Each year around the same time, we look to Apple to bring some new features to its mobile platform. Each year, our anticipation for more useful, innovative features on iOS grows immensely.
Maybe we’re just demanding and ungrateful. Or maybe it’s because, even for some strong Apple proponents, the software is beginning to feel a little stale. Last year’s face-lift brought very few helpful changes to the platform; among the most notable were Control Center, folders with no app limitation on the Home screen, and AirDrop. But the brunt of the changes were dramatic visual changes – mostly in color and texture – that didn’t really change the experience all that much.
Now we’re coming off the heels of the iOS 8 announcement at the opening WWDC 2014 keynote wondering why exactly we should be excited for this new version of iOS.
Just a few hours ago, I updated my iPhone 5 and iPad mini to iOS 8 and had to make sure the update had actually taken once it completed. The visual changes are few and far between and, at first glance, you might not even notice what’s changed. (I was offline most the day yesterday and wanted to find some of the changes myself.)
Point being, iOS 8, like the past few updates, is pretty minor with a few helpful features scattered about.
What do you have to look forward to in iOS 8? Should be excited? We’ve narrowed down the list to our five favorite iOS 8 features below!
I’ve been called a lot of obscene things for how much I vehemently hate the iPhone keyboard. From the very first time I used it on the iPhone 4, I felt it was antiquated and janky. Accurate? Sure. But having to press the symbol key every time I want a comma, number, or anything of that sort is annoying.
Not to mention, I’ve been using Swype since the very first betas hit the press, and I’ve tried SwiftKey, Minuum (which I love), the Google Keyboard, and several others. Gesture and predictive input are incredible and irreplaceable.
Fortunately, Apple added the latter in its new iOS keyboard. It’s context aware, so it learns what you’re talking about and how your talk with whomever you may be chatting with at the time. In other words, its suggestions change based on who you’re talking to.
Apple also did something unexpected. It opened up access to third-party keyboards. Chances are very high that we’ll see keyboards like SwiftKey, Swype, and Minuum on iOS, and that makes me incredibly happy.
Actionable notifications and dismissing
Notifications are still a pretty sore point on iOS. There is a pretty strong disconnect between badge icons, banner notifications, and Notification Center. They’re rarely in sync with one another, and nothing about a badge notification tells me to open Notification Center. Without opening Notification Center, you will never know what’s happening in there.
Unlike the last version of Notification Center, chances are high there’s a lot more interesting stuff going on. Optimized notifications are actionable. You can like Facebook posts straight from Notification Center, reply to SMS and iMessages straight from banner notifications or Notification Center. And no longer is dismissing missed notifications an annoying, tedious chore. Just swipe to the left and tap Dismiss.
Any improvements to Notifications are welcomed, but these in particular are great.
Better app buying experience
I buy a lot of apps. Too many apps, really.
A lot of the time, I’d like to try that calendar app before I slap a fiver down with no chance of a return if it doesn’t suit my needs. Unlike Android, there is no return window. You can email the developer if you’re unsatisfied, but in no way are developers required to return your money if you aren’t satisfied.
Unfortunately, the only information leading up to an app purchase are a few screen shot stills, a written description, and some (typically unhelpful and unreliable) reviews. With iOS 8 comes video previews of applications. It’s still not quite as great as risk-free, money back trials, but seeing apps in action should help me make better app purchase decisions.
Apple has also added the ability to purchase bundles, meaning developers can bundle up some applications that go well together and sell them together (hopefully at a discounted rate).
Speaking of purchases, Apple has now enabled families to all use the same iTunes account. Not only can everyone added to the family account share applications, but since all the connected devices are tied to the same credit card, other users can request the Family Organizer to approve the purchase of an app.
But the benefits of Family Share extend beyond just app sharing. You can have a family photo album, share calendars, and look up the information of family members’ devices, provided you have permission.
This keeps families from buying several copies of the same application and having the same credit card added to three or more accounts.
Some of you may know my biggest complaint with iOS to date: data sharing.
From Android, I can share from practically any application to another app. For example, from inside Chrome, I can share an article straight to Buffer or Pocket. On iOS, I would have to copy the URL of the page, switch to the sharing app of choice, and paste the URL.
In iOS 8, applications can (sort of) talk to one another. Apple stands as a sort of middleman in the transaction of data, but you can send data between applications in iOS 8. So, theoretically, you could share pictures straight from the Photos app to Instagram or a Web page straight from Safari to Pocket (once they’re updated, of course).
This was slightly hinted at in iOS 7 with the “Open in” function, where you could open documents in various applications through the sharing menu, but it didn’t always work as well as it should have. I can’t wait to see this software in action.
Readers, what are you favorite iOS 8 features? Share your thoughts in the comments below!