By Alexandra Burlacu | Jun 03, 2014 10:14 AM EDT
Apple has officially introduced its highly-anticipated iOS 8, touting the latest version of the OS as the most significant release since the App Store's debut back in 2008.
While that may be a bit of an overstatement, considering that the App Store's debut was a huge milestone, the new iOS 8 is definitely exciting and full of goodies.
"iOS 8 is the biggest iOS release ever - for developers and everyone else. But that wasn't the goal. We simply set out to create the most natural experience. Each enhancement has a purpose. Every new feature deserves to be a new feature. Each function is more considered, each next step is more efficient. It all adds up to an even better experience - one that is pleasantly surprising at first and becomes utterly indispensable before you know it," touts the company.
The new iOS 8 will bring lots of new features and enhancements to the table, but here are the most exciting goodies.
1. Enhanced Keyboard Experience with QuickType & More
With the latest version of its mobile operating system, Apple is finally allowing for an enhanced keyboard experience with smart and swappable keyboards. This means that iOS users will finally be able to enjoy gesture typing, a feature Android users have been using for some time.
For those unfamiliar with this feature, gesture typing allows you to simply glide across the screen, letter by letter, to compose your message, instead of having to tap each letter across a tiny keyboard. Apple's stock iOS keyboard is not getting gesture typing built-in just yet, but with iOS 8 Apple finally opens up its devices to system-wide third-party apps such as Swipe, SwiftKey, and others.
Moreover, although the stock iOS keyboard is not getting this feature just yet, it does get new predictive typing that learns the user's habits in time. Apple refers to this feature as QuickType, and it works by suggesting contextually relevant words you may want to use as you compose a sentence.
QuickType will also guess which words you may want to use based not only on what app you are using (mail, messages, chat), but also based on who you're talking to - a friend, a family member, your boss, and such.
2. Enhanced Messages, now with Video and Audio Chat + 'Do Not Disturb' mode
Apple's next update to its Messages app will reportedly make it more competitive against popular messaging services such as WhatsApp and Snapchat, and it should also fix some problems users have been experiencing.
With iOS 8, users will be able to create voice and video messages and post them along with photos and text. Moreover, Apple will also allow users to share thei location for a set period of time, be it an hour, a day, or indefinitely.
Viewing attachments in a conversation will also be much easier in iOS 8. Instead of having to scroll through a huge conversation to find a photo or a video, users will be able to view all attachments with a simple tap. This is not a ground-breaking feature, as apps such as WhatsApp, Snapchat, or Viber have been offering it for quite some time, but it is new for Apple's Messages app.
Lastly, messages also get a "Do Not Disturb" feature, which will allow users to mute a conversation so they can focus on something else, but without having to leave the conversation altogether.
3. A focus on Health
Apple is making significant efforts to boost its offerings in the health department with its new mobile OS version. More specifically, iOS 8 will have a new app called Health, which will monitor all of the health data your phone, wearable device, or third-party apps generate. In other words, this Heath app will be the one-stop shop for you to see all the calories you've burned, all your sleep data, your heart rate measurements, and so on.
Also, due to a larger platform called HealtKit, your other fitness and health-related apps will be able to communicate with each other. Apple's archrival Samsung is working on a similar move to bring health data in a centralized location, but it remains unclear when this common platform will become available. Apple's Health app, meanwhile, will ship with iOS 8 this fall.
4. Family Sharing
This new feature called Family Sharing will allow multiple iOS users with several Apple IDs or iCloud accounts to share music, movies, books, and apps they've purchased. In other words, you can buy an album and share it with others, without having to share IDs or passwords as well.
Another welcome addition, meanwhile, is the ability to set limits on what purchases can be made. Parents will most likely enjoy this feature, as they will be able to set it up so that kids have to ask permission before making a purchase from iTunes, iBooks, or the App Store. In this case, parents will receive a notification on their phone to approve or deny the attempt to purchase.
5. Touch ID integration in third-party apps
While Samsung has enabled its new Galaxy S5 flagship to work with PayPal, for instance, and other third-party apps via its fingerprint reader, Apple's Touch ID fingerprint sensor can currently be used only to unlock an iPhone 5S and to make purchases from iTunes or the App Store. With the next version of its mobile OS, Apple is also enabling its Touch ID fingerprint sensor to work as a security measure for third-party apps.
6. iCloud enhancements to challenge Dropbox
So far Apple's iCloud didn't really have too much to offer in terms of capabilities, therefore it was never a strong contender against the likes of Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, and other cloud offerings. That's all about to change with iCloud Drive, which will allow users to access any type of file on any device.
Apple will be offering 5GB of cloud storage for free, 20GB of 99 cents per month, and 200GB for 3.99 per month. Until now, the company has been charging $8 per month for a meager 50GB.
7. Spotlight Search expands its horizons
Lastly, Spotlight search also gets a lot cooler in iOS 8, as it will be able to go beyond what's on your device and search more thoroughly, including in trending news, on the Internet, in maps, email, Wikipedia entries, movie listings and others. If this sounds familiar, it's because Google Now has been offering such functionality for a good while now.
These are just some of the most exciting features that iOS 8 will have to offer, but there is much more yet to be discovered. To learn more about the newly-unveiled iOS 8, set to debut this fall, head over to Apple's website at this link.