Apple’s developer conference came and went without too many huge surprises and absolutely no hardware. At WWDC 2014, Apple introduced iOS 8, a new version of its mobile operating system. iOS 8 adds several new features including Health, Home, third-party keyboards, and more. It may not have exceeded our expectations, but the iOS 8 launch did add more continuity and efficiency to the Apple ecosystem.
Health app: All your data in one place
Before the event, the Internet was buzzing with talk of Apple’s new health and fitness app, Healthbook. Now we know that’s not its name, but it does indeed exist. The new Health app aggregates all your health and fitness data from third-party apps and wearable devices that are compatible with iOS devices in one, easy-to-read feed. Obviously, iOS 7 didn’t come with a native health app baked in like iOS 8 does, but you do have the option of downloading third-party app Nudge, which does almost the same thing.
As more apps and wearables become compatible with the new Health app, it will undoubtedly become an important tool, as the health and fitness craze continues to heat up the mobile space.
Get smart with the HomeKit
Another space that had a whole lot of people excited prior to WWDC 2014, was the Smart Home. Apple’s new HomeKit for iOS 8 aims to turn your iPhone into the ultimate remote control for your home. Once more apps and devices are connected, you’ll be able to turn your lights, AC, heat, and other appliances on or off remotely, using the dedicated iOS 8 app from Apple.
Messages takes after WhatsApp
Another big improvement iOS 8 issued, involves the built-in Messages app. Competing apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, and others are becoming more popular every day because of the special features they offer. Now, the iOS Messages app takes everything you like from WhatsApp and puts Apple’s spin on it. You can now send voice recordings and videos right inside the app in addition to images and normal texts – just like on your favorite messaging apps. Additionally, thanks to the continuity feature, you’ll be able to see all your messages on your Mac (thanks to OS X Yosemite), iPhone, or iPad, regardless of whether they were sent using iMessage or not.
Finally: third-party keyboards
One of the most exciting things that Apple added to iOS 8 is also one of the most obvious and mundane: alternative keyboards. SwiftKey, Swipe, and other third-party keyboard makers have been working hard to get Apple to loosen up and let iOS users choose which keyboard they want to use. Finally, Apple has swallowed its pride and added keyboard options. It also revamped its native keyboard to be more predictive and smart.
Automatic iPhone Hot Spot
Another awesome addition to iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite that you’re guaranteed to use every day, is the new hot spot function. Anytime you are traveling with your Macbook or Wi-Fi only iPad, you have to find a Wi-Fi network to browse the Internet. Now, with iOS 8 on your iPhone, your iPhone automatically becomes a hot spot for your iPad or MacBook. You don’t have to turn the hot spot on. It just automatically becomes available. That way, when there’e no Wi-Fi to be found, you can rely on your iPhone’s data.
Spotlight smartens search
Spotlight is a long-standing iOS and OS X feature, but now, with iOS 8, Apple has reinvented the popular search function. Spotlight search is now smarter, learns your habits, gives you suggestions, and links up with third-party widgets. The changes on iOS 8 are less obvious than on OS X Yosemite, but it’s still an improvement over the iOS 7 version.
iCloud Drive mimics other clouds
Apple’s iCloud seems like it’s always with us, working in the background even when we’re not looking. It’s always had our back – saving photos and other info that would normally have been lost in the ether. Now, Apple is revamping iCloud to make it look a whole lot more like other cloud storage systems, such as Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive. It’s now called iCloud Drive and it organizes your files into easy-to-find files. You’ll only get 5GB of storage free before you have to pay, but the next 20GB of storage costs just $1.
Continuity links Apple ecosystem
Many of the improvements listed above are a result of Apple’s focus on continuity between iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite. Apple’s devices are known for working well together. No matter what year the device is or what OS is onboard, Apple devices just get along so well together. Now, the experience is even more cohesive. Not only did OS X Yosemite pick up a lot of design cues from iOS 7, it also added a ton of features designed to ensure seamless integration between iOS 8 and OS X devices. The coolest continuity feature is definitely Handoff, which lets you switch from your iPhone to your MacBook mid-email.
Moving between devices is easier than ever: photos, messages, documents, calendars, contacts, and more all sync, from iOS device to OS X device. It’s lovely and very efficient.
iOS 8 is looking good
Overall, iOS 8 is all about taking the mobile OS to the next level in terms of connectivity and continuity. It’s also Apple’s way of preparing for a future in which everything is linked together, including our devices, our homes, our data, and even our bodies. Even though iOS 8 may not seem too revolutionary now, it is laying the foundations for the future of mobile and tech.
NEXT PAGE: WHAT ANNOUNCEMENTS ARE STILL AHEAD FOR APPLE IN 2014
What’s still ahead for 2014
WWDC may be over, but there’s more ahead for Apple this year. The company always holds an iPhone event in Sept/Oct and will likely announce other products as well. Here are some of the coolest products we expect from Apple later this year.
Apple just bought Beats Audio for $3 billion on Wednesday, and now everyone’s wondering what its plans are for the company’s music streaming app and iconic headphones. It’s unknown whether Apple will address its latest purchase, or simply let it lie for a while.
There’s a lot of speculation about Apple’s plans for the Beats Music app and how it will affect iTunes Radio. So far, it’s all just speculation, but hopefully we’ll hear more at WWDC. One thing we do know for sure, is that Jony Ive will take over for Robert Brunner as head of design on future Beats products.
Meanwhile, Apple TV has also been making headlines, with Tim Cook joking about the company’s $1 billion hobby. Although the video streaming set top box is due for an update, it’s unknown whether Apple will do so on Monday. Most reports indicate that Apple TV won’t make an appearance at WWDC, though.
Retina MacBook Air
Yet another piece of hardware that’s due any day now is the retina display MacBook Air. For months we’ve been hearing about this 12-inch beauty, but we haven’t seen hide nor hair of it. According to reports from manufacturers, the Retina MacBook Air should start shipping in the second half of 2014. Based on that timetable, the clock is ticking, but there’s no reason why the new Air has to arrive in June, as opposed to say, October.
The first rumors about the iPhone 6 surfaced back in 2013. At this point, we’ve seen so many concept designs, leaked images, and probable specs that we can’t even keep track of it all anymore. The consensus is that Apple will launch two different models of the iPhone 6, including a 4.7-inch version and a 5.5-inch version. The latest word on the street says the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 will hit the market in August, while the 5.5-inch version will arrive in September. None of the estimates say anything about a June launch. We can only hope that Tim Cook gives us a teaser or something else to dream about until then.
Lastly, we have the infamous iWatch. The iWatch is kind of like big foot. A lot of people think it’s real, but no one has ever actually seen it. It will supposedly be round and health-focused like all the other smartwatches out there, but since it’s from Apple, it will probably be beautiful. Supply chain sources say that the iWatch could debut in July, August, or September – in other words, not on June 2.
Still, maybe Apple has a surprise or two up its sleeve and maybe, just maybe, one of them is the iWatch.
That’s all we think Apple may have in the pipeline this year, but you never know. With Apple, anything is possible.
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