What’s new in iOS 8

Apple’s next version of its operating system for iPhone and iPad includes support for interactive notifications that let you do things like reply to a message straight from the pull-down notification center.

Other new features in iOS 8 include updates to Mail for easier management of messages, quick access to your most frequently used contacts, and support for iCloud Drive.

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Apple says iOS 8 beta launches for developers today, and it will be available to everyone else this fall for the iPhone 4s and later.

Here are some of the highlights.

contacts

Contacts

You can double-tap the home button the way you would in iOS 7 to bring up previews of running apps. But now you’ll also see shortcuts for your most used contacts — and from there you can start a call or chat with your contacts.

Interactive notifications

You can also now interact with messages, calendar appointments, and other interactive updates from the lock screen.

interactive notifications

Support for “extensions” 

App developers can now tap into new features to let apps communicate with one another, and with the operating system in a way that lets them add widgets to the notification tray, or enable support for system-wide third-party keyboards and other apps.

QuickType

Apple has also updated the on-screen keyboard in iOS with something called QuickType, which is Apple’s word for predictive text. As you’re typing, the keyboard will now offer suggestions as you type.

This feature may be new to iOS, but it’s been available from many Android keyboard options for ages. Still, QuickType looks like a pretty good solution.

QuickType learns from your behavior and offers suggestions based on words you normally use together. But all of the personalization happens locally on your device, which Apple says helps protect your privacy.

predictive text_02

Continuity

Like OS X Yosemite, iOS 8 includes Continuity so that you can do things like use your iPhone as a WiFi hotspot for your iPad without any configuration at all — just bring your tablet near your phone and choose the phone as your WiFi hotspot.

Messages

The Messages app has been updated with support for naming threads in group messaging, leaving threads, and more.

messaging

You can also create voice messages by pressing a mic icon or listen or reply just by picking up your phone holding it to your ear.

iCloud Drive

Like OS X Yosemite, iOS 8 will be able to access iCloud Drive. But while the online storage system basically shows up as part of your file browser in OS X, there is no file browser in iOS.

So on a mobile device iCloud Drive lets your apps access files stored on the web.

HealthKit and Health

Third-party applications can submit data to a central repository for your health data. You can use Apple’s Health app to view your stats — but third-party developers including the Mayo Clinic and Nike are creating apps that can tap into your HealthKit data in different ways.

healthkit

That lets you multiple apps access your heart rate measurements, weight, pedometer stats, or other information. Apps might also be able to help you share your patient data with your doctor.

Family Sharing

If you’ve got a iPhone, your spouse has one, your kids have an iPod touch, and there’s an iPad or two… they can work better together with iOS 8, even if you’re not all logged into the same account.

Apple will now let family members share media between 6 devices as long as it’s purchased with the same credit card. Just browse the music, videos, or other content, choose download, and it’ll come straight to your device.

family sharing_01

Another family-friendly feature: When your kids try to buy apps or make in-app purchases with your credit card, a message will automatically be sent to your phone, giving you the choice of whether or not to approve the purchase.

Find you’re kid’s phone

Share media – get at purchases of all the members of your family – up to 6 family members who share same credit card

– works great for kids, prompted to ask for permission for in-app purchases, sends message to your device

Photos

Every photo you take is available on all your devices. Photos are uploaded to your iCloud storage, starting with iPhones and iPads, but eventually OS X and even Windows.

Since the service uses iCloud, users get 5GB for free. You can upgrade to 20GB of storage for just 99 cents per month. Need more storage? Here’s the pricing scheme:

  • 5GB – free
  • 20GB – $0.99 per month
  • 200GB – $3.99 per month

Other tiers will be available with up to 1TB of cloud storage.

Siri

Siri now supports song recognition thanks to integration with Shazam, and you can start Siri hands-free when you’re in a car just by saying “OK Google” I mean “Hey, Siri.”

hey siri

App Store

Apple isn’t just updating iOS, but also the App Store, with new features designed to make it easier to find apps and support for App Bundles: letting users buy and/or download a group of apps with a single tap.

Taking a few pages out of Google’s playbook, there are now “App Previews,” which are videos of apps and “TestFlight,” which is a feature that lets developers invite users to help beta test apps.

Touch ID

Third party apps can now use the fingerprint sensor for authentication purposes.

Other

Apple only touched on some of the highlights of iOS 8 in the WWDC 2014 keynote, but there are even more features on the way, including WiFi calling, call waiting in FaceTime, support for DuckDuckGo as a search engine in Safari, battery usage by app, and much more.