Apple did a magnificent with its latest mobile operating system, iOS 8, integrating a lot of features that users have been suggesting and craving for a long time, as well as some new additions of their own. While some of the features are obvious right from the first second, others are a lot more subtle, and seem to be there to enhance the overall experience without ever stepping into the spotlight.
Subtle or not, the changes brought by iOS 8 will change the way iPhones are used, making everything smoother and more intuitive than ever. It’s enough to take iOS 8 for a quick test and you’ll soon end up asking yourself how you ever lived without these features.
Here’s a list of the iOS 8’s new features – both the obvious and the less obvious ones.
1. Interactive notifications
One of the main focus points of iOS 8 was to make notifications of all kinds less intrusive, and it certainly succeeded. Notifications are now interactive, so if you happen to receive a text message when you are playing a game or watching a movie on your phone you will see a tiny notification bar with the message, which will also allow you to compose a quick reply directly, without minimizing the app you were using and launching the messaging app.
2. Text Predictions
In order to make interactive notifications even more effective, but also aiming to improve the overall messaging experience, iOS 8 introduced a very powerful text prediction feature that reads your mind and give you exactly the words you are thinking about. Ok, maybe it doesn’t quite read your mind, but it does a very good job at predicting the words you may want as soon as you start typing. What makes this feature even more awesome is that it monitors the way you chat with different people, and adapts the predictions based on the person you’re chatting with, so when you’re chatting with a friend with whom you tend to use slang or shortcuts a lot, the predictions will fit the profile, as opposed to them being all grammatically-correct and formal when chatting with a business partner that you’ve only had formal communications with.
3. Customizable Keyboard
iPhone fans have been craving for alternatives for the classical keyboard for quite a while, and Apple seems to finally listen to their wishes and make it happen. iOS 8 comes with support for third party apps that offer all sorts of customizable keyboards, so you can now pick the right size, color and features you want for your keyboard.
4. Major Changes in Messages
The Messages app got some massive improvements over the last version, boasting quite an impressive set of features and tweaks. With the addition of audio, video and location support directly in messages, Apple attempts to make users want to choose their app instead of third party messaging apps such as WhatsApp. You can now add audio and video to your messages with a simple swipe of the finger; Apple also added an option that allows the customization of how long are these in-message videos and audios saved for in order to preserve space on the device.
Location sharing is great for when you’re planning to meet with friends and don’t want to go through the hassle of opening a maps app – simply toggle location on, and they will get the exact location you’re at.
A subtle but very useful addition targets group conversations, where you now have the option of setting the conversation on mute or even leave it altogether, if you don’t want spontaneous chatter to interfere with your concentration at work, or when you simply don’t want to be bothered.
5. Wi-Fi Calling
Wi-Fi calling is another feature implemented by Apple in an effort to make users ditch third party apps for calls and texts. Even though it’s currently only available for a limited range of devices (iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C), and a modest choice of service providers, Wi-Fi calling has a great evolving potential, and might pose some serious competition for VoIP service providers. Basically, the feature allows you to use a Wi-Fi network as a communication method when placing a call rather than the cellular network. This can cut down on communication costs if you have a subscription plan that doesn’t offer a lot of minutes, but have a Wi-Fi network at your disposal and friends that use iOS 8.
6. Time-lapse Photography
Apple introduced a new camera mode: time-lapse photography. This mode captures consecutive shots at dynamic intervals, and when you press “stop” it automatically stiches the pictures together creating a time-lapse video. Getting to master this mode can prove to be quite tricky, but after you do, you can create amazing videos of sunsets, clouds passing by or a flower blossoming – videos that would otherwise require a lot of editing to create.
7. Better Photo Management
Another newly introduced feature focuses on privacy, and allows you to hide certain photos. While the hidden photos are still available if you go to the Albums menu, they are hidden from the Moments, Collections and Years modes, allowing you to present a slideshow to family or friends without including any personal photos.
Organizing photos is also made easier with the addition of the “recently added” and “recently deleted” options, which allow you to see your most recent additions to the albums, but also the files you just deleted. The “recently deleted” feature is extremely useful if you happen to accidentally delete something you actually intended to keep. Deleted photos stay in the “recently deleted” folder for a pre-set period of time, during which they can be recover, but are gone forever after the time expires or when you manually hit the remove button.
Searching through photos was enhanced by giving you the ability to search by location, which will display all the photos that were taken into a specific location. Finding those awesome holiday snaps just got a whole lot easier.
8. Siri Got Smarter
Siri was already a very smart virtual assistant, but the iOS 8 update made it even more powerful. For starters, Siri is now integrated with the popular music recognition software Shazam, so instead of having to launch Shazam when an awesome track is playing, you can simply ask Siri and it will attempt to identify the track for you.
When your phone is connected to a power source, such as when charging or while driving, you can launch Siri without even touching it by simply saying “Hey Siri”. While this feature may seem like a tiny rip-off from Android and their “Hey Google”, it does do a good job of allowing you to take control of Siri hands-free.
Under the hood, Siri seems to be packing some more upgrades, as it can now display your voice input as you say it, as opposed to waiting to receive a full command or query. This will help you see if your commands are interpreted correctly in real time, as well as improve the way you dictate text messages or emails to Siri.
Last but not least, Siri can now access the App Store, making it easier and more convenient to look for apps and to install them.
9. Family Sharing
If there are multiple iPhone users in your family, iOS 8 now allows you to share the apps between devices without having to buy them separately for each device. This means that, if you buy an app, every member of your family will be able to install and use that app with no additional costs. It’s not just apps that get shared between members: music, photos, videos, book – everything can be easily accessible from all the devices in the family. A nice option is to import other family members’ calendars into a single calendar file, thus being able to see when and how much free time everyone has, making it easier to organize family activities together.
10. Customized Sharing Sheet
Sharing is not limited to your family, as sometimes you want to share something on the social media. One of the most annoying things you can run into when trying to do so is being presented with a never-ending list of sharing options, when you only use two or three services. Now you can organize that sharing sheet, and leave only the social networks or sharing options that you really use.
11. Find My Phone Gets Last Location Feature
The “Find My Phone” feature is extremely handy to have, for those situations when you misplace your phone, or worse, lose it. However, there’s not much the feature could do in the case of a dying battery. iOS 8 addresses that by adding a function that allows the app to report the last known location of an iPhone when its battery is dying. This should make it easier for you to find your beloved device even if it runs out of power.
12. Location-aware Apps
An interesting new feature brought by iOS 8 is the introduction of location-aware apps recommendations. For example, when you walk into a Starbucks, you will see the Starbucks app displayed directly on your lockscreen, giving you easy access to the app, if you already have it install, or a quick way of installing it. This feature is perfect for locations that have dedicated apps that you may not be aware of. However, some people are afraid that this feature will act as a privacy intrusion, which brings us to the next feature.
13. Better Control of Apps that Use Your Location
Since the number of apps and services that use your location is quickly rising, Apple made it simpler to control which apps can use the feature and which can’t. This way, you can grant the apps you trust access to your location, as well as remain untraced by apps you don’t feel comfortable about.
14. Better Control over Battery Usage
A new option called Battery Usage gives you the possibility to view how much battery juice is used by every app, even those running in the background. You get the usage on a 24-hour basis or on a 7-day basis, thus getting a pretty good idea what apps are worth keeping or which ones are merciless on your battery and you’re better without.
15. iOS to Mac Screen Capture
Whether or you’re an app developer or just the techie guy in your family, having the ability to easily record what’s happening on the screen of your phone can prove to be quite useful. iOS 8 allows you to do that on the fly by connecting your iPhone to your Mac computer. You can showcase a new game or record the instruction on how to use an app, and then send the video to family or friends that are struggling with the app in question. Easy.
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