Apple’s WWDC keynote this year showed a different side of Apple—a more playful, accommodating, and focused company. This year’s iOS 8 update wasn’t quite the sea change we saw with iOS 7. But it showed that Apple is ready to move in different directions, and is really working to fix some of the platform’s biggest issues. It isn’t as quite as elegant as some of the awesome concepts we saw, but it’s close—and in some instances better. Messages is getting fixed, there’s Family Sharing, and the update means your iOS devices will work more seamlessly with your Mac.
Whereas last year’s update seemed like an all new platform, Apple’s iOS 8 is a more refined approach, with an improved Spotlight, smarter keyboard, and even the ability to quickly call friends and family. These are features we never thought would make it to iOS, but here they are—and there’s much more. Apps can tap deeper into iOS with extensibility, Touch ID is now fair game for third-party apps, and you’ll even be able to download alternative keyboards, such as SwiftKey. Tim Cook and Co. have a clear direction in mind, and iOS 8 is a big step toward the company’s bright new future.
You won’t notice any immediate changes when diving into iOS 8; it essentially looks the same as last year’s update, with very little visual differences. But as soon as you start exploring your favorite apps, like Messages, you’ll begin to notice that the update is more about the little improvements. You can leave group messages, add voice to any conversation and even send a quick disappearing video, turning your chats into a makeshift Snapchat. The keyboard, too, has been revamped, and now suggests contextually appropriate words so you can type faster.
On the camera side—one of the more important aspects of any smartphone—Apple has included a number of editing options, composition tools and the ability to capture time lapse videos. Even when you snap photos, there are new focus and exposure controls, giving you more control over the picture you’re taking. Most of us are content to simply point and shoot, but many third-party apps have offered more refined control, and it’s great to see Apple finally offering its own solution.
Mail, too, has been updated to create a more powerful experience. Borrowing ideas from Mailbox, Apple Mail now makes use of gestures to drive the app—swipe to mark an email as read, or easily archive it. In the compose view, you can also ignore an email thread—great for those persistent emailers—or add them to contacts with the press of a button. On the iPad, Apple has also added the ability the jump between an existing draft and your inbox; it also recognizes reservations, flight confirmations and more.
There are many other little flourishes throughout, such as the ability to quickly reply to messages, see your favorite contacts in the multi-tasking window, and the ability to add third-party widgets to your notification tray. A ton of little details that add up to a powerful overall experience. We haven’t even mentioned HealthKit, or HomeKit, or even Apple’s new Swift programming language, which promises to pave the way for an even stronger experience down the road.
We already shared our favorite new features in iOS 8, and even how you can download the beta now for yourself. But instead of going through it feature by feature, we filmed a quick hands-on, exploring some of Apple’s biggest changes. It may not look like much on the surface, but iOS 8 seems like a big and exciting change for Apple—for both consumers and developers.