While I have been writing this, Apple released iOS 8 to the general public. iOS 8 is a huge update and contains a number of new and notable features. Please note, that if you want the full benefit of all of these, you’ll need to be using a Mac. For example, you aren’t going to get Continuity and Handoff to work on a Windows machine. Its just not going to happen. However, without much further ado, here’s the skinny on iOS 8.
Photos – New and Improved
One of the biggest things that people do with their smartphones is take photos. Its probably the thing that is universally done the most by every smartphone owner on ever mobile platform. This is one of the biggest reasons why Nokia created the 42MP smartphone – not that it did them or Windows Phone any good – but it’s THE reason why they did it.
With the iPhone and iOS 8, this is no exception. To that end, Apple has made some huge improvements in the camera and photo app department. Its now easier than ever to search your photo library. You can search by date taken, location or album name. Searching is made easier by smart suggestions. All you have to do is tap the search icon. IOS 8 will provide you search choices that are important to you. An additional tap will show you photos taken near your current location (provided you have location data saved as part of your photo’s metadata), taken at the same time next year or your all time favorites.
On board editing tools have also been improved. You don’t have to wait to get back to your Mac or your PC to retouch the photos on your iDevice. You can edit the composition of your photos. You do straighten the horizon, crop, modify the exposure, as well as adjust brightness, contrast, highlights black point /white balance, etc. It’s a dark room in the palm of your hands…or at least that’s what Apple says. Photos in iOS 8 also has a number of different filters that can take any of your shots and give you the opportunity to apply classic filters – black and white, high contrast, tonal, fade, etc. – with just a couple taps. App developers can also make their filters and editing tools available to iOS Photos, so you get access to their tools without having to exit one app and then open another.
The biggest news in Camera and Photos is Camera’s new Time-lapse Video Mode. IOS 8 does all the work, snapping photos dynamically at preset intervals. The result is a video showing an accelerated sequence over time. All you have to do is find a subject, swipe to setup the time-lapse mode, and then tap the record button. Camera does the rest.
Messages – Communicate with EVERYONE
Messages has matured a lot with iOS 8, too. It used to be that iMessage – Apple’s ToIP (text over IP) service only worked with other iDevices. Now, iMessage works with all devices with all mobile platforms. You can send and receive messages from your iDevice to any internet connected device. Those devices that aren’t an iDevice will now send messages via SMS.
Over and above this, Messages will also let you send and receive audio clips as part of your SMS or iMessage. All you need to do is touch and hold your thumb to record an audio message and then simply swipe to send it. Its really, just that easy. Now you can send pictures of your little ones as well as a recorded sound bite of their first words. Its kinda cool.
On the other end of it all, its easy to receive and listen to. All you have to do is lift the device to your ear to listen like it’s a phone call. You can also tap the play button on your screen. You can pass sound bites back and forth that easily.
If video is more to your liking, you can just as easily send a quick video. The bottom line is that multimedia messaging services (MMS) are now not only limited to just still pictures. You can truly send and receive audio, video as well as stills. Your iDevice just found a whole new level of cool, even if that level of cool – at the very, very least – gives you access to every other piece of multimedia that the device processes.
There are a few other new features in Messages that you might find cool. The last one that I want to mention is the ability to manage group messages a bit more. It used to be that once included in a group message you were in the conversation forever. Now, you can bow out when ever you want to . You can also manage location data in the group conversation.
iOS 7 introduced a whole new redesign to Apple’s mobile operating system. It wasn’t necessarily received very well; but after about a year or so, the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune have lessened. The world seems to be getting over it.
With the release of iOS 8, Apple is building on the design elements that it introduced in iOS 7. The experience now is stronger, sturdier, and much more natural than it was in iOS 7.
iOS 8 has interactive notifications that you can interact with from Mail, Calendar, Reminders and Messages; and you can do all of that directly from the banner notification without leaving the app you’re in. You can stay working in your app, and still answer your text or accept an invitation without leaving your game or your photo app.
There are enhancements with Mail as well. You can easily pop between drafts and your inbox, just like a desktop mail client. If you’re looking to quickly add information to your phone, Mail gives you the ability to do so right from a note you’ve received.
Reading List Enhancements
With Safari, you get more of what you have on the desktop. On iPad, you get all of your sties in one spot. Tab View shows you all the open tabs on your iPad as well as tabs you have open on your other iDevices. Your bookmarks and your favorites from your Reading List are always just a tap away.
The best are saved for last. The iOS task manager has a new feature. The double tap not only brings up running apps, but will also bring up a row of contact names and faces that give you quick access to communication methods for those people. Its actually pretty cool. iOS gives you access to not only recent contacts, but a couple recent favorites as well.
There are a couple of cool features outside of the UI enhancements that provide a great deal of value; but its really the UI enhancements that drive most of the value here.
Having a contextual keyboard has been an area missing from iOS for a long time. Having a keyboard that can use predictive text is a huge help on a mobile device whether it’s a smartphone or a tablet. Now you can write sentences with just a few taps.
The keyboard can learn you messaging style and after time, offer suggested words that make contextual sense as you type. This works in Messages and Mail. It can also learn your audience, offering contextually appropriate choices based on the person you’re emailing or chatting with via text. It will also anticipate answers to questions and provide appropriate answers beyond the simple “yes” or “no.”
The coolest thing is that predictive text works with languages besides English. So far, it works with US, UK, Canadian and Australian English as well as French, German, Italian, (Brazilian) Portuguese, Spanish and Thai. It is also functional in both Simplified and Traditional Chinese as well as Japanese Kanji.
Third party keyboards are now also supported, meaning that you can now Swipe rather than type. iOS and keyboard developers can now start working together, things like Swipe are truly now, just a glide away.