The biggest news out of the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference this year revolved around the next version of their mobile operating system: iOS 8. Much anticipated, iOS 8 favours function over form by focusing on features instead of upgrades to the look and feel.
As a developer, I have had the chance to test drive the beta version of iOS 8 since early June… for the rest of you still waiting to give it a try, here are a few of the things you can most look forward to:
Double-tap the home button and you will be greeted with a scrolling list of the contacts you have most recently been in touch with –this is extremely handy when you want to call or message these folks quickly and easily (instead of scrolling through lists, or trying to find an existing message to reply to).
With a tap inside the Messages app, you can send voice content quickly and easily. No more pre-recording and then attaching after the fact!
Of course, my favourite feature is the ability to ‘Share My Location’ and ‘Send My Current Location’ within an iMessage. No more trying to describe exactly where you are waiting, with a couple of taps you can send your contact an actual map!
Keyboards, Keyboards, Keyboards
Custom keyboards. A crazy elaborate Emoji keyboard. A QuickType predictive text feature for your keyboards. Keyboards are the name of the game in iOS 8 –you can finally customize them good and proper, and you will be delighted. I promise.
There are a few interface changes when it comes to the way photos are stored on your iOS device, but the one I am most excited about is the addition of a ‘Recently Deleted’ album. While it may seem unnecessary and redundant at first, anybody who has regretted deleting a photo will rejoice. Think of it like the familiar trash can (or recycle bin for those of you who still use Microsoft Windows) –it’s a holding place for deleted photos. Any photos that find their way there will be removed automatically after 30 days, unless you empty it manually before then.
I have heard more complaints about smartphone battery life than any other shortcoming. We expect our smartphones to do a whole lot, it stands to reason that will take power to accomplish those things. Thanks to the Battery Usage summary now found under Settings, we can evaluate the features we need the most vs. the battery power it takes to make them happen. It may surprise you to learn exactly which apps are drinking your battery; in my case, Messages is the biggest culprit.
Best thought of as a portal more so than an app, HealthKit gives you a single place to track anything and everything that pertains to your health and well being, including: body measurements, fitness, nutrition, sleep, and vitals.
Most valuable is the ability to create a Medical ID that is accessible even when your phone is locked. How much information you provide is left entirely up to you, but I recommend taking good advantage. My Medical ID contains a list of allergies and reactions, current medications, my emergency contact person along with their relevant details, my full name and date of birth, confirmation that I would like to be an organ donor, and my blood type. While you may initially be concerned about sharing these kinds of details in front of your passcode, the first time it saves your life those worries will vanish.
App Store – Family Purchases
If you question whether the new Family Sharing feature in iOS 8 is worthwhile, you clearly do not have children with smartphones or tablets. Now, up to six people in your family can share purchases made through iTunes… but better than that, your kids can have their own accounts! When they want to make a purchases (using your credit card of course), you can approve their spending from your own device (and not have to log in to theirs). Other family-friendly features are present as well, including photo sharing and a family calendar –all things that show Apple understands how the modern family functions.
There are so many odds and sods updated and added in iOS 8 that a comprehensive list would be nearly impossible –some are less significant: the Podcasts app is native now, the Weather app is powered by The Weather Channel instead of Yahoo, settings for Messages allows you to keep audio/video messages where previously they would be auto-deleted, Control Centre has a new look, a Tips app is installed by default and offers weekly tips on using the new operating system… and on and on.
Excited? Wondering when you can get your hands on iOS 8 and actually see these things in action? A specific release date hasn’t been announced, but with an expected Apple event in early September, it seems safe to assume things will start rolling out officially later that month.