Judging by its new features, Apple iOS 8 is all about connectivity and communication between not only users, but apps and other programs, and it’s obvious that Apple is looking to bring its mobile and desktop platforms together.
One of the main features touched on by Apple CEO Tim Cook and others at the World Wide Developer Conference was the interconnectedness between OS X Yosemite, the latest desktop and notebook OS, and iOS 8, the latest mobile platform. Users will be able to link their iOS device and Mac when they are near each other, and through Apple’s new Handoff feature, will be able to work on something like an email message on one device, stop, and resume work on another. Apple AirDrop will work between iOS and OS X devices over Wi-Fi for file sharing. And finally, iPhone text messages and voice calls can be relayed through Mac devices for synchronized messaging, and the Mac can act as a speakerphone.
In addition to communicating with Mac OS X better, iOS 8 apps will communicate with each other as well through extensions. For example, a Bing translate extension in Safari can help translate a Japanese website into English, or a Pinterest extension in a photo app allows for easy posting. This will all be in the hands of developers, as they will be able to create the extensions, and the experience will not be unlike what is currently offered to Android users. Extensions can also include widgets, which will be accessible via the Notifications Center of iOS 8. Notifications in general have also been updated with interactivity for things like message replies.
The iOS 8 interface will have several key improvements as well. There will be a new Quicktype keyboard option, which gives users access to custom keyboard layouts, character sets, and predictive typing suggestions. If that’s not good enough, Apple is finally opening up iOS to third-party keyboards like Swype.
Mail on iOS will add the ability to delete or flag messages with a gesture, and double-tapping the screen brings up contacts. Safari will feature a “bird’s-eye view” of tabs, and Spotlight suggestions will appear during searches, (which will search users’ iCloud Drives as well).
Messages will allow users to add “do-not-disturb” settings to individual message threads, and add or remove people along the way (leading to a MUCH better group chat experience). Locations, audio, and video can also be shared in the new Messages app with just a tap. Siri is receiving 22 new dictation languages, and will now feature a voice activated, “Hey, Siri!” command for hands-free searches, as well as hands-free Shazam song identification and other new features.
The camera app has been updated with a time lapse feature, and the addition of extensions will likely mean more photo controls, filters, and lenses. The Photos app has also been updated with new editing features.
With this release, Apple is introducing a Family Sharing plan that sets up shared calendars, reminders, and photo streams for up to six linked iOS devices sharing the same credit card. All purchases in iTunes and the App Store will be available to all shared members, which is a big step forward towards merging libraries. New parental controls include sending a message to the parents’ device to approve app purchases, for example.
The new iCloud Drive and Photos will be linked, so user photos are sent and stored in the cloud automatically. Apple iCloud itself will be receiving a price drop in preparation for the new connectivity offered between iOS 8 devices and Yosemite as well, with storage starting at 5GB for free, 20 GB for $.99 a month, or 200GB for $3.99 a month.
Apple has also added a Healthkit API, which can act as a hub for user health data, and a Homekit app for supported home automation hardware. TouchID is now available for any app as a security option. Apple announced a new 3D graphics system called Metal. And Apple claims there are new enterprise features for better device management in business and professional settings,
Apple iOS 8 is available now for developers, will be available in a limited beta this summer, and will be released fully in fall 2014. More information can be found on Apple’s official site for iOS 8.