8 Top Features from Apple’s New iOS 8
While there were no new hardware announcements at this week’s Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (unless you count yet more thinly-veiled references to the much-delayed iWatch), there were some important software announcements. Apple previewed the latest versions of its desktop operating system, Mac OS X 10.10 (to be known as “Yosemite”), and its mobile operating system, iOS 8.
While Yosemite includes a radically redesigned user interface, new search tools and some cool cross-platform features, most of the attention at the conference and in follow-up news coverage has understandably focused on iOS 8. With a worldwide active iPhone user base estimated at over 350 million – and countless more iPad owners – Apple executives can be forgiven for regarding mobile devices as their #1 priority.
So what’s new in iOS 8? The answer is quite a lot but that doesn’t necessarily make all the iOS 8 updates new to the mobile world in general. With their once-a-year iOS makeovers, Apple inevitably spends part of the time playing catch-up to other mobile platforms, particularly Android, where Google and the hardware manufacturers seem to unveil a raft of original features with every new smartphone release.
But to the legions of iPhone fans, the fact that Samsung phones may already have some of these features makes no difference. They are happy to wait for the extra testing and refinement that goes into an iPhone or iPad app, and the knowledge that they once again own the leading-edge device – even if that edge only lasts for a couple of months!
Here are 8 of the top iOS features that we can expect when the free update becomes available later this Summer:
Introduced by Apple CEO Tim Cook with much fanfare, the pre-installed Health app will manage your heart rate, measure your cholesterol and blood sugar levels, and monitor your workouts. It will even track the hours and quality of your sleep.
Predictive text has been around for a while now, generating equal amounts of admiration and annoyance. Apple intends to take predictive text to the next level by factoring in not just what you’re texting but who you’re texting it to. If you text more formally to your boss, iOS 8 will remember that and suggest appropriate language. If you are just texting with a buddy, iOS 8 will recognize that too and slip into a more casual dialogue. Expect Siri-like excitement when this feature is first used, with habitual texters marveling at their new found ability to strike the right tone!
Having shamelessly copied Notifications from Android for iOS 6, Apple now takes it further by including e-mails, messages, reminders, events and even Facebook updates in pop-ups that will appear at the top of the screen. You can even tap on a text to reply to it without having to open the Messages app. Does this represent Apple’s first tentative steps towards adding multi-tasking?!
Talking of messages, the Messaging app has been completely redefined. You now have the ability to send and receive audio and video messages. You can actively manage a group chat by adding or excluding certain individuals, and you can activate a Do Not Disturb feature, so you’re not constantly getting messaging alerts. You can also share locations with the people you are messaging with.
You can now search for photos in your camera roll. Search parameters include the album in which the photo was taken, the date or time of the picture, and even the location.
Apple is expanding its iDrive service to make it more of a Dropbox-style service, so you can save a variety of different attachments, including PDFs. iDrive will be compatible with Windows but there are currently no plans to accommodate Google Docs, which is very Apple-like but still a missed opportunity.
Family Sharing allows up to 6 different users to share all the content they have downloaded from iTunes, including music, books, and apps. This is potentially a solution to the ongoing problem of kids downloading paid apps or making in-app purchases without their parents’ knowledge. Now parents will be notified when a purchase is pending on a shared iTunes account and can deny or approve the request.
Siri continues to improve in iOS 8 with users now able to communicate with Siri hands-free, even when the phone is not is use. This is potentially a great solution for drivers, who no longer have to scramble for their phones to get directions or ask a question.
Siri has also been integrated with the music-search app Shazam, so now all you have to do is hold down your phone’s Home button to identify a song.