iOS 8Editor: Rene Ritchie
iOS 8 for iPhone and iPad
iOS 8, codenamed Okemo, was announced by Apple at WWDC 2014 on June 2, with the first developer beta seeded the same day. The current beta, beta 2, was seeded on June 17, and it's expected to become publicly available this fall. If Apple sticks to the pattern established over the course of the last two years, that would peg the iOS 8 release date as on or around September 17, 2014. (Apple, of course, doesn't always stick to patterns.) Major new features include Continuity, Extensibility, QuickType, Health, iCloud Drive, and Family Sharing, as well as major improvements for Photos, Messages, Spotlight, and more.
Update I: iOS 8.1, codenamed Taos, is now available and includes numerous bug fixes and performance enhancements.
Update II: iOS 8.2, codenamed Zurs, is currently in beta. It's major focus is integration with the upcoming Apple Watch
Update III: iOS 8.3, codenamed Stowe, is also now in beta. It merges the Apple Watch features with the regular iOS update cycle, focusing on stability and feature enhancement.
Update IV: iOS 8.4, codename Copper, is currently undergoing internal testing at Apple. Rumored features include an updated streaming music service.
Continuity: Handoff, AirDrop, Instant Hotspot, calling and SMS/MMS
Continuity is all about providing a seamless, secure experience between iPhone, iPad, and Mac. As long as you're logged in under the same Apple ID, and your devices are in proximity, you can Handoff activity in an app on iOS to continue it right where you left off on OS X, or vice-versa. There's also a new, cross-compatible version of AirDrop so you can push data between all your devices, and Instant Hotspot, so your Mac or iPad Wi-Fi can use your iPhone or iPad cellular connection to get online automagically. Continuity also lets you make or take phone calls and SMS and MMS messages from your iPhone on your iPad or Mac.
Extensibility: Interactive notifications, inter-app communications, widgets, DocumentPicker, third-party keyboards
Extensibility fundamentally changes the way iOS works. While maintaining privacy and security, Extensibility adds a wide range of new features to iPhone and iPad. These include interactive notifications, opening up sharing and actions to third party apps (the options available on Share Sheets), enabling photo filters and editing tools to present themselves in other apps, access to the Today view in Notification Center for third party widgets, iCloud Drive and DocumentPicker so your files can be opened in any app that supports them, as well as the ability to specify an alternate storage provider, if you so wish, and support for third-party custom keyboards, system-wide.
In addition to the Continuity SMS/MMS sending and receiving, and interactive notifications, Messages has gained several other new features. Thanks to new touch-and-hold radial controls, you can quickly create and send video and audio messages. You can also lift to your ear to listen. For existing photos and videos, you now get large thumbnails making them easy to add, even in volume.
There's a new Details section that lets you see and share location as well as all photos and videos that are part of the conversation. In addition, for group messages, you can now easily invoke do-not-disturb on specific conversations, and even drop out entirely with just a couple of taps.
With Family Sharing, up to 6 people can co-mingle their iTunes music, movies, TV shows, books, apps, and games, all together, all at the same time. It doesn't matter if you have different Apple IDs and passwords, all that matters is that you have the same credit card on all the shared accounts.
If you have children, you can also approve every in-app purchase they make — a notification appears on your iOS devices telling you a child wants to make an in-app purchase on one of their iOS devices.
What's more, Family Sharing automagically sets up a shared Photo Stream, shared Calendar, and allows shared location and shared Find my iPhone/iPad when and if you choose to enable it.
iCloud Photo Library is the big new feature in Photos. In theory, every photo and video you take with your iPhone or iPad gets store in iCloud so you can access it from any iPhone, iPad, Mac, or Windows PC, anywhere and any time you want. Apple even promises RAW files will be stored, if that's the original format. In practice, however, the amount stored will depend on how much space you have in your iCloud account, which still starts at a paltry 5GB.
What's more, iCloud Photo Library also stores non-destructive edits, so if you make a change to a photo or video on one device, those changes are synced to any and all other devices logged into the same Apple ID.
Smart search and smart suggestion tries to make it easier for you to find your photos later, with time, location, and album sorting.
There's a new time-lapse mode for the Camera app, and smart composition tools so you can quickly crop and straighten photos. There are also smart adjustments so you can either automagically fix a photo, or manually tweak brightness, contrast, exposure, highlights, shadows, and colors.
Thanks to Extensibility, you can now access third-part filters as well. Thanks to manual camera controls for third-party apps, you will also be able to set everything just the way you like it as well.
iOS doesn't expose, and doesn't need to expose a file system. They're horrible relics of inhuman computing days past. However, iOS has always needed a file repository so that documents weren't jailed inside apps. iCloud Drive provides just that. Create a document in any app, on any Apple device, and access it from any compatible app on any other Apple device.
It works for text files. It works of iWork documents. It just works.
Much like Passbook collects all your passes, cards, tickets, etc. all in one place, Health promises to collect all your health and fitness information in one app. In addition to sections of fitness, nutrition, sleep, medication, and more, you can also create an emergency card for first responders so any critical information about you is readily available when you need it most.
HealthKit, the developer side of Health, will make it easy for App Store apps and accessories to share their information, and for you to share it with medical professionals if and when you so choose.
Spotlight has gotten much smarter, and much more able, in iOS 8. In addition to the classic on-device results we've all come to know and expect, Spotlight now provides Wikipedia results inline. So too news and even Maps data like landmarks, restaurants, and movies. iTunes Store, App Store, and iBooks Store results are provided for both stuff you've already downloaded and stuff you haven't, in case you want to buy or download it immediately.
It's not quite Siri's sequential inference engine, at least not yet. But it's getting there.
Where previously you could double-click the Home button to get the card-view interface for recently used apps, now you can do the same to get a horizontal list view of favorite and recent contacts as well
Mail gets new, more powerful gestures so you can mark as read, flag, or trash. Data detectors get highlighted right at the top of an email so you can more quickly and easily add contacts, calendar events, and more. There's also a new, special multitasking mode for mail so you can keep multiple drafts open at the same time in a new, tabbed interface.
Safari on the iPad gets the same visual tab feature that the iPhone version got in iOS 7, and the same new transparent sidebar OS X Yosemite enjoys, better organizing bookmarks, reading list, and shared links.
S/MIME has now been enabled on a per-message basis, and Calendar, Contacts, Reminders, Notes, and Messages apps, as well as account credential are now, like Mail and App Store apps, encrypted following a reboot unless and until a passcode is entered.
Meeting availability is now shown in Calendar and there are now new tools available to manage PDFs and books. IT can manage which apps can open enterprise documents, MDM in general has been made better and more granular.
You can even AirPlay directly, without having to get on the business network first.
In addition to everything mentioned above, developers also get HomeKit to better integrate with home automation and connected devices, and CloudKit to store key values and blobs on Apple's servers. SceneKit, for easier 3D game creation, has now been ported from OS X to iOS, and Metal, for writing more directly to the GPU, promises Apple A7 — and future A-series processor — performance never before possible.
There's also Swift, a brand new programming language that promises to take the C out of Objective-C, and provide REPL and Playground features to make programming more accessible to everyone.