iOS 8 revealed at WWDC 2014 – here are its top 10 features!

Apple has just announced its iOS 8 at the Worldwide Developers’ Conference 2014 in San Francisco and while it might not be as radical a change as iOS 7, there are still a few bonuses the iOS user can expect.

Android users won’t bat an eyelid at the new features in iOS 8 – they’ve had most of them since 2.3 Gingerbread, with the rest coming in with 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Apple has been playing catch-up for a long time now, so let’s see what iOS 8 can do for them.

Here’s a short summary of what you can expect from Apple this fall:

Interactive Notifications

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Users can now respond to notifications within the notification centre and lockscreen. There is no longer a need to change apps in order to reply to a message or like/comment on a Facebook post.

Such a feature has been present in Android for a long time, and we’re happy that Apple is taking a leaf out of Google’s book – even if it means blatant copying. It can’t be denied that the Android method works better.

Keyboard

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A long-overdue iOS keyboard upgrade has finally arrived. Similar to Swype and most Android keyboards, the iOS keyboard has introduced a feature called QuickType, which is a predictive keyboard software enhancement that will learn your messaging and email styles to allow for quicker auto-correct and fill-out suggestions. It also claims to be able to personalise its predictive suggestions based on the person you’re communicating with.

For the first time, Apple will also allow third party keyboards to be used on the system. Yay for variety and diversity!

iMessage

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Given the numerous number of free messaging apps out there such as WhatsApp, Line and Viber, iMessage now has a few more features that will make it more of a competition to such apps. Such features include: the ability to send voice texts, video clips, locations and of course, the all important feature of being able to name a group conversation. Similar to that of a WhatsApp group chat,  users can now activate the “Do Not Disturb” function (ie. mute), add/remove people from a group and leave a group.

iCloud Drive

iCloud Drive

As of now, Samsung offers 50 GB of Dropbox space for Galaxy S5/Note 3 users, HTC offers 50 GB of Google Drive for One M7/M8 users, and Sony offers 50 GB of Box space for Xperia Z1/Z2 users.

Apple will be embarking on something similar – files which are synced into the iCloud drive will allow any device running iOS 8 that has authorisation from the user to gain instant access to such files. The prices of different storage space tiers will be made known at a later date.

The iCloud photo library also ensures that photos and videos taken on a device will be shared among all photo libraries of all devices running iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, which is precisely what Google Photos auto-backup does on Android.

The 5GB tier will remain free, with 20GB costing $0.99/month and 200GB at $3.99 per month.

Family Sharing

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Family sharing has received some updates in iOS 8. Calendars, photos, reminders, and photo streams can all be shared between family phones, as well as Find My Friends position, with permission.

Up to six people will be able to share content and app purchases, calendars and locations. This is especially useful for parents as they are now able to review and authorise  the purchases their children make in the App Store.

Siri – Streaming voice recognitions, 22 languages, and Shazam

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The first of these will let users effectively see on the screen what their words are translating to — helping you correct yourself before Siri leads you down the garden path. This is keeping in line with another way of integrating voice features more closely into messaging, with a “tap to talk” feature.

The Shazam integration was actually something that people had been floating as a possibility for a while now. It will let people ask Siri, “What song is playing?” and Siri will call up the answer using Shazam’s audio database.

It shows how music will continue to be a central part of how Apple develops iOS, and will integrate it further into the core functions of devices running the operating system (and that gives you one more indication of why it was so important for Apple to own its own music streaming company and have its own home-team talent working on how to use it). It also means that there may be more than meets the eye to the Beats acquisition.

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We still have to get a full list of the 22 languages, but it underscores how Apple is increasingly trying to take out the kind of traction that it has achieved in some markets like Western Europe, the U.S. and Japan, into markets that are still seeing rapid smartphone adoption.

Given how much Android has gained in the wider world in terms of its market share (it’s now accounting for over 80 percent of all smartphone shipments) it’s important for Apple to continue making its iterations and bells and whistles something that speaks to the wider market, and we believe that it will work – Android’s Google Now is a far cry from what Siri offers.

Healthkit and Health App

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Current apps do a pretty decent job at monitoring heart rate, calories burned, blood sugar etc. and the new Health app puts that data in one place to give you a clear overview of your health. You can also create an emergency card with important health information — for example, your blood type or allergies — that’s available right from your Lock screen.

With HealthKit, developers can make their apps even more useful by allowing them to access your health data, too. And you choose what you want shared. For example, you can allow the data from your blood pressure app to be automatically shared with your doctor. Or allow your nutrition app to tell your fitness apps how many calories you consume each day.

Handoff

Handoff

A new feature called Handoff allows users to integrate their experience on Mail, Safari, Pages, Numbers, Keynote, Maps, Messages, Reminders, Calendar, and Contacts across all Apple devices. iPhone users can now pick up phone calls from their Mac  and Mac users can send non-iMessage texts from the computers.

The technology naturally works in the other direction as well. You may be writing an email on your Mac at your desk and want to finish it on your iPhone. Simply make sure the two are in proximity to each other, and your iPhone will allow you to pick up where you left off on your Mac.

But the devices don’t have to be right next to each other. Handoff will work even if you’re in front of your Mac and your iPhone is across the room tucked in your handbag, according to Apple.

Handoff also can handle phone calls. Receive a call on your iPhone, and your Mac will display a caller ID and even perform double-duty as a speaker phone.

TouchID, Widgets, Content Sharing and ‘Metal’ for gaming for third-party devs

TouchID

Apple has announced that it is opening up its Touch ID fingerprint sensor to third-party developers. Reportedly years in the making, the all-new Touch ID API is available to registered iOS developers, making it easy to integrate Apple’s seamless fingerprint reading functionality into their apps without compromising Touch ID’s strong security…

The Touch ID API protects logins and user data by tapping the Secure Enclave on Apple’s A7 processor, which protects data and isolates it from the rest of the system.

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Like with the iPhone 5s’s fingerprint sensing, your prints used in third-party apps never leave your device, are never synchronized with the cloud and – most importantly – developers never get to access your fingerprint data stored inside the Secure Enclave.

Developers of apps like 1Password, PayPal, eBay and more will be able to use the Touch ID API to protect logins and user data (good-bye, passwords).

Upon identifying a successful match, the API then unlocks related Keychain items. All the app knows is that there was a successful fingerprint match, nothing more.

Furthermore, in iOS 8, people who want to share a picture directly from the camera roll to Google+ should be able to, as will anyone who wants to upload a Word document from Office Mobile to Dropbox. Apps will presumably need to be updated to support the new feature, but iOS developers are typically quick to jump on board when it comes to features like these.

Widgets are available in the Notification centre for the first time
Third-party widgets like eBay are available in the Notification centre for the first time

Developers will also get an API to add widgets to Notifications Center, and Apple revealed that it is developing a network protocol, HomeKit, to allow users to control things like garage doors and lights from their iOS devices.

This is what Metal looks like in iOS 8
This is what Metal looks like in iOS 8

Finally, developers will also get access to Metal, a new 3D graphics API designed to work with the A7 processor that reduces the overhead typically seen from using OpenGL. Another tool, SceneKit, will allow users to render games with built-in physics and particle engines.

Spotlight

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Spotlight now not only serves as a search index for your phone, but it will also integrate results from Wikipedia, News and App Store for your reference. You’ll also get results from iTunes, top websites as well as movie showtimes.

Spotlight

While Spotlight is going to be powered only by Bing in OSX Yosemite, Apple is still retaining Google’s service for iOS 8 alongside Bing.

Conclusion

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iOS 8, while not revolutionary, does introduce several welcomed nuances that will provide an enhanced experience for the average iOS user. iOS 8 will be made available for free in Fall 2014, and will compatible with iPhone 4s/iPad 2 and later.

Android users might scoff at the changes introduced – after all, they’ve had these features for years, but after the ego calms down, it’s plainly visible that Apple seeks to draw in Android users on the fence about the mobile OS more strongly than before. By providing a greater Android like experience together with their “it works” iOS philosophy, they might just succeed in regaining lost market share.

However, the road is an uphill one. With Microsoft bringing out the big guns with Windows Phone 8.1, Google forging on with the robust Android 4.4 KitKat, and even Samsung launching their first official Tizen device (Samsung Z), the competition for superiority has become the thickest ever.

The iOS 8 beta is available to WWDC developers starting today, with the official release coming in the fall.

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