The best new features in iOS 8: Eight reasons for iPad and iPhone owners to upgrade today!

8 best new features in iOS 8

iOS 8, which launches to the public today, promises much - but there are eight features we're particularly excited about. Here are eight reasons to upgrade.

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  • Best of iOS 8
  • Continuity
  • Keyboards
  • Interactive notifications
  • Widgets
  • Voice messages
  • App Store
  • Health
  • Family Sharing
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The 8 best features in iOS 8

Here at Macworld we're incredibly excited about iOS 8, the next version of Apple's operating system software for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch. It was unveiled at WWDC 2014 this summer and finally launches to the general public today - just in time for the release of the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus.

Here are the best new features in iOS 8 - and the reasons why you should upgrade.

See also: Why Apple opened up: iOS 8 and Tim Cook's new era

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Here at Macworld we're incredibly excited about iOS 8, the next version of Apple's operating system software for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch. It was unveiled at WWDC 2014 this summer and finally launches to the general public today - just in time for the release of the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus.

Here are the best new features in iOS 8 - and the reasons why you should upgrade.

See also: Why Apple opened up: iOS 8 and Tim Cook's new era

Continuity: iOS and Mac OS X working as one

iOS 8 and its sister software, OS X Yosemite for the Mac, have been developed in tandem to create greater interoperability between Apple's mobile devices and its Mac laptops and desktops - a raft of features it calls Continuity.

If you arrive at work having written most of an email on your iPad during the commute, iOS 8 and Yosemite will put their heads together and automatically suggest that you carry on the same document on your Mac. (This is referred to as Handoff.) When a call is coming in for your iPhone, a notification will appear on your Mac's screen, and you can answer the call on the Mac. The same applies to texts. Apple has even made it easier to use your iPhone as a hotspot for your iPad or Mac.

A lot of people expected iOS and OS X to become more similar in operation; Apple has instead come up with a system that makes them each more relevant than ever, while retaining their essential differences. It's a terrific move.

See also: Complete guide to Apple Continuity in iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite

iOS 8's keyboards

The system keyboards were one of my pet peeves about iOS 7, so it was about time Apple sorted them out - but no one expected this.

Firstly, the default keyboard has jumped light-years ahead of iOS 7, with vastly more ambitious predictive typing - this is acutely context-sensitive, capable of offering entire responses based on what you've been asked and whether the context of the message you're writing is formal or informal, for instance. (We want to spend some time with the public release version of iOS 8 before giving a definitive verdict on this feature, but it's highly promising.)

Better still, though, Apple has allowed iOS 8 users to install third-party keyboards with all kinds of additional features, and run these across the rest of the OS. This means one thing above all others: Swype.

Interactive notifications

iOS's notifications (which appear at the top of the screen in other apps, and sit on the lock screen until noticed) have been semi-interactive for a while - experienced users will be well aware that you can swipe across Twitter or Facebook notifications in the lock screen to go straight to the relevant app, and across missed-call apps to ring them back - but things are moving up a level in iOS 8.

Instead of being whisked to the app itself, iOS 8's interactive notifications will let you respond there and then: click on the notification and new controls will appear to let you type a response, like a status update, and so on. Far more conveniently, this doesn't pull you out of the work or entertainment you were involved in before.

See also: Official list of devices that support iOS 8

Widgets at last!

We mentioned third-party keyboards, but Apple's new tolerance of user customisation doesn't stop there. It has also allowed widgets, something that Android-envying iOS users have been requesting for ages.

iOS 8's widgets are effectively micro-apps that sit in the Notification Centre and give you access to simple features. The examples shown in the preview demo were a Sports Center widget that provided score updates, and an eBay widget that kept the user in touch with their bids. But the possibilities are endless. We expect far more widgets to appear in the months following iOS 8's public launch.

(Unlike in Android, iOS 8's widgets don't change the layout of the home screen. But even introducing them to the Notification Centre is a big step forward, and a hint of a new openness in Apple's approach that few expected.)

See also: Apple iOS 8 vs Android KitKat comparison review

Voice messages

Messages gets much more interesting in iOS 8 in various ways, but the one we like most is a clever and intuitive implementation of voice messaging.

You can record a message while carrying on a conventional text conversation by tapping and holding the new 'microphone' button (then swiping up to send - there are lots more gestures in iOS 8).

But what we really love is the way you respond to voice messages. A notification will appear on your lock screen (with a little waveform icon to show what it is), and you can listen to it by simply raising the phone to your ear - it will play automatically. Speak to send a voice reply, then lower the phone to send it.

See also: iOS 8 FAQs: Everything you need to know about Apple's iOS 8

iOS 8's improved App Store

A less glamorous improvement than some on this list, a sharpening up of the App Store was just as vital as any of them.

First and most importantly, Apple says it's improved search; hopefully - and we'll need to test this - the App Store will offer the apps you're actually looking for instead of knock-off imitations and search-trolling keyword spammers. (Ineffective search and generally poor discoverability have long been problems on there, obviously exacerbated as the number of apps has grown. At the iOS 8 event Apple announced that there are now more than 1.2 million available apps - a number that had grown to 1.3 million by the time of the iPhone 6 launch event.)

There will also be video previews and app bundles, both of which are obvious but gratifying additions to the App Store's offering.

Health and HealthKit

This feature has been rumoured - and hyped - for some time (although the pre-announcement rumours suggested it would be called Healthbook, to match Passbook). And despite the attractions of other iOS 8 features that hadn't been leaked beforehand, Health remains an appealing prospect.

It's an umbrella app for all the data collected by a range of health- and fitness-related apps and peripherals, bringing the data together for ease of comparison and tracking. This is already a nice idea, but the HealthKit developer tools Apple unveiled at the same time will let devs come up with new ways to manipulate the data in useful ways.

Complete guide to Apple's Health and HealthKit

Apple's HealthKit in iOS 8 unites health data, talks to doctors

Family Sharing

Last on the list is Family Sharing, a neat system for sharing location data, photos, digital media and apps among a pre-set family group using the same credit card. We particularly like the automated way that a permission request is sent to the card-holder when one of the kids tries to buy an app - we hope this also extends to in-app purchases, which have been the cause of a few surprising credit-card bills in their time.

Complete guide to Family Sharing in iOS 8

Comments

Comments

Scott R said: Yes, with an Apple TV.

ob_reviews said: Can you not use a 30pin to HDMI cable?

diana kornbrot said: any hope of displaying my iphone 4 on display via hdmi without jailbreak?really fed up wiht this bit of applee exclusivity

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