Rene Ritchie wrote a comprehensive review of Apple’s latest mobile operating system, iOS 8. Here are a few of the new features that impress me the most:
With Handoff, as long as your iPhone and iPad are logged in with the same iCloud account and you’re within range of Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) you can start working on one device, put it down, pick up the other, and keep right on working, right where you left off.
Handoff is available for Mail, Safari, Pages, Numbers, Keynote, Maps, Messages, Reminders, Calendar, Contacts, and third-party App Store apps that add the functionality.
Now, with iOS 8, you can reply to a message right from the banner, accept an invitation right on the Lock screen, or favorite a piece of news directly in Notification Center. Whether you’re playing a game, watching a movie, or editing a spreadsheet, interruption is minimized and app switching is potentially eliminated altogether.
Now any app can add an action extension that increases the utility and diversity of other apps and of iOS itself.
You’re also no longer forced to, for example, leave Safari, go to 1Password, use the in-app browser, or copy the password to the clipboard and find our way back to Safari just to log into a website. With action extensions, everything just works, right where you need it, right when you need it.
iCloud Drive and its associated Document Picker are new features of iOS 8 that replace the old Documents in the Cloud system with a new one that allows the app you’re using to open files created in a different app, import them, move them, or export them right back out again, all without creating any unnecessary steps, complicated workflows, or duplicate copies.
Everything is still backed up and synced to all your devices, but now everything is also available to all your apps.
Health is a new, built-in app. It serves as both a repository for all the health-related data accumulated by your iPhone, your apps, and your accessories, and a dashboard to help you make better, more visual sense of it. In other words, Health is a front-end for your quantified life.
In addition to apps that collect and track data, there are apps that let people manually enter data, like what they ate or how they felt at a specific time of day. There are apps that perform statistical analysis and provide graphical reports on data to help you better visualize specific metrics. There are apps from healthcare providers that let you send your information back to them to keep your records up-to-date.
Yet all that data about activity and sleep, diet and nutrition, mood and medication, vital signs and test results, all remains locked into the silos of all those individual apps.
Health and the accompanying HealthKit framework breaks down those silos. It brings together all that data together and puts it all in one, convenient, easy to refer to place.
Siri, Apple’s virtual personal assistant, didn’t get as many new features as it has in years past, but it did get the ability to identify songs via Shazam. Let Siri listen to what’s playing and Siri will tell you the track’s title and give you the option to buy it from the iTunes Store.
When your iPhone or iPad is plugged in, you can now choose to activate Siri by voice alone. Just say “Hey Siri”. (Sadly, “Hey, seriously” activates it as well, so perhaps a more distinct term will eventually have to be adopted.) It is great, however, for when Siri is charging at your bedside or on your desk, while you’re driving and plugged in, or while you’re cooking or otherwise have your hands full.
There’s a new Battery Usage section that, in theory, is similar to OS X Maverick’s battery shaming. However, while things like Phone: Low Signal can show you real sources of battery drain, if you use Tweetbot all day, don’t be surprised if that’s top of your list — not for drain but simply because you won’t stop tweeting.
That said, Battery Usage does show when background activity is the source of power consumption, which can be useful information. As can an app showing up high in the list when you don’t use it much.
Triaging mail on the go has also been improved. New gestures let you quickly swipe right to mark a message as read or unread, or swipe left to flag it, trash or archive it, or to get more options. You can also swipe all the way left to trash it immediately.
Given all the new features in iOS 8, I was a bit overwhelmed when I first started using it. Rene Ritchie’s review does a fantastic job of detailing what’s new. My only complaint is the abundance of spelling mistakes in the article – it would be so much better if someone took the time to give it another edit.