snapchat. Users will be able to send quick voice and video messages to their contacts – these messages will self-destruct after a while, unless they are set to saved. It is now possible to remove people from a group message thread, and users can also share their locations with each other.
Instead of unveiling a health/fitness-tracking device of their own, Apple announced HealthKit, a centralized way for users to track their health and fitness data. Third-party fitness devices like FitBit and Fuelband can integrate with HealthKit, in order to offer important health metrics calculated over a period of time. HealthKit will likely be a major part of Apple’s rumored iWatch, but for now, it’s the fitness hub that users will have for all their health-tracking needs.
iOS 8 also includes numerous other features, such as the option for third-party apps to use the Touch ID sensor, more polished visuals, improved privacy and security, better Spotlight functionality, inclusion of frequent contacts in the multitasking screen, and more. iOS 8 is already available for developers and will get a public beta later this year, with an official rollout soon after the iPhone 6 is released.
The devices slated to get iOS 8 include the iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPhone 5C, iPhone 5S, iPod touch 5th generation, iPad 2, iPad with Retina display, iPad Air, iPad mini and iPad mini with Retina display. The iPhone 4 has finally been retired, but that shouldn’t be a surprise considering it can barely run iOS 7.