The launch of the final version of iOS 8 mobile platform is still at least three months away. However, the two beta versions already released have generated quite a bit of buzz among the international developer community. In what follows, we take a look at some of the high points of Apple’s latest mobile OS.
It’s already been a fortnight since the launch of iOS 8 (beta version) at the Apple World Wide Developers’ Conference (WWDC). Following initial feedback and reviews from software analysts, OS experts and mobile app developers, the iOS 8 beta 2 has also been released. Although the new platform still needs a fair bit of improvement, it comes with quite a few new, user-friendly features. We will here deliberate on some of those:
- Camera timer – Something that Apple should have included in iOS 7, considering how popular ‘selfies’ have now become. In the new iPhone platform, the camera has three and ten second timer options. A light blinks after every second once the timer is set – and a large number of photos can be taken at one go (giving users greater options to choose that ‘perfect’ snap). If you have an iOS 8-powered iPhone, you won’t really need to carry a camera as well!
- Arrival of iCloud Drive – Considering the proficiency of Apple in cloud computing over the years, it’s plain strange why iCloud Drive was not conceptualized earlier. Anyways, it finally arrives on iOS 8, and looks a more than adequate alternative option to Google Drive and mobile Dropbox. File syncing is fast enough, and almost all types of data can be shared from Mac systems to handheld iOS devices.
- Predictive keyboard – The ho-hum virtual keypad of iPhones finally gets an upgrade in iOS 8. The all-new predictive features include word and spelling suggestions, text scanning, and even offering up words and phrases depending on whether a formal or a casual email/text message is being typed. It’s expected to improve the typing ease and speed on iOS devices in general. Oh, and finally, third-party keyboards can be used on Apple handsets. Customization is coming to town!
- iMessage – Professionals from iPhone app development companies feel that iMessage on iOS 8 has the potential to give established IM applications like WhatsApp and Snapchat a run for their money. From seamless group chatting, to high-clarity voice messaging – iMessage comes with all the features users are likely to expect from a messaging app. What’s more, the sharing options also seem to be top-notch. Not a new concept, but it’s refreshing to see that Apple Inc. is making an effort to catch up with its rivals.
- Better mail management – With Blackberry’s popularity on the wane, iOS 8 can very well become the preferred mobile email service provider for users across the globe. The built-in email system allows users to add new contacts, whenever a mail arrives from the latter. In case you receive an email from an existing contact but cannot quite recall its context/relevance, you can simply tap on the ‘Show Related Messages’ tab, to check out other related mails from the same sender.
- HomeKit – Arguably, the most innovative feature of iOS 8. HomeKit would let users pair their iPhones with other smart appliances at home (think, the lights at your home getting automatically switched on, as you enter it and tap on your mobile). Once again, Apple is playing the catch-up game here, since Microsoft and Google (with Insteon and Nest, respectively) had already started working on this concept. HomeKit, however, can emerge as the winner in this three-way tussle.
- The Health application – Don’t have the time to go for weekly health check-ups? If you buy the soon-to-be-released iPhone 6 (which would presumably run on iOS 8), you won’t need to! On the health app dashboard, you can track a wide range of critical health metrics, and find out if anything is awry. There is an option to create an ‘emergency report’ too – which would have the details about your persistent health issues, like allergies. Data from the Health app can be shared with other, third-party mobile apps too.
- No more app sandboxes – One of the factors that have got developers really excited about Apple’s new mobile platform. The in-app shareability and extensibility features between iPad/iPhone applications are going to get a major lift in iOS 8. As a result, users would be benefitted from the seamless integration between the apps. For external imaging apps, filters API would also be available. Once again, Android is the benchmark when it comes to app property sharing – but Apple seems to have taken up the challenge at last.
- An App Store that ‘learns’ – That’s right, downloading stuff from the iTunes store is likely to become easier than ever on iOS 8 phones. Depending on the type of music you generally listen to on iTunes Radio, or the voice commands you give to Siri – a personalized set of download suggestions will be shown to you. No longer will you have to spend a long time on searching for the music/mobile apps you like.
- Wireless voice-calling – iOS 8 supports wi-fi voice calling, although it is currently included as more of an emergency feature. Even so, it is a great relief for people who have often needed to make that one mighty important call – only to find that the mobile network is down. It would be great if the experts at Apple simply make wi-fi calling an alternative to regular network calling.
- Surfing the web on Duck Duck Go – The new line of iOS devices would, of course, retain Safari, Google, Bing and Yahoo as the mobile web search engines – but there would be one more alternative present. The Duck Duck Go browser would enable users to browse web pages, without their actions being tracked. The already-present private browsing options, together with the no-tracking option, promises a more personalized online experience.
- Family Sharing – There is a plethora of mobile apps for kids at iTunes, and you certainly don’t want your little one randomly downloading all of them, right? Via the new Family Sharing feature on iOS 8, parents can keep a constant tab on the type/number of mobile applications that children are allowed to access and/or download. Windows Phone 8 offers roughly the same function with Kid’s Corner – but its overall functionality is lower than that of Family Sharing. Chances of misplacing a shared iPhone or iPad would also become practically nil.
- Battery usage tracker – No, the battery backup of the new line of iOS devices is not going to miraculously shoot up – but users can at least check out the extent of battery consumption attributable to each pre-installed application. All battery usage figures are represented in percentage format – right next to the apps (including the App Store) they are related to. People can toggle between battery usage views over the previous week, or during the last 24 hours as well.
- Spotlight and Continuity – Spotlight has received an upgrade in the OS X Yosemite (also unveiled at WWDC ‘14), and its location-based features are available in iOS 8 too. The link to the Wikipedia article on any place, together with an image, is shown – whenever users perform a location search. Continuity, on the other hand, makes sure that people can sync their tasks between Mac systems, iPhones and iPads. Starting something on one iOS device and completing it on another is now an option.
The new ‘Hey, Siri!’ voice command option to activate Siri is somewhat similar to the ‘Ok, Google’ command for Google Now. The Notes app now supports pictures as well as the content in rich text format (RTF). Notification management, a low point in previous iOS versions, has been improved too – and users would no longer have to close an app to check notifications from another. The beta versions of iOS 8 have received the thumbs-up from most developers – it’s now time to see how well its final version turns out to be!
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