Tim Cook took to a San Francisco stage at WWDC 2014 to launch iOS 8, with a ton of new features including HealthKit, Family Sharing, an updated Notification Centre, Spotlight Searches and better messaging and mail. Here’s our full iOS 8 feature round-up.
Apple has, as predicted, bigged up health features with iOS 8, with Health. This is an all-encompassing hub that sits on your iPhone or iPad and gathers all of your medical data together, to view or share with other apps.
Apple’s own Health app will help to gather your vitals such as heart rate using the iPhone’s sensors and third-party devices (and it should be compatible with Apple’s iWatch when it finally pops up), but you can use third-party apps such as Nike’s app instead if you like, and share your vital info with other apps when needed. For instance, Health can automatically pass your relevant health data to an app which monitors your stats, and notifies a doctor if they’re outside safe levels.
There’s also an ‘In Case Of Emergency’ card that holds the contact details of a loved one, plus vital info such as blood group.
You can now set up your entire family on iOS 8 devices, which allows you to share calendars, photos and GPS locations with your other family members (up to six in all), just like Windows Phone’s Family Room. You can even access all of your family’s iOS purchases, and kids will have to ask parents for permission to download an app, which is a great relief if you’ve been brave enough to share your credit card around.
Every photo you take on an iOS device will now be available via iCloud to your other iOS devices, thanks to instant cloud integration. Favourite a photo on your iPhone, and it’ll appear in your iPad’s favourites too, mere seconds later. This includes your videos too. Your first 5GB of iCloud storage is free, and you can upgrade to 20GB for 99 cents a month, essential if you take tons of snaps like us.
And there’s a new search function, which allows you to search for snaps taken on specific dates, photos shot in set locations, and so on. And photo editing has been tweaked, to give you auto-straightening and cropping, sorting out bad lighting and so on.
Now with iOS 8 you have interactive notifications, so you can respond directly to something that pops up without leaving your current app, simply by dragging the notification bar down. If you receive a message, for instance, drag the mesage down from the top of the screen, then enter your reply message directly in the notification centre. You can even reply on the lock screen.
If you’re sat in a car, it’s a bit fiddly to push and hold the home button to bring up Siri. With iOS 8, you can now say ‘Hey, Siri’ and the voice assistant will start right up. She now has built-in Shazam support, so you can get her to identify a mystery tune, and she’ll even take you to iTunes to buy the song.
And 22 new dictation languages are now supported – we’re hoping that Mackem is one of them.
Search with Spotlight Suggestions
Apple has implemented smart searches into iOS 8, known as Spotlight Searches. For instance, search for an app and you’ll get recommendations of similar apps, and the same for movies, music and so on available on iTunes. And if you search in Safari, you’ll get the same Spotlight search suggestions.
The iOS 8 keyboard is an upgrade over the iOS 7 version too. This gives you predictive typing suggestions – for instance, it suggests words you might want to enter next based on the previous word entered. It’s context sensitive and QuickType also learns your typing style, so if you’re a bit sweary, expect lots of obscenities to start popping up.
Apple has also tweaked the Mail app in iOS 8. Now if you drag your finger across a message in your inbox, you can flag it as unread, or change the importance level, and pulling fully across allows you to quickly delete the message.
You can also minimise a message while composing, to browse your inbox and check your other emails, before returning back to it. Handy if you need to refer to a different email or check a new one that just popped in.
With iOS 8 you can chat in a group, using Group Threads. You can name a thread, add and remove people, and also share stuff like photos. And the new Tap To Talk feature allows you to record a quick voice message or video clip and send it to everyone else in the group.
We’re relieved to hear that AirDrop is now finally compatible between iOS and Mac OS X, so you can quickly and easily share documents between your phone and your Mac computer. About time, Apple.
Better Mac/iPhone communication
Your iPhone and Mac speak with each other in other ways too. For instance, if you get a call on your iPhone, your Mac will pop up a notification to tell you who’s ringing. Text messages will now appear in iMessage on your Mac, for completeness sake. And if you select a number on your Mac, it sends the call straight to your phone, putting you on speakerphone via your Mac. Nifty.
These features will also work between iPhone and iPad, so you can see calls coming in on your iPad, place calls, and so on.
You can now open iCloud documents in different apps, and the resulting changes will be saved right back to the cloud so you don’t have multiple copies flying around.
If you’re still using Safari on your iPad, you’ll now get a neater 3D arrangement of your tabs, grouped by website, making it easy to see which pages you have open.
Apple has opened up the Touch ID fingerprint scanner to third-party apps, so expect the likes of financial apps to use it for identification. Could we soon get PayPal integration, as we do with Samsung’s Galaxy S5 scanner?
If you double-tap the home button, you’ll now see a tab of your most frequently called contacts along the top of the screen, as well as any apps you have open.
Which app is sucking my battery life?
This wasn’t touched on during the iOS 8 reveal, but you can apparently now see exactly which apps are draining your battery, so you can get rid of any power-suckers.
Tim Cook seemed quite happy with how the iOS 8 launch went. Time for a celebratory cup of tea, Tim?
And to finish off, Apple has made some changes to the App Store to add some tweaks. For instance, you can now do related searches, and developers can add videos to their app’s page so you can see the app or game in action.
iOS 8 UK availability and compatible iPhones and iPads
iOS 8 will be available in the Fall (Autumn to us Brits) for all these devices…
iOS 8: are the new features good enough?
As expected there’s no big visual change in iOS 8, but the overhaul in iOS 7 meant that this was way down on our wish-list anyway. We’re happy with many of the tweaks, especially the new QuickType keyboard, mail and message updates and – at last – proper communication between the iPhone, iPad and Mac. But you can actually get a lot of the new features already on iOS 7 (and here’s how).
And there were no ‘holy ****’ features announced by Cook and crew, the kind of stuff that could really sway someone to iOS from Android or Windows Phone. And despite criticising Android users for being behind the times, some of the updates – such as family sharing – have been ripped straight from rival operating systems, who had them years ago.
So, do you think iOS 8 is boom or bust? Will it help shine the spotlight back onto Apple in the Autumn? We reckon it’s make or break time, but what do you think? Let us know in the comments below.