Last year, Apple revealed the biggest change to-date of iOS, the mobile operating system that many of us have been using for years. Now, the true evolution begins. Jony Ive and the iOS team have had plenty of time to listen to feedback and dig deeper into features introduced before Ive ever took control of software. And finally, iOS 8 is here.
We’ve been expecting a new Healthbook application, a broken out iTunes Radio app to stand on its own, and maybe even split-screen multitasking on the iPad. Will all these dreams come true?
Let’s find out together.
We’ll be updating this article as more and more is announced, so please refresh as the story is still developing.
A few big overviews they showed off first:
Notifications Center is quite a bit different. It includes a new interactive notifications feature to let you swipe down to reply immediately to a message, and that extends all the way out to the lockscreen. It looks a lot like the interactive notifications from OS X Mavericks.
You can also find your favorite contacts by double-tapping to multitask. This gives you quick access to the people you talk to the most.
In Safari, you can get to tab view by clicking the “Tab View” button in the top right corner on the iPad, which comes direct from the new Yosemite version of OS X.
Plus, there are new Mail features which let you use gestures to go directly from a message you’re composing to your inbox, by simply swiping down. This lets you check things out while you’re in the middle of a draft, and then you can pop right back in to the message you were drafting by tapping at the bottom of the screen.
QuickType is a new version of the keyboard in iOS 8. The keyboard finally supports keyword auto-suggestions to let you autofill quickly. It’s context-sensitive, so it offers up words based on what you’ve already typed.
Plus, it also knows who you’re talking to, which is crazy. By knowing who you’re talking to, it will send up predictions that are right for the type of conversation you have with that particular person. It makes a big difference if you’re texting with your boss or your boyfriend.
Continuity is a new part of Apple’s entire software ecosystem, extending beyond iOS to OS X Yosemite. The phone, iPad and computer will be aware of each other, and while you’re in the middle of a task, you can switch from one device to the next with a simple prompt.
While composing an email on your computer, a small icon will come up on the lower left hand side of the iPhone. Swiping up, as you would to open up the camera quickly, you can get directly into that same email draft on your iPhone. The same extends from iPhone to Mac.
You could be composing a text message on your phone, and an Apple computer running Yosemite would automatically add an icon to the dock, prompting you to complete the message on the computer.
Perhaps the most exciting part is that Continuity extends to phone calls, meaning that you can have your phone plugged in on the other side of the house and pick up a phone call on your Mac, using it as a speakerphone. You can place calls from the Mac, too.
iMessage is the most used app on the iPhone, hands down. So they’ve spent some time working on the way we message each other.
With Group Messages, you can name the thread, add and remove people, and set Do Not Disturb on a per-person basis within a thread.
Apple has also added audio messages, which you can send by swiping left on a little beacon on the right of the typing window. You can also respond to a message in the notification center with an audio message simply by raising the phone to your ear. The same beacon offers video messaging and location sharing.
Most importantly, you can set up these audio messages and video messages to self destruct after a certain number of minutes, going head to head with Snapchat in an exciting way. Ephemerality is here. For good, it seems.
Enterprise is also a big focus for Apple, and so iOS has improved iCloud Drive, as well as Device Enrollment and even parts of the Mail app, which will now let you turn on VIP threads, rather than just assigning VIP status to contacts.
Health is something we knew that Apple would focus on, but we didn’t know that “Health” would be the actual name of the app. Just as expected, it’s a centralized place where many health apps can plug in on the back end so that users can have a single hub for all their health data and services.
On the backend, Apple is calling it HealthKit. But it’s not just developers who can build into HealthKit, but health providers and medical institutions.
Family Sharing is a new feature in iOS 8 that lets you sync up all the devices in a single family (must be tied to one credit card) to automatically share media, calendars, reminders, or find my friends. You can also locate people’s devices, which could come in handy for parents with forgetful kids. Or vice versa.
The most crucial part of iOS 8 Family Sharing is that it will help with children who rack up crazy bills are their parents accounts. Now, when a kid tries to make a purchase on iTunes or in the App Store, the parent will get a notification asking for permission. Problem solved.
So far, Apple’s Photo Stream has only allowed for 1,000 photos to be stored at a time, requiring that at some point you back everything up to your Mac. Now Apple is offering storage for all your photos and videos in the cloud with access to them from any device, similar to the way that iTunes holds all your music and movies.
And not only do these devices sync edits, photos, and devices, but they have new Smart Editing features that let you do some pretty amazing edits to both Photos and Videos.
And of course, with more photos you need better search. Apple has added a more advanced search within the Photos app that includes auto-suggestions from more recently taken photos, recently viewed, etc.
More broadly, the Photos app generally looks quite different than it has, with more space between photos not unlike the look of Yosemite.
Siri is the closer for iOS 8, and it’s a pretty big one. You can now activate Siri without touching the phone, which I have actually been praying for since she arrived, by simply saying “Hey Siri.” Siri also now has Shazam integration, the ability to purchase content from iTunes, streaming voice recognition, and comes in 22 new dictation languages.
There is a lot at the fingertips of developers this year. TouchID is being opened up to third-party developers, and keyboard builders are now allowed to submit to the App Store, meaning Swype may finally be available on the iPhone. They’re also providing APIs for Cameras which gives more manual controls to third-party apps.
And perhaps most exciting, HomeKit. HomeKit is going to be Apple’s smart home platform, letting developers build something central to iOS. Expect to see an even bigger boom in IoT equipment in the home. Once developers get cracking at this, with the help of Siri, you’ll be able to ask your phone to “Get ready for bed,” and simultaneously turn off the lights, turn down the temperature, etc.