Apple announces iOS 8 – with Interactive Notifications, QuickType and Health Kit

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Apple has today announced iOS 8 at the World Wide Developer Conference of 2014. Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO said on stage that the experience of iOS 8 is two-fold, great end-user features and developer tools.

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Paired with OS X 10.10 Yosemite, iOS 8 introduces a major change to the way Apple’s desktop and mobile platforms interact. On stage Apple called this Continuity, though the most impressive feature comes in the form of Handoff, which allows you to continue with your work, no matter what device you’re using. This means you can read SMS messages and even take phone calls through your Mac and iPad, as well as move from each device quickly while word processing, browsing Safari, and through other scenarios. Apple has also announced iCloud Drive to launch for OS X, Windows, and iOS 8, which acts in a similar way to Dropbox. From this Drive you can access iCloud Documents, as well as store files. Basically, it’s the iOS filesystem many have wanted, just dedicated to accessing files in iCloud, rather than locally on the device in question. Other changes to the way iOS talks to OS X includes no-brainer features like AirDrop now working between the two platforms.

The new OS features continue in the form of Interactive Notifications which allow you to easily interact with your notifications right from the notification centre. For example, you can reply to text messages right from the Notification Centre or accept a calendar event. Widgets will also be accessible through Notification Center, a first for iOS, and a feature that Apple says has been regularly requested by users since iPhone OS 2. An on-stage demo featured an eBay widget, where a user can increase their bid on an item without even opening the app.

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Double-tapping the home button will still show your task switcher but this UI has also been updated to show recent contacts as well on top.

Spotlight search has also been updated with the ability to preview App Store listings, and even search for movie showtimes, as well as iTunes content, treating it as if it were already on the device.

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Messages has received an update as well, allowing you to mute or leave those group iMessage threads, as well as easily send Audio and Video messages by a tap of a button, with these messages also being automatically deleted, similar to what Snapchat might do. Apple says that the Messages app is the most used app for iOS.

Apple also announced QuickType – a predictive text feature. The OS will automatically suggest words and phrases to finish your message quicker and even change between professional or colloquial phrases depending on the type of message. Predictive Text will also learn your language and make suggestions based on that. As well as that, developers can now build their own keyboards for iOS, opening up the possibility of a SwiftKey app for iPhone. This is a pretty major move for Apple, especially considering their usually tight-grip on the OS.

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iOS 8 also features HealthKit, a new app that’s designed to help users keep track of their fitness data and personal health. HealthKit will pull data from third-party apps like Nike, the Mayo Clinic, FitBit, and other health-oriented companies. HealthKit can also share these metrics with participating hospitals, notifying your doctor of changes in your health.

desktop_family_sharing_hero_2xMeanwhile, to counter outrage over in-app purchases being targeted at kids, Apple have introduced Family Sharing, which allows a family of up to 6 share iTunes purchases, calendars, and group messages. The real kicker though is the ability to request a purchase. For example if your kids want to buy Minecraft for the family iPad they’ll need you to approve the purchase from your iPhone.

Finally, Apple is going to let you backup all of your photos to iCloud. This includes photo edits, which can be reversed on any device now. Other smaller changes include new developer access to Touch ID, as well as a new HomeKit solution for home automation. Small changes to Siri also include the new ability to start a Siri conversation by saying “Hey Siri”, as well as a back-end change to Siri to allow streaming audio to Apple servers. Shazam functionality is also included in the Siri update.

The update is available for developers today, while the final OS will likely be released alongside the iPhone 6 in Q3-Q4 of 2014. The update supports iPhone 4S and up, the fifth-generation iPod touch and up, as well as the iPad 2 and other new iPad models.

Stay tuned for a TechGeek TechCast on Wednesday where we’ll talk about the WWDC 2014 announcements, and discuss the cool new features and changes.