At its WWDC keynote in San Francisco Apple announced the new iOS 8 operating system for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, along with Mac OS X Yosemite for its computer line up - and never before have the two branches of Apple’s hardware been more closely entwined.
Available to developers now and to consumers in the autumn (and for free), iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite let your iPhone, iPad and Mac communicate more openly than ever before. Incoming text messages can be viewed and replied to in the Mac Messages app, calls can be taken from your Mac’s Notification Center, and outgoing calls can be made from the Contacts app.
This is all possible thanks to a Bluetooth connection between iPhone and Mac. Sharing a mobile hotspot is also easier than ever before, as all the user needs to do is open their Mac’s Wi-Fi settings from the menu bar, where they can connect to their iPhone’s 3G or 4G data connection with one click - no need to turn it on in iOS and no need for a password.
Apple enters fitness tracking market with iOS 8
Stepping away from the Mac, iOS 8 brings very few visual changes over iOS 7 - itself a drastic change which rolled out last autumn. Instead, Apple has launched an assault on both the personal health and fitness market and the home automation market.
The former was widely expected ever since an application called HealthBook leaked online. Now revealed as Health, the app doesn’t connect with Apple’s own wearable gadget (at least yet, as no such product was mentioned at WWDC). Instead, it acts as a central place for users to keep track of all their fitness products, such as the Nike+ FuelBand, Jawbone Up and many more. Apple has struck a deal with Mayo Clinic in the US to help patients share their data with doctors, who in turn can send updates to their patients’ iPhones.
This wasn’t the huge health move everyone was expecting, and Apple made no indication that it is working on a wearable device of its own - but if it is, we expect the product to arrive alongside the iPhone 6 and iOS 8 in the autumn.
Apple is also taking on the home automation - or Internet of Things - market, where products like the Philips Hue smart lightbulb and Nest smart thermostat are becoming increasingly popular.
"Siri, time for bed..."
Short of announcing its own hardware, Apple instead showed off HomeKit, an app which lets users control all of their smart home appliances from one place. Siri can be used to control HomeKit; for example, say “Siri, time for bed” and the iPhone will lock the doors, close the garage, turn off the downstairs lights and close the bedroom blinds - providing the user has the relevant smart hardware, of course. Google-owned Nest was a notable exception from a wide range of manufacturers which Apple is partnering with.
With iOS 8, Siri can be used to identify songs with Shazam; identified tracks can be purchased from iTunes within Siri itself and without opening the Store. When connected to your car, Siri in iOS 8 is always listening, so the driver need only say ‘hey Siri’ to issue a command, rather than touching their iPhone or pressing a button on the steering wheel.
iOS gets third-party keyboards
QuickType is a new form of prediction tool, which serves up suggestions of words as you type. But unlike rivals systems available on Android, QuickType on iOS 8 suggests words based on the conversation you’re having and who you are having it with. If a work colleague asks how a meeting went words like ‘great’ and ‘productive’ will be offered; however, if a friend or relative asks the same question, words like ‘awesome’ and ‘epic’ will be offered instead. If a friend invites you to dinner, words like ‘reservation’ and ‘restaurant’ will be suggested.
For the first time on the iPhone, iOS 8 allows for third party keyboards to be installed system-wide, opening the door to alternatives like Swype and Minuum.
Coming this autumn, for free
Finally, updates to the App Store mean developers will, from the autumn onwards, be able to display videos of their apps and games as well as images, and they will even get the option to invite a select number of users to beta test their new app for free, before it goes on sale.
Both iOS 8 and Mac OS X Yosemite are available to developers now, and will be available as free upgrades for consumers in the autumn.