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At a Glance
iOS 8 is the latest version of iOS, released to the public on September 17.
- "Health" app
- Same general iOS 7 design
- Interactive Notifications
- Shazam/Siri Integration
- QuickType Keyboard
- Family Sharing
iOS 8 was initially unveiled at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference on June 2 and launched to the public on September 17. The release for existing devices came two days ahead of the launch of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.
Improved integration between Apple devices, both mobile and desktop, is a major focal point of both iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite. Apple introduced several new "Continuity" features that are designed to connect the iPhone, iPad, and Mac "like never before."
AirDrop, Apple's peer-to-peer file sharing protocol, now works between iOS and Mac devices. Handoff, a newly introduced feature, works on the same sharing principles and lets users start a task on one device and instantly pick it up on another.
Along with sharing tasks with Handoff, iPads and Macs can both place and answer phone calls using the iPhone as a relay. Using this same functionality, Macs and iPads are able to receive SMS messages via the Messages app, which was previous limited to iMessages on those platforms.
Several features within iOS 8 have received major upgrades, including Notification Center. There are new interactive notifications, allowing users to quickly reply to texts, emails, and more, right within the notification banner. Apps can install widgets in the Notification Center in iOS 8, expanding its capabilities.
The Messages app has new options that let users manage (and leave) group conversations, and the app supports quick voice messages and videos. Typing within Messages and other apps is also much easier, thanks to a new QuickType predictive keyboard. Third-party keyboards can also be installed.
Apple has debuted a new iCloud service called iCloud Drive, which works similarly to Dropbox. iCloud Photo Library, a part of iCloud Drive, has been built into a redesigned Photos app to make all of a user's photos accessible on every device. Photos has also gained new editing tools, while the Camera app has a new time-lapse mode and a built-in timer.
iOS 8 includes a new "Health" app, which is designed to aggregate data collected from various health and fitness apps. Other apps, like Safari and Mail, have new looks and new features, such as gesture control for the latter.
A major new feature, Family Sharing, lets families of up to six people share apps, music, books, and more, while a revamped Spotlight feature incorporates more search options than ever before.
In addition to the above listed features, iOS 8 includes dozens of smaller unannounced changes, which we've aggregated in our iOS 8 Features Roundup.
We have also gathered up several lists of apps that take advantage of Apple's new iOS 8 features: List of apps with Touch ID integration, list of Third-Party keyboards, and list of apps with Notification Center widgets.
In More Detail
Apple's WWDC presentation focused heavily on the way OS X Yosemite and iOS 8 have been designed to work together, with several new features that increase the integration between the two operating systems.
Handoff, for example, lets a user start a task on one device and then switch to another. A person might writing an email on the iPhone, and then pick up where they left off when sitting down at a Mac. A user can browse the web on the Mac and then continue browsing the same website on the go on the iPad.
This feature is enabled automatically, so long as all devices are signed into the same iCloud account. Handoff works with apps like Mail, Safari, Pages, Numbers, Keynote, Maps, Messages, Reminders, Calendar, and Contacts, and it can be built into third-party apps.
iPads and Macs are now able to connect directly to an iPhone's personal hotspot when it is nearby using a new Instant Hotspot feature.
Phone and SMS Messages
Integration between iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite allows a Mac or an iPad to make or receive phone calls as long as it is on the same Wi-Fi network as an iPhone running iOS 8. Incoming calls on a Mac or iPad show the caller's name, number, and profile picture, allowing users to answer or ignore calls. Making a call on an iPad or Mac can be accomplished by tapping on a phone number in Contacts, Calendar, or Safari, and the feature works with an existing iPhone and phone number.
Users are also able to send and receive SMS and MMS messages from a non-Apple device on both their iPads and Macs, a feature that was previously limited only to iMessages.
Several Continuity features, including SMS Relay, are not available as of the iOS 8 launch. According to Apple, SMS Relay will become available to users in October. Handoff between Macs and iOS devices will also be unavailable until the release of OS X Yosemite.
Interactive notifications have been added, allowing users to reply to texts, emails, calendar invitations, reminders, and more right within their notification banners, without having to leave an app that is in use. This feature makes it easy to quickly reply to a message or other notification without the need to switch to a completely different app. This feature even extends to some third-party apps, like Facebook, allowing users to like or comment on a status right as a notification pops up.
Apps will be able to install widgets within the Notification Center, adding new modules similar to the existing sections for Calendars and Stocks. The "Missed" tab within the Notification Center has been removed in iOS 8.
The app switcher, or multitasking interface, is accessed by tapping twice on the home button. While this has largely remained the same, there's a new section above open apps that lists both recent contacts and favorite contacts, making it easier to initiate a phone or FaceTime call.
Messages has finally gained a much-desired feature that allows users to leave group conversations. It's much simpler to add and remove users from group conversations, and a new Messages "Do Not Disturb" mode lets users mute group conversations whenever necessary.
In group conversations, users are also able to share their locations for a set period of time via a new "Send My Current Location" button, and a new attachments section displays all of the photos and videos that have been exchanged in a specific group conversation.
The app now supports voice recordings, which can be captured using a new microphone button and sent via a swipe. Users who receive a voice recorded message can raise the phone to their ear to hear the message. Similarly, video messages can be sent in almost the same way, and watched directly within the Messages app.
Finally, it's now possible to send multiple photos or videos in a single message instead of requiring a separate message for each photo.
QuickType & Other Keyboard Options
Described as Apple's "smartest keyboard ever," QuickType is designed to offer word suggestions while typing. As a user is typing, the keyboard will provide words and phrases that a user is likely to choose next, even taking into account the different writing styles a person might use in different apps like Mail and Messages.
According to Apple, it QuickType adjusts based on the person being communicated with, "because your choice of words is likely more laid back with your spouse than with your boss."
Apple is also planning to allow third-party keyboards to be installed on iOS for the first time, which will give users systemwide access to popular keyboards like Swipe and Fleksy. We've done a hands-on with third-party keyboards in iOS 8 using a beta version of TouchPal.
The Photos app has been redesigned to add a new iCloud Photo Library. Every photo and video captured is uploaded to iCloud, allowing users to access and download their photo libraries from any device. It stores photos in their original formats, including RAW files, while keeping a smaller copy on iOS devices.
iCloud Photo Library will keep photos organized into Moments, Collections, and Years, much like the Photos app does now, and edits that are made on a photo will be immediately uploaded to iCloud and visible on other devices.
The iCloud Photo Library feature is designed to allow people to keep their pictures in the cloud while freeing up valuable device space. Due to the increased storage many people will need in order to upload photos to iCloud Photo Library, Apple provides users with 5GB of iCloud storage for free, with 20GB available for $0.99 per month or 200GB available for $3.99 per month.
Ahead of the launch of iOS 8, Apple demoted iCloud Photo Library back to beta status and removed access to it from the golden master, which means it may not be available at launch.
Apple is also implementing smarter search within the Photos app, making it easier to search through thousands of photos. Searches can be conducted via date, time, location, or album name, with smart suggestions for Nearby, One Year Ago, Favorites, and more.
The editing tools within the Camera app have also been revamped. With new Smart Composition tools, it's easier than ever to straighten crooked photos and create the perfect cropped image. There new Smart Adjustment tools that allow users to quickly improve lighting conditions by grouping brightness, contrast, exposure, highlights, and shadows into one quick adjustment slider. There's also a similar color adjustment tool, along with built-in filters and new access to third-party filters.
The Camera app has gained a new time-lapse video mode, which takes photos at dynamically selected intervals and then creates video depicting an accelerated sequence of the photos. The app also has new controls for exposure, thanks to a range of new manual camera APIs Apple is introducing with iOS 8.
Panoramic mode was introduced for the iPhone awhile ago, but with iOS 8, it's available on the iPad. Both the iPhone and the iPad have gained a new timer mode, which lets users set a delay of three or 10 seconds before capturing an image.
iOS 8's Mail app includes new swipe gestures that let users swipe to mark an email as read or flag it for a follow up. There's also a new swipe down gesture that minimizes an email being composed to let a user view the rest of the Mail inbox, and Mail is now smarter, recognizing information like dining reservations, flight confirmations, and phone numbers, allowing it to be add to Calendar, Contacts, and other relevant apps.
The tab view that was first introduced on Safari for iPhone has been added to the iPad, displaying menu bar items in a tiled grid. A separate view accessible via a button on the top right of the bar allows users to see a view of all open tabs, both on the current device and on other nearby devices. A new sidebar displays bookmarks, Reading List, and Shared Links.
Apple has introduced a new "Health" app, which functions as a dashboard that aggregates data collected from various health and fitness apps. It includes sections for Diagnostics, Fitness, Lab Results, Medications, Nutrition, Sleep, Vitals, and more, along with an Emergency Card displaying medical conditions and allergies. The Emergency Card is accessible directly on the lock screen. In iOS 8 beta 3, Health gained the ability to natively display steps taken thanks to integration with the M7 coprocessor in the iPhone 5s.
Health is designed to put all of a user's heath and fitness data in one easy-to-access spot, creating a clear overview of a person's current health. It will likely integrate with several existing apps and devices, as well as the company's much-rumored iWatch, expected to be released later in the year.
Siri can now be activated with the voice command "Hey Siri," and the voice assistant also features integration with Shazam, identifying songs upon request. It also supports streaming voice recognition, is able to purchase iTunes content, and features 22 new dictation languages.
Spotlight has been revamped on both iOS and OS X, and it is now able to show suggestions from the Internet, iTunes, App Store, locations nearby, and more. For example, when searching for a movie using Spotlight, it the search results will include both movie showtimes and relevant iTunes links.
Searching for a term like "Cats" will display results that include options from Wikipedia and nearby cat-related locations.
iOS 8 introduces a new feature for families called "Family Sharing," which lets families of up to six people with iTunes accounts that use the same credit card share content like apps, iBooks, movies, and music.
This feature allows family purchases to be bought with the same credit card and it allows children to initiate purchases that must be confirmed by a parental device.
Family Sharing also lets families share photos, videos, a calendar, reminders, and more to keep everyone in the family connected. The feature can automatically share location between family members, letting parents keep an eye on kids, and it lets family members find lost devices.
iCloud Drive lets users store presentations, spreadsheets, PDFs, images, or any other kind of document within iCloud, making them accessible on any Mac or iOS device. It functions similarly to Dropbox, with a dedicated folder within Finder on OS X Yosemite that users can drag files to.
Edits made to a file within iCloud Drive will appear on app devices and because iCloud Drive now allows apps to share files, a file can be accessed in one app and then manipulated in another. For example, a sketch might be started within one sketching app and then opened in a second.
iOS 8 Hidden Features
Along with the major iOS 8 features that Apple outlined both during its WWDC keynote and on its iOS 8 Overview page, iOS 8 includes dozens, if not hundreds, of little tweaks and operating system changes. We've gathered a few of the more interesting updates here, but a much more extensive list of changes can be found in our iOS 8 Features Roundup.
Battery usage by app - iOS 8 displays battery usage by app, a handy feature that will let users monitor the battery drain of specific apps, to scale back on the use of those that draw too much power during critical times.
Time-Lapse mode for Camera - The Camera app has gained a new Time-Lapse mode, which captures a series of images and then compiles them into a time-lapse video. There are also new manual exposure controls, which allow exposure to be selected when taking a photo, and a self-timer mode that can be set for three or 10 seconds.
Photos - The Photos app has received new organizational options, including two albums for "Recently Added" and "Recently Deleted." The Recently Deleted section temporarily displays images that have been removed from the app in case of accidental deletion. The date and time a photo was taken is also displayed.
Send Last Location - Find My iPhone has gained a new feature that allows users to select an option to send an iOS device's last known location to Apple when a battery drains to a critical level, potentially giving Apple more tools to locate lost devices.
Location-based apps - iOS 8 displays apps for nearby stores and services on the lock screen when a user is out and about. For example, when visiting a Starbucks, an icon for the Starbucks app will appear on the screen, whether or not the app is installed.
WiFi Calling - iOS will include an option for WiFi calling, allowing users to place calls over WiFi instead of cellular when connected to a WiFi network, saving minutes and data. Several carriers, including T-Mobile, have already announced support for the feature.
Grayscale mode - There are several new Accessibility options, including a new "Grayscale" mode that shifts the entire operating system into shades of black and white. There's also Improved Zoom option.
Safari credit card scanning - In iOS 8, Safari can utilize the camera to scan in credit card numbers when making online purchases, a faster alternative than manually entering a credit card number. Currently, this scanning function is available in the App Store to scan in iTunes Cards, and the credit card scan functions in the same way.
Randomized MAC addresses - iOS randomizes the MAC addresses of iOS devices when scanning for WiFi networks, which makes it more difficult for companies to track and gather location data on a customer. Each iOS device has a unique MAC address, which could previously be used for location tracking and data collection via WiFi scanning. iOS 8 will use random, locally administered MAC addresses that "may not always be the device's real (universal) address."
These are only a small selection of the new features that have been added to iOS 8 at this point, and to find more, make sure to check out our iOS 8 Features Roundup. iOS 8 will go through several beta iterations, which may see many of these features tweaked and could bring the introduction of additional features.
iOS 8 for Developers
Alongside improvements and additions to iOS 8 that are consumer facing, Apple released a multitude of new tools for developers. According to VP of software engineering Craig Federighi, iOS 8 includes more than 4,000 new APIs for developers.
These new APIs and tools added for developers will lead to apps that are easier to create and able to do all kinds of new things, from accessing Touch ID to integrating with one another in exciting ways. iOS 8 and its APIs are available to developers immediately, so they can begin development of apps ahead of the public release of iOS 8. Some of iOS 8's new capabilities have been demoed in a beta version of 1Password. With iOS 8, it's much quicker to both access 1Password and use the app's password-storing capabilities within other apps.
Apple has plans to improve App Store tools available for developers, which will also be a boon to consumers. For example, developers will be able to produce app bundles, offering several apps at a discounted price. App previews are also being implemented, letting developers add app videos to App Store descriptions, and TestFlight will make it easier than ever for developers to test apps.
When it comes to developer tools, perhaps one of the most exciting is Extensibility, a feature that will let App Store apps communicate with one another. For example, a photo editing app like VSCO will now be able to supply filters to the Photos app and other editing apps, while tools like Pinterest's pinning feature could be built directly into apps.
Apple introduced a new programming language for developers, called Swift, and while this is not immediately relevant to non-developers, its ease of use will make it easier than ever to create apps for iOS. Similarly, a new Metal feature for games is highly technical, but will ultimately result in amazing graphics for future iOS games, as will new APIs and tools in the SceneKit and SpriteKit for casual games. iCloud integration is also set to improve, thanks to CloudKit.
Camera and photo editing apps are also going to see some major improvements with PhotoKit, which includes new APIs that let developers build tools to edit photos directly within the official photos app. Camera apps now have access to full control over exposure, focus, and white balance, which means photography apps will be more powerful than ever before.
HealthKit and HomeKit will see Apple working with hardware manufacturers to integrate data into various apps and services. With HealthKit, health and fitness devices and apps will be able to integrate their data into Apple's Health app, while HomeKit will unite various home automation apps. Just after the release of iOS 8, Apple found a significant bug in HealthKit and disabled apps using the service. Apple plans to fix the HealthKit bug by the end of September.
Several features expected to be included with iOS 8 were pushed back to a later date, including split-screen multitasking for the iPad and Maps improvements, including transit directions.
Recent rumors have suggested that the absence of Maps updates from the current version of iOS 8 available to developers is due to poor planning and a failure to complete the projects on time. Due to this, additions like transit directions may come somewhat later, possibly as part of an iOS 8.1 update. There's also a hidden "City Tours" flyover feature in iOS 8 that may be bundled into a Maps update.
Split-screen multitasking was another feature that didn't get finished in time to make an appearance at WWDC, but it is expected at a later date. Designed to allow iOS users to run two apps at once on the iPad, code for split-screen multitasking has been found within iOS 8.