Apple issues its first iOS 8 update: Here’s everything we know

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The next version of Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS 8, is expected to be revealed in June. Unlike iOS 7, which brought a total design overhaul, many new features, and a raft of functionality changes, rumors point to iOS 8 being more of an upgraded version of the previous generation.

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Provided Apple doesn’t break with tradition, iOS 8 won’t be released until later this year, perhaps around September or October, along with the next generation iPhone. However, Apple usually gives us a preview of the more exciting new features at WWDC, which begins on June 2. Let’s take a look at what we’ve heard about iOS 8 so far.

(Additional reporting and editing by Andy Boxall.)

Updated on 05-13-2014 by Williams Pelegrin: iOS 8 is rumored to bring split-screen functionality to the larger-sized iPad, as well as high-resolution audio playback.

Healthbook

One of the most prominent new additions to iOS 8 is expected to be Healthbook, Apple’s first major push into the world of health and fitness. Much of what we think we know about Healthbook comes from a leaked screenshot of the app, which bears more than a passing resemblance to Passbook. The cards indicate Healthbook will track everything from your steps and sleep, to your hydration and oxygen saturation, although it’s not clear exactly how it’ll do so.

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It’s speculated much of the data will come from the rumored Apple iWatch, which may act like some of the more complex fitness trackers on the market, such as the Basis B1. Apple isn’t likely to restrict Healthbook to iWatch owners, so expect the M7 co-processor inside the iPhone 5S (and whatever its equivalent may be inside the iPhone 6) to play a part as well. Otherwise, Healthbook could pull data from apps such as RunKeeper, Nike’s Move or tracker-specific apps like FuelBand, and standalone hardware such as the Withings’ scales.

In addition to fitness tracking, the Emergency Card sounds like it will store all your personal medical information, such as medications, allergies, and emergency contact details.

Maps and Transit

Ever since Apple stopped using Google’s data from its Maps app in iOS 6, it has come under fire for being pretty terrible. While the iOS 7 update fixed a lot of the issues that made iOS 6 so amazingly awful, it still lost a large portion of its user base to the superior Google Maps.

With iOS 8, Apple is determined to get it right, and according to rumors it will add transit directions and stop times within the app rather than redirecting you to other apps. There’s also discussion Apple may make use of iBeacons to map indoor spaces such as museums and hotels.

Augmented Reality

While this rumor is a bit more ethereal, it’s clear that Apple wants to include more augmented reality functionality, especially within its native applications. Rumors have pointed to this functionality being used for overlays in maps that help with directions and highlight interesting places and businesses. In addition, there are possible uses for augmented reality in taking pictures and identifying QR codes.

Multitasking

While iOS already offers multitasking, you can only do so with one app displayed on the screen, something that both Samsung and Microsoft ridiculed in their advertisements. However, Apple might have plans to step up its multitasking game by including a split-screen feature in the upcoming iOS 8. Meant specifically for the 9.7-inch iPads, the feature will reportedly let you have two apps side by side, as well as allow interactions between the two apps.

While there is no word on whether the feature will make its way to the iPad mini and iPhone lines, YouTube user Sam Beckett created a concept video that shows what the new split-screen feature could look like.

CarPlay

apple carplayCarPlay is already available in many new vehicles, and as part of iOS 7.1 on your iPhone, but it requires a Lightning connector to operate. In iOS 8, CarPlay could be going wireless, just like AirPlay. Of course, you’ll need to own a flashy car with its own Wi-Fi network – such as the Audi A8 – to make use of this feature, but while they’re rare at the moment, they’ll only get more common in the future. Whether there will be any other upgrades to the CarPlay system remains to be seen, but expect at least some fixes and improved functionality of some sort before the software is available in more cars.

Notifications

iOS 7 marked a massive upgrade for notifications, and iOS 8 looks like it will also include some simple, but hopefully effective, changes to the way the new system works. Instead of a “Missed” and “All” tab in the notifications center, the rumor is that these have been combined into one panel. Additionally, there will be upgrades to the “Today” panel that will allow it to take advantage of the new app sharing API and display information from non-Apple applications.

iTunes Radio

A recent update added iTunes radio as an option within the Music app, and rumor has it that iOS 8 will separate the radio functionality into its own app with extended functionality. Apple hopes to compete with services like Pandora and Spotify by presenting iTunes Radio as a standalone application, hopefully giving users more options and allowing for more ad revenue and possibly the extension of the service to other platforms.

Siri

With Google Now showing it’s prowess at always-on voice commands, it’s not surprising that people expect some of the same functionality from Siri in iOS 8. Some sort of more easily available access to Siri, possibly via new sensors in the iPhone 6, is possible, as well as more updates that add greater access to web resources like the already-connected Wolfram engine. In addition, Siri may be able to access information and apply voice commands to third-party apps from the app store via a new API.

Game Center

The Game Center as a standalone app is largely irrelevant, as most of its services are accessed from within games that want to use it for leaderboards and multiplayer. For this reason, it’s rumored that the iOS 8 will do away with the Game Center application, instead allowing changes to be made through the global settings, and putting more functionality and access within each game. While this isn’t a major change, it does show that Apple has been focusing on improving user experience, and keeping things simple while still adding functionality.

iCloud

Rumored screenshots of the new OS also point to what could be iOS versions of TextEdit and Preview, which are note-taking and image-viewing applications, respectively, for Mac OS X. The intention is to encourage the use of iCloud as a method for storing and viewing files, but that these two applications would be read-only, allowing users to view photos and documents stored in their iCloud.

App Sharing API

One of the major complaints of app designers with all the increased functionality is that their software can’t access it. Developers with access to newer versions of the SDK have noted the presence of a new API that allows apps to much more easily access data and commands in other apps, in much the same way apps can access centralized Twitter and Facebook login information. This opens up lots of new functionality that may allow other apps to control and be controlled by Siri and widgets in the notification center.

Audio Playback

Apple looks to improve the way your music sounds, as the company is rumored to introduce high-resolution audio playback with iOS 8. Currently, playing high quality 24-bit audio files that contain a sampling frequency beyond 48 kHz in the stock Music app cannot be done, with onboard playback limited at a 16-bit rate.

To accommodate high-resolution playback on Made for iPhone audio accessories, Apple will also reportedly introduce an upgraded Lightning cable, though it’s unclear when it would launch. Finally, Apple will issue a new version of its In-Ear Headphones to allow for high-resolution audio playback. Apple hasn’t updated its premium in-ear headphones since 2008, so an update might be due.

What have you heard about iOS 8? Did we miss anything? What would you like to see out of a new operating system?

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