iOS 8.4 beta 2 (for developers) was seeded last week, and its initial reviews have been mostly positive. The update is available both over-the-air as well as on Apple’s developer portal. We here do a round-up of the major updates in the soon-to-release iOS 8.4 version.
It has been just over a month since the release of iOS 8.3, and the buzz among Apple-enthusiasts is already on about a further upgrade – iOS 8.4 (the firmware has been dubbed the ‘Copper’ update). The second developer beta of the latest iteration of the iOS platform was seeded last Monday, along with the first public beta and the second developer beta of Xcode 6.4. The build number of iOS 8.4 is 12H4086d, and it is expected to be an improvement on its relatively stable predecessor. Some new features expected to be included in iOS 8.4 are:
- App Store search – Among the several bug fixes iOS 8.4 will have, this one is, arguably, the most important. In the first beta of the upgrade, App Store search was non-functional (on iPads) – and that has been sorted out in the second beta. The GPS accessory support feature (‘Made for iPhone’) has also been revamped. Mobile software analysts and iOS app developers, however, feel that there are still several bugs in the music app of iOS 8.4 (beta 1) that need to be worked on.
- Up Next desktop player – In its bid to improve the music experience of users, Apple will be adding an ‘Up Next’ icon to its iOS 8.4 update. The icon will be available from desktop iTunes, and tapping on it will open up the ‘Now Playing’ playlist. People will be able to customize the order in which songs/music will be played with greater convenience. If and when required, songs present on the playlist can simply be skipped with ‘Up Next’ too.
- Beautifully designed music app – iOS 8.4 will probably have the biggest influence of the Apple-Beats music deal (the acquisition took place last August) to date. According to early previews and discussions at online mobile app development forums, the Music app is all set to get a stunning redesign. There will be options for users to add personalized images to each song files, as well as snaps of their favorite artists. The overall navigation system in the Music app will be made user-friendly, and any particular album can be launched straight from the Album List. The revamped Music app will be the single-biggest highlight of iOS 8.4.
- Album accessibility from the artwork – This is, in essence, a continuation of the previous point. In the upcoming iteration of the Apple iOS platform, there will be specially designed icons present in the album artwork. When tapped, these icons will activate and play the album next to it. The focus seems to be on one thing: to bring the favorite music of users closer (read: a single tap away!) to them.
- Global Search from Music app – There is a tiny magnifying glass icon in the Music app of iOS 8.4 beta. When tapped, it enables people to search for music files from practically anywhere in the device ecosystem. The results corresponding to every search query is generated within seconds – and they are properly organized to ensure that particular song files can be found quickly and without any difficulty. Better searchability would, of course, give the usability of the new music application a big boost.
- Trending Search feature – This will be complementing the aforementioned Global Search feature. iPhone app developers who have tried out iOS 8.4 beta 1 and 2 have confirmed that trending searches from all over the globe will be displayed to users in iTunes Radio (just like the trending results in the App Store). These trends will be shown whenever anyone searches for a song in the Music app. Many developers had predicted that Apple would be including ‘Trending Search’ in its latest mobile platform upgrade.
- All-new MiniPlayer – Yet another feature related to the Music app of the iOS 8.4 platform (no surprises there!). When a person will browse through his/her collection of music on iTunes, MiniPlayer will display the file currently playing. Additional options to control and personalize the playback will also become available. What’s more, the MiniPlayer would double up as a shortcut tab to the ‘Now Playing’ section. To navigate to the latter section, a single tap on the MiniPlayer would suffice.
- No more app crashes – A common complaint among iOS developers with the first beta of iOS 8.4 was the disturbingly high frequency of Music app crashes/freezes, whenever CarPlay was active. The new developer beta has fixed this problem, with the app now being simultaneously usable with Apple CarPlay. When the new version finally releases (sometime in June), people are expected to have no problems in using the Music app while on the move.
- More user-friendly iTunes Radio – A new ‘Recently Played’ tab will be present in iTunes Radio, to make sure that listeners can get back to the stations they were hearing to recently. There will be no need to browse through the entire list of stations all over again. Under ‘Featured Stations’, an exhaustive set of hard-curated radio stations will be listed. In addition, people will be able create their very own channels (based on particular artists or song genre) as well.
- Availability – App development experts already testing iOS 8.4 beta 1 can find the second beta under Settings → General. Downloading and installing the new update takes hardly a few minutes. Apple has provided the option of standalone installation too, from https://developer.apple.com. The over-the-air installation procedure has been reported to be easier than the second option, by most developers.
- Wireless music streaming – Apple has ensured that the functionality of AirPlay is also used in the upcoming version of the iOS platform. Music can now be streamed via AirPlay, in wireless mode. The streaming can be started from within the ‘Now Playing’ section. Till now, there have been no reports of connectivity problems and/or streaming failures related to this feature. According to app makers, the wireless music streaming through AirPlay would add an extra touch of innovation in iOS 8.4.
- Listening to recently added files – This will become easier than ever before in the latest version of Apple’s mobile platform. Thanks to the ‘Recently Added’ feature in the Music app, the song files will be organized by date – with the most recent ones being sorted at the top. All that the users have to do is tap on the icon, and the new songs would start playing. Chances of losing a recently added music file would be minimal.
- Now Playing would get a facelift – In addition to the enhanced functionalities, the ‘Now Playing’ interface of the music application will also be improved in iOS 8.4. The album artwork will be viewable in an all-new, way more customized manner – and there will be changes in the other visual components of this section as well. A lot of emphasis has evidently been put on the redesigning of the ‘Now Playing’ screen of the app, to make it more appealing to end users.
- Device compatibility – Apart from iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus (but of course), the iOS 8.4 update will be available for all the variants of iPhone 5 as well as iPhone 4S. It will also be downloadable on 5th generation iPod Touch. In the tablet line, iOS 8.4 will be coming to iPad 2, iPad Mini/Mini 3, iPad Air 2, and the third-gen iPad Wifi. It will be a major update, and will be available on virtually all major Apple mobile devices.
More is expected to be known about the Music app-Beats music streaming service collaboration in iOS 8.4 at this year’s WWDC (scheduled to be held on 8-12 June 2015). There might be some additional features and updates related to Apple Watch as well. The Cupertino tech giant is moving into music service big time with iOS 8.4 – most of the above new features are clear indications of that.
iOS 8.4 will be, in all likelihood, the final iteration of this version – before iOS 9 is announced later this year (probably with iPhone 6S). The second developer beta and the first public beta of OS X 10.10.4 have also been seeded along with iOS 8.4 beta 2. Apple is eyeing a summer release for iOS 8.4 in the final form – and developers feel that it will be a major success.
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