Apple Inc.’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS 8 is finally here and unlike prior versions, this one is a big overhaul. While this upgrade will take a big chunk of memory, it's basically giving you a new phone, even if you aren't upgrading to an iPhone 6.
Unlike the jump from iOS 6 to iOS 7, there are no big cosmetic changes to iOS 8, but once you dive into it you'll see how much the operating system has changed. From something as simple as a new keyboard to Interactive Notifications, Apple's new mobile operating system adds a lot more convenience and functionality to your phone. Here are the key highlights:
One of the most significant overhauls of iOS 8 is its keyboard. For those of who have clumsy thumbs, QuickType takes out some of the tedium of typing by intelligently suggesting words based off conversation context. While it’s not perfect, it’s surprising how quickly it suggests words as you type. The word suggestions also adapt themselves to a particular app. So if you’re texting a friend, it suggests casual language, but if you’re emailing a colleague it will suggest formal words instead.
Or if you want a different way to type, a number of third-party keyboards will be coming to iOS 8 on Wednesday including Swype and SwiftKey.
Interactive Notifications eliminates one of the biggest annoyances in iOS: leaving apps to respond to a text message. Now, when a notification pops up, users can simply swipe down and respond to a text message or file away an email. The feature works well and is hardly obtrusive. But if you’re used to tapping on the notification bar that pops up, it still launches its respective app, which takes you away from what you’re doing. It’s a minor annoyance, but you’ll quickly get used to swiping down instead of tapping.
In addition to finding content stored on your iPhone, Spotlight now provides contextual results from various sources, including Apple Maps, iTunes, the App Store, search results from Bing and more. The feature is especially effective when you’re searching for a nearby restaurant or for information from Wikipedia. This is a huge step up from iOS 7, where Spotlight merely provided a button to search the web or Wikipedia.
Mail in iOS 8 gives you more control of your inbox. If you want to archive a message, all you need to do is swipe left across the entire screen. You also have access to a number of other options by swiping half-way. If you’re part of an important email thread, iOS 8 also has the ability to send you notifications when it’s updated, so you never miss a beat.
Touch ID’s support for third-party apps is one of those features that you can only truly appreciate as more apps begin to integrate with the fingerprint sensor. But for the few that do, including the 1Password login manager and Amazon's (NASDAQ:AMZN) shopping app, the feature works seamlessly. Instead of fumbling with the dozens of password variations you have for individual apps, you can simply rest your finger on the sensor to sign in or unlock an app.
While it’s not an Adobe (NASDAQ:ADBE) Photoshop replacement, the new Photos app puts more control into the user’s hands so they can make pictures look just the way they want them to look. It offers basic editing features for cropping, but there’s also finer controls which can control contrast, and a number of elements of a picture taken using the iPhone’s built-in camera. The search feature also provides a more convenient way for sifting through photos without the endless scrolling.
Messages has been overhauled so you can send quick pictures, or voice messages by holding down the camera button or the microphone button. The feature is great for capturing that moment on the fly, but its one downside is that it sends the message immediately through this method. If you’re one of those people that prefer to self-edit before sending off a text message, you’ll need to be a little more careful while using this feature. You can also choose to send a message with a traditional photo or video attachment, avoiding potential embarrassing situations altogether.
Veteran iOS users that prefer to be more hands-on won’t get too much out of this app, but those new to the iPhone will find its visual guides useful for discovering the number of features in iOS 8. While it should save the designated "tech support" person in the house a few headaches, it's also useful for discovering features in iOS 8 you might have missed.
Current iPhone users can download iOS 8.0 by connecting their device to a computer and updating through iTunes or using the built-in update feature located in the Settings menu. Apple's iPhone 6 and 6 Plus will also come with iOS 8 when they're released on Sept. 19.