Apple has just released iOS 8 to the public, giving iPhone, iPad and iPod touch users a fresh new operating system with a bunch of new features and applications.
Visually little has changed from last year’s iOS 7, which itself was a massive change from everything Apple had done before with its mobile platform. Instead the changes brought by iOS 8 are mostly under the hood.
A new app bundled with iOS 8, Health uses your iOS device’s various sensors to record your daily activity, such as walking, running and sleeping. You can enter your measurements and weight to make the app’s feedback more accurate, and there’s also section to tell it what you eat and drink each day. Health works a lot like a wide range of other fitness tracking apps, but it’ll get a whole lot more exciting when the Apple Watch is released in early 2015. For now, Health can use the iPhone’s own array of sensors, or tap into data recorded by a wide range of third-party wearables.
For the first time, iOS devices will get system-wide third party keyboards with the update to iOS 8. What this means is typing apps like Swiftkey, Swype and Minuum will work with iOS, not just Android.
As well as opening up to third party keyboards, Apple has been working to improve its own offering. Called QuickType, iOS 8 now displays suggestions for your next word above the keyboard; these are based on what you’ve said earlier in the sentence, but asp on your general writing style and even on who you are talking to. For example, when writing an email to your colleague you’ll get more formal suggestions than when emailing a friend. QuickType also understands what your conversation is about; when a friend gives you two options for this evening, the first suggestions will be both of these and an alternative like ‘not sure’.
Borrowing a number of new features from its competitors, Apple’s Messages app now lets you record short soundbites to send as messages; these could be voice recordings, music or maybe the sound of you laughing. Short videos can also be recorded and sent within the Messages app. Facebook- and WhatsApp-style group messages is now also a part of iOS, where you can set up group chats with friends, family, or members of your sports team, for example. People can be added, the conversation named, and you can mute individual conversations to read them at a later time.
Just like in Facebook Messenger, iOS 8’s Messages lets you share your location inline with messages, complete with integration with Apple’s Maps app to show clearly where you are.
Searching through your photos is easier on iOS 8 thanks to being able to search by the date and location they were taken, as well as album name.
Saved photos can also be edited easily without transferring them to your PC or Mac. There are options to adjust exposure, shadows, highlights, brightness, contrast and more - essentially everything you can currently do in the iPhoto app for Mac. Finally, there are a range of Instagram-style filters to apply after you’ve taken each shot, as well as a timelapse video function.
The iPhone’s central search tool, Spotlight, has been upgraded to quickly let you search for local places - like cafes, bars and shops - plus recent news reports, Wikipedia and all three of Apple’s digital stores - iTunes, App and iBooks.
With iOS 8 and Apple’s new Mac OS X Yosemite, the iPhone and Mac are now closer than ever. Start typing an email on your iPhone, open up your Mac and the email will be half-written right there; browse a website on your iPhone, open your Mac and Safari will be at the same website, ready and waiting; start producing a Pages or Keynote document on your phone, and continue on your Mac.
You can also take a receive calls on your Mac or iPad, using your iPhone remotely. So long as both devices are connected to the same Wi-Fi network, incoming phone calls will display on both; click the call to answer and speak using your Mac’s microphone and speakers (or connected headphones).
Calls can be made through the Mac’s Contacts, Calendar and Safari apps, and text messages can also be sent and received, including MMS picture messages.
iOS 8 will be released to the public on 16 September. Apple usually makes the update available at around 6pm UK time, but as everyone tries to update immediately the servers are often bombarded with traffic, resulting in very slow downloads. It’s often best to wait until the next morning.