Apple announced iOS 8, the next version of its mobile operating system, at WWDC 2014 this past June. Since then, those who downloaded the iOS 8 beta updates have discovered many cool, new features.
The updated OS launched on September 17 and headlined with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus when they launched on September 19. Here’s everything we know about iOS 8 so far.
Related: How to download and install iOS 8
Updated on 09-24-2014 by Malarie Gokey: Apple released the iOS 8.0.1 update, which includes multiple bug fixes for HealthKit, third-party keyboards, and more.
First iOS 8 update
Apple issued its first iOS 8 update on September 24. The update includes a number of fixes including ones for HealthKit, third-party keyboards and more. Unfortunately, many users also reported severe glitches with Touch ID and cell service after installing iOS 8.0.1. Apple then pulled the update and said it’s looking into the reports.
Release schedule and compatible devices
Apple released the beta version of iOS 8 on June 2 and the version that can be installed on iPhones, iPods, and iPads arrived on September 17. The new software is compatible with the iPhone 4S, the iPhone 5, 5C, and 5S, all iPad tablets from the iPad 2 onward, and the fifth generation iPod Touch.
Mobile Payments will need iPhone 6 or Apple Watch
Apple has announced Apple Pay as part of its new iPhone 6 and Apple Watch, integrated with iOS 8. Apple Pay will allow users to make payments with just a tap from their iPhone 6, 6 Plus, or Apple Watch, as opposed to breaking out the plastic. Unfortunately you will need one of these new devices in order to make the payment, as the transaction is done over NFC and will also requires a physical secure element in the device in order to store the secure credit card information. Apple says that this feature will be available as part of a Passbook update in October 2014, about a month after iOS 8 launches.
Previously rumored to be called HealthBook, we learned more about the new all-in-one health app during Apple’s big iPhone 6 reveal. It’s a single app which provides a composite view of all your health data, much of which will be supplied by third-party applications and devices. For example, Nike’s working to integrate HealthKit into its apps and the FuelBand, and the MayoClinic will create a Wellness Plan which can be monitored by doctors, who can provide timely care. Other medical institutions are working on supporting HealthKit, with Apple specifically mentioning Mount Sinai, Sutter Health, Penn Medicine, Cambridge University Hospitals, and UCLA Health. HealthKit will also offer easy monitoring and easy-to-read charts based on information provided from your new iPhone 6 or Apple Watch, including heart rate information, the number of stairs you climb and more.
Related: Read our iOS 8 review
In August, several reports hinted that Apple is in talks with several more hospitals to add HealthKit integration. In addition to the Mount Sinai, Cleveland Clinic, and John Hopkins hospitals, Apple reportedly spoke with electronic health records companies Allscripts and Epic Systems about HealthKit. The company is also said to be tightening iOS 8 security around HealthKit, so as to keep individuals’ health history and information safe.
At launch, HealthKit had a bug that forced Apple to delay the release of third-party app compatibility with the new feature. Apple says that the issue should be resolved with the iOS 8.0.1 update, which was released on September 24.
New photo options
Timelapse is one of the most exciting new photography features that will arrive on iOS 8. The tool lets you record video and speed up a video. A new set of smart photo editing tools will be added, ready to adjust light and color in your pictures. The edits will be performed using a simple, single swipe bar to get the right effect. If you don’t like the end result, each individual setting can then be manually adjusted. iOS 8 will also likely bring along a number of other enhancements that also appear in the iPhone 6 camera app with improved selfies, faster burst photography and better HDR photography.
To make it easier to share content from your iOS devices with other members of your family, Apple will introduce Family Sharing. It sets up a private family-only account, ready for showing everyone photos and other content, plus it’ll integrate Find My Friends and Find My Device. Additionally, songs, movies, books, and apps can be shared between up to six family members, provided they share the same credit card information. To stop your kids buying hundreds of apps, you’ll get a notification which you’ll need to approve before the transaction goes through.
The September 24 iOS 8.0.1 update comes with improved support for the “Ask to buy” function on in-app purchases.
All photos stored in iCloud, complete with any edits, will now be accessible on any iOS device, with a new Photos application for Mac OS X coming early next year, designed to integrate with iCloud. The app has a search bar which will look for location, time, and specific albums. Pictures can be favorited with a tap of a heart button, ready to view them in your favorites album in iCloud.
The virtual assistant will get access to Shazam’s song recognition abilities, and she go ahead and purchase media in iTunes after it has been identified. A total of 22 new dictation languages will also be added.
Refined notification center on the iPhone, with interactive notifications. Pull down on the notification to respond in the correct app. The Notification Center now supports widgets, known here as Extensions, which have been added to the software development kit for developers to integrate into their apps. Find out more about it in the developer section below.
In iOS 8, the Control Center got a slight redesign. The apps and setting options are now in a darker font, so you can read them more easily. Also, when you select an option such as turn on Wi-Fi, the whole circle fills in with white instead of just the edge around the icon. iTunes Radio has also been added to the Control Center.
The standard Apple keyboard built into iOS will get a new Quick Type feature, where predictive suggestions for the word you’re typing will appear above the letters. It’s context sensitive, and will learn how you type. Multiple languages are supported. More excitingly, iOS 8 will bring system-wide support for third-party keyboards, a popular feature familiar to Android users everywhere. To make sure the keyboards don’t become a security risk, Apple will disable network access by default, although users will be able to override the option. At least 12 major keyboards, including Fleksy, SwiftKey, Minuum, and Swype are available on iOS 8.
There have been some bugs with the third-party keyboards, one of which was reportedly resolved with the iOS 8.0.1 update.
Messages and email
The message app is the most frequently used iOS app. In iOS 8, group messaging has been enhanced with the option to add or remove participants, a Do Not Disturb option, and the chance to skip the conversation entirely.
If you’d prefer to send an audio or video message, this can be done in-line in iOS 8. Hold down the microphone button to dictate messages, and swipe up to add the audio file to your message. This also works with video files and even selfie images taken using the camera. Media files “self-destruct” to save space, unless you choose to keep them. Listening and replying to audio messages can be done simply by raising the phone to your ear.
Group messages now have a Details button, showing who is in the conversation, and if it’s shared, their location too. Location sharing can be set for an hour, a day, or all the time. It also collects all the images together underneath these options, making them easier to browse in a long message thread.
Lastly, Apple also announced Handoff, which will allow iOS 8 users to start a e-mail or text message on their iPhone and finish it on their Mac or iPad.
Birds-eye view of open tabs in Safari will come to the iPad.
Apple didn’t spend much time talking about the business side of iOS 8, but did mention the Device Enrollment Program. In iOS 8, business users will see enhanced security and password features, VIP message threads, automatic replies for Exchange, and private calendar events.
iPhone 6 Plus Ergonomics
iOS 8 will have special features for the iPhone 6 Plus in order to make it more user-friendly on the bigger screen. It appears Apple is borrowing features from the iPad and iPad Mini and bringing them over to the iPhone 6 Plus. Users will be able to view their homescreens either vertically or horizontally and Apple will also incorporate two-pane functionality for certain apps, allowing you to take advantage of the greater screen real estate.
Other new features
Near the end of the presentation, Apple flashed up a slide showing a variety of new iOS 8 features it didn’t have time to cover. These include Wi-Fi calling, an instant burst mode for the camera, a private browsing tab in Safari, panoramic photos on the iPad, separate focus and exposure controls, an “In Case of Emergency” card, and a battery usage report based on apps.
Cool new features revealed to developers
Unusually, Apple made its iOS 8 presentation a little more developer-centric this time around. Luckily, we weren’t bored with too much technical discussion, and instead the talk covered some of the most interesting new features we can expect in iOS 8.
The iTunes App Store will also be revised in time for iOS 8. An Explore option will let you browse through sub categories to help find the right app, there’s a new trending search option, related searches, and an editors choice button. Lists of apps now appear in a continuous scrolling list, making broader searches more manageable.
Developers with multiple apps will be able to bundle them together and sell them at a discounted price. This could work really well for related apps, or for game developers with sequel-heavy catalogs.
App pages will be enhanced with video previews for showcasing an app’s best features. Finally, TestFlight will be integrated into the App Store, so developers can invite beta testers to try out their new apps, all for free.
Yes, another popular Android feature is coming to iOS 8. Using a new tool called Extensibility, developers can offer their app’s services across iOS, allowing for widgets – referred to as Extensions – to be used in the newly refreshed Notification Center.
If an app includes a widget, an option to add it appears in the notification center. Click it, and it’ll display relevant information in the drop down menu. They’re interactive too, with an eBay widget demoed to show a bid being placed directly in a Notification Center Extension, without ever visiting the app.
Extensions can also be used in the Action Center, with Bing Translation shown translating text in a Safari window, and a Pinterest Extension quickly adding an image to a board.
BGR tested out a new app called Dataman, which has a widget that shows up in the Today panel of the iOS Notification Center. It will tell you how much data you’ve used so far during the month and it’s color-coded, so you’ll know when you’re running out of data when it goes red.
Another rumor which spread prior to iOS 8’s announcement was Apple’s play for the home automation market. Again, it didn’t make a big deal over this, revealing only a few key points. It’ll work with locks, lights, cameras, doors, thermostats, plugs, and switches. Thanks to secure pairing, the system will be safe to use, and you’ll be able to create your own custom “scenes” for simplifying a daily ritual such as ensuring all the lights are out and the door is locked before bed. Siri will be on hand to work with your HomeKit setup too.
This isn’t a feature you’ll immediately notice, but it’s all set to make a big difference to gaming on the iPhone and the iPad. It opens up access to the A7 processor’s true potential, allowing developers to bring console-quality graphics and effects to the mobile devices. Electronic Arts, Unity, and Crytek are all onboard, while Epic Games showed a demo of a game called Zen Garden, which will be available as a free download when iOS 8 is released. Expect it to be a showcase app, much like Epic Citadel.
Mac OS X Yosemite works closely with iOS
iCloud Drive stores your app content
During the presentation on OS X Yosemite, iCloud Drive was announced. It can be used to store your own content in the cloud, and provides access to data from apps not installed on a Mac, including those on an iOS device. Content stored inside the iCould Drive can also be accessed on iOS and Windows devices.
Continuity eases transitions between all Apple devices
First, the good news is AirDrop now works between iOS and the Mac. A new feature named Hand Off means work started on any iOS or OS X device can be continued even if you swap devices. For example, a mail started on your phone can be automatically finished on your Mac. It works the other way around too, where an icon for your currently used app appears on the lock screen.
Hotspots created between Macs and iOS are completed in only a few steps.
Incoming call alerts from your iPhone appear on the Mac, and the computer will even act as a speaker phone so calls can also be placed without picking up your phone. The numbers can be selected from a webpage, or through the Contacts app. Finally, text messages not sent using iMessage will now appear in Notification Center.
Article originally published on 06-02-2014
Updated on 09-09-2014 by Joshua Sherman: Apple has showcased iOS 8 alongside the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus and finalized information about several new features for the OS’s launch in mid-September.
SEE PAGE TWO FOR OUR IOS 8 RUMORS COVERAGE PUBLISHED PRIOR TO THE ANNOUNCEMENT