Last year, when Apple first started showing off iOS 7, it looked drastically different from iOS 6. Not only were users introduced to many new features that were never before possible using an iPhone or iPad, but the apps and interface offered by their smartphone or tablet dramatically changed.
Now, about one year later, Apple has begun offering previews of iOS 8. This new version of the operating system retains the same overall appearance as iOS 7 from a visual design and user interface standpoint. However, this operating system update does once again introduce a wide range of new features, functions and apps that will expand the ways people can interact with and use their iPhone or iPad in their everyday lives.
One of the more obvious improvements an iPhone or iPad user will discover is the enhanced virtual keyboard. Now, instead of simply using the AutoCorrect feature to automatically correct what the mobile device perceives as typos, the virtual keyboard will predict what you’re trying to say, and actually suggest the next word even before you begin typing it. Whether you’re composing text messages or emails, the new QuickType virtual keyboards will determine who you’re communicating with and select language that’s appropriate to the recipient and the context of your conversations.
iOS 8 Offers New Tools for Sharing
iOS 8 also includes enhanced tools for sharing content - both with your own mobile devices and computers, as well as with other people. For example AirDrop, which could previously be used to wirelessly transfer content just between iOS mobile devices, will now be compatible with the Mac version of AirDrop so that content can be easily transferred between an iPhone, iPad, and/or Mac.
In addition, Apple is expanding its iCloud service to include what it’s calling iCloud Drive. Using this online, cloud-based service, securely backing up, syncing, and sharing photo content, app-specific data, and your own documents and files, for example, will be easier than ever. Plus, thanks to another new feature, called Family Sharing, family members will be able to share purchased content from the iTunes Store, App Store, iBookstore, and Newsstand, without also having to share their personal and potentially private content from specific apps, like Contacts, Calendar, Reminders, or Notes.
When you do want to share app-specific information, however, new iOS 8 functionality that’s integrated into many bundled apps make this easier, thanks to expanded Share menus.
Meanwhile, using iOS 8’s new Continuity features, it will soon be possible to start doing a compatible task on an iPhone, iPad, or Mac, and then pick up exactly where you left off on another computer or mobile device. Plus, using the iPhone as a conduit, incoming phone calls can be answered or outgoing calls can be initiated on an iPad or Mac that’s within wireless range of the smartphone.
Many Apps That Come Preinstalled With iOS 8 Have Been Improved
iOS 8 also improves upon many of the apps that come preinstalled with the operating system, while also expanding this app collection. For example, the stand alone iBooks and Podcasts apps that have been around for a while, but they were optional downloads. Both now come preinstalled with iOS 8. Plus, on the iPhone, a brand new app called Health is designed to help smartphone users gather, monitor, and potentially share health, diet, and fitness related information in one centralized place.
The Camera and Photos Apps Get Improved Upon
When it comes to taking, viewing, editing, organizing, and sharing photos using an iPhone or iPad, iOS 8 includes new versions of the Camera and Photos apps, both of which have been improved upon. Instead of using iCloud’s Photo Stream, iOS 8 and iCloud Drive support a function called iCloud Photo Library. Now, all of your photos and videos can be permanently stored online within your iCloud account and be readily accessible from all of your computers and mobile devices.
Once iCloud Drive becomes fully operational in 2015, your digital photos and videos will now utilize some of your 5GB of online storage space that comes free with your iCloud account. In the past, as much online storage space as you needed for photos and videos was provided for free. Now, if your online storage needs exceed 5GB, a small fee will be charged (starting at $0.99 per month).
As your digital images are taken and then transferred to your iCloud account, they can be organized into separate Albums, which will automatically remain synchronized amongst all of your computers and iOS mobile devices. Thus, if you edit an image on your iPhone, for example, the new version of the image will almost instantly be viewable on your iPad and/or Mac(s).
The image editing tools built into the Photos app have also been improved upon. For example, it’s now possible to straighten images that were accidently shot at an angle, and/or manually adjust the light, exposure, color, brightness, highlights, contrast, and/or shadows within an image. Built-in image filters continue to be available, but additional filters from third parties will now be installable and usable from within the Photos app.
On the iPad, many Camera app features that were previously available only on the iPhone will now be accessible from the tablet as well. There’s also a new Timer and Time-Lapse feature built into the Camera app that’s accessible from either an iPhone or iPad.
Messages Now Goes Beyond Just Using Text and Emoticons
Until iOS 8, the Message app could be used for sending text-based messages, emoticons, photos, or pre-created video clips. The new version of this app allows users to record either short audio messages or video clips from within the Messages app, and then send those to recipients to be heard or viewed. Unlike text-based messages, when an audio or video message is sent, it’s designed to “self destruct” after being viewed, in order to conserve storage space within the mobile device.
Using an iPhone as a conduit, the Messages app will also work seamlessly with iOS 8’s Continuity feature. As a result, from an iPad or Mac, it’ll now be possible to see all messages you receive, whether they originate from Apple’s iMessage service or they’re sent from a non-Apple user via a cellular service provider’s messaging service.
Communicating with groups of people via the Messages app will be more customizable thanks to iOS 8, and you’ll easily be able to use a new Do Not Disturb or Leave This Conversation feature to decide when and if you want to continue participating in a group conversation. When you do opt to communicate with others, you’ll be able to control when and if those people will be able to see your location; plus with a single tap, you’ll be able to view thumbnails for all of the photos, maps, or video clips that were sent or received during the conversation from a single screen.
Your iPhone Can Help Manage Your Health and Well-Being
The all-new Health app, that will come preinstalled with iOS 8 on the iPhone, is designed to work seamlessly with optional fitness, diet, and health related accessories, monitors, and apps, and then allow you to track, view, analyze, and share collected data in one place. How this app can be used will rely a lot on the third party apps and accessories you utilize with it. However, the Health app could be used to monitor your movement, calories burned during a workout, your vital signs, weight, and/or other pertinent information.
In addition to collecting health, fitness, and diet related information, the Health app will be able to securely share appropriate portions of this data with your doctor or fitness instructor, for example. Of course, you’ll have total control over the information that’s collected, stored, and/or shared by your iPhone.
It’s already been announced that the Health app will work with existing fitness related iPhone accessories and apps from companies like Nike and Fitbit. However, although not yet announced, its main function will likely be to gather, monitor, and share health, fitness, and diet related information collected by Apple’s iWatch.
Not All iOS Mobile Devices Will Support iOS 8
Some older model iPhones, iPads, and iPod touch devices don’t have the processing power to support iOS 8. This fall, iOS 8 will be released as a free update and will be compatible with the iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s, iPod touch (5th generation), iPad 2, iPad 3rd and 4th generations, iPad Air, iPad mini, iPad mini with Retina display, and any new iOS mobile devices released by Apple in late 2014.
Once iOS 8 is released, to update your mobile device, make sure your iPhone or iPad has Wi-Fi Internet access, and then launch Settings, tap on the General option, followed by the Software Update option from the General submenu. Follow the on-screen prompts. The update process will take about 20 minutes.
This fall, as soon as you install iOS 8 onto your iPhone or iPad, you’ll also discover hundreds of subtle improvements in the way you interact with your smartphone or tablet. For example, the Notification Center is now more customizable, and the Spotlight Search feature gives you quick and easy access to more types of information.
You’ll also notice that it will be easier to sort through and organize your inbox as you’re using the Mail app, and whether you’re surfing the web using Safari on your iPhone or iPad, there are new and more convenient ways to access your bookmarks, Favorites, Reading List, and Shared Links, while less clutter is displayed on your device’s screen.
From the multitasking mode (which you access by pressing the Home button twice), in addition to closing apps or quickly switching between them, you’ll now be able to access contact details for people you’ve communicated with recently and initiate a new text message, call, email, or FaceTime conversation faster.
What’s really nice about iOS 8 is that the majority of new features and functions are rather intuitive, and the operating system as a whole retains the same interface you’ve become accustomed to using with iOS 7, so there’s only a small learning curve associated with the update. However, you’ll quickly come to appreciate the new features and functions that will be readily available to you, as well as how access to some existing features and functions has been streamlined.
In a nutshell, whether you’ll be using iOS 8 on your existing smartphone or tablet, or you plan to upgrade to the latest iPhone or iPad model in late 2014 or early 2015, you’ll quickly discover that the latest version of the iOS operating system gives you faster and more convenient access to your apps, content and data, while giving you more options when it comes to organizing, syncing and sharing this information with your other computers and/or iOS mobile devices, or with others.