Update: The iOS 8 release date is later today. Here are the latest features from Apple.
That means instead of a dramatic redesign, this year’s mobile operating system update ties everything together with the overarching theme of “convergence.”
iOS 8 features tighter Mac OS X Yosemite integration while loosening the restrictions on Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint sensor. This goes a long way to the Passbook-integrated Apple Pay.
New software kits also bring once fragmented security and health gadgets together, something that this year’s “one more thing” surprise, the Apple Watch, will takes advantage of in early 2015.
When it comes to iOS 8 compatibility, Apple requires an iPhone 4S or newer and iPad 2 or newer to update to the latest software. Only the iPhone 4 is cut from the list.
Both the iPads mini and iPad mini 2 tablets and the forever alone iPod touch 5th generation are also going to work with the new iOS, just like they did with iOS 7. No one besides 2010’s iPhone 4 gets left behind.
It’s important to note that all of these iDevices use Bluetooth 4.0, a low-energy version of the antenna that many wearables require for constant syncing.
iOS 8 gets rid of the only iOS 7-compatible device without Bluetooth Low Energy and keeps ones that’s work with Fitbit Flex, Jawbone Up24 andNike FuelBand SE. Seems fair.
Touch ID for all
Apple’s fingerprint scanner has been limited to bypassing the lockscreen and buying iTunes Store content, but iOS 8 changes all of that as app developers get access to the five-digit login tool.
All sorts of apps will be able to use the biometric scanning home button instead of pesky passcodes. So far this only applies to the iPhone 5S, but Touch ID is likely to come to the iPhone 6, iPad Air 2, and iPad mini 3 later this year.
iOS 8 camera time-lapse mode
Believe it or not, the iPhone is consistently the most used camera in the world. It’s in so many hands and so easy to use. In iOS 8, the camera app is going to get even better.
Apple added a time-lapse camera mode to iOS 8 beta 1 in order to help users capture extended moments and automatically speed up the video with a higher frame rate.
Condensing everything road trips to candles burning down to their wick to just a few seconds in demoed in the YouTube video above.
iOS 8’s time lapse mode is basically the opposite of the slow motion video recording option at 120 frames per second that Apple added to iOS 7 last year and Slow Mo 240fps in iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.
SMS and phone calls on Mac
iMessages has been a wonderful cross-compatible tool for chatting on iOS devices and Macs – at least until you try to leave your iPhone behind for an Android.
Apple deserters, however, may be lured back to iOS 8 with SMS and voice calls being folded into iPads and Macs, just like blue iMessages currently pop up on Apple tablets and computers.
It’s a pain to have to fetch your phone for a single SMS from an Android user, especially when you’re sitting in front of a 13-inch MacBook Air screen that’s fully capable of handling text messages and phone calls.
Of course, enabling text messages and phone calls to a Mac requires upgrading it to the newly announced OS X Yosemite, but that’s a piece of cake since it’ll be free and arrive around the same time as iOS 8.
Handoff and WiFi hotspot
iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite are going to be joined at the hip with the Handoff feature that lets you pick up where you left off between devices.
Starting a project or email on an iPad or iPhone will let you finish the task on a Mac with no annoying overlap. There’s no need to reopen windows or rewrite text on the computer. And it goes the other way, too, from a Mac to a an iOS 8 device.
What if you don’t have access to the internet on your computer or iPad to get the job done? That’s where the Instant HotSpot feature will come into play, easing the messy personal hotspot setup of iOS 7.
The one problem with this joint iOS 8-Yosemite feature is that it may require you to own a fairly new Mac. Handoff has been tipped to be not be compatible with Apple computers that pre-date Bluetooth 4.0.
Group messages with voice and video
Group messages is also being enhanced for iOS 8 thanks to new features. You’ll be able to add and drop people from conversations and silence non-stop incoming message annoyances via a group-specific Do Not Disturb toggle.
Sharing your location for a set period of time is also going to be a part of iMessages, essentially forking over the concept from Apple’s underused Friend My Friends app.
Location sharing, when it was part of the standalone app, was ideal for meeting up in a crowded location like a baseball stadium or concert, and now it’ll get more use within iMessages.
Multimedia within iOS 8’s iMessages app should be more useful too. Inline voice and video messages with Snapchat-like clips that self-destruct are coming to this mobile OS update.
For the times when you do actually respond to texts and calendar reminders on your phone instead of a Mac computer, iOS 8 adds convenient interactive notifications.
Like OS X Mavericks, these notifications can be dealt with in a few simple taps thanks to inline responses. There’s no need to mess with the lock screen in order to take action right away.
iOS notifications have come a long way from taking up the entire middle of our phone screens, and iOS 8 makes them feel like even less of a nuisance.
Apple claims its iOS 8 keyboard is its “smartest keyboard ever,” and there’s no reason to doubt that since its Quicktype feature adds highly-requested predictive texting that’s akin to SwiftKey and Swype.
The candidate row appears above the keyboard with three word-finishing suggestions and then next-word best guesses. It even varies depending on the app that’s open to match your tone for each, from casual iMessages to formal emails.
If someone asks you a question, Quicktype will also automatically offer choices like “Yes” and “No” and, optionally, learn your contacts to spell everyone’s name correctly.
Better yet, Apple won’t limit users to its pre-installed keyboard via developer “extensions.”
iOS 8 extensions
Extensions open up iOS 8 to Android’s best input methods: Swype appeared at WWDC and SwiftKey confirmed that it’s breaking free of its SwiftKey Note standalone app confines.
Other third-party extensions let users tinker with the default sharing options, photo editing tools, custom actions and notification center widgets.
The 1Password extension goes as far as opening up the company’s powerful password manager to you without the need to exit the app to open its standalone app. It simply uses Touch ID to get the job done.
Before, you had to close the app that required a password you forgot, open up 1Password’s standalone app, copy the password, go back into the original app and paste in the password.
There’s always a lot of potential when a platform as large as Apple’s opens up its ecosystem to outside developers. Look at what it did to the App Store.
Extensions by forward-thinking developers may be long overdue, but it’ll finally be here in a few weeks thanks to iOS 8.
iCloud may actually be useful
Prior to today, there was very little reason to use the ridiculously small 5GB of free space Apple included with iCloud. It was always easier to use a more capable and less expensive Dropbox account.
That all changes when iOS 8 launches alongside iCloud Drive, Apple’s new rival to Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, Microsoft OneDrive and the dozens of other file sharing services that have sprung up in recent years.
It still costs money over the 5GB limit, but at least more file types can be stored and synced. This includes documents, presentations, spreadsheets, PDFs and images.
What’s really cool about the forthcoming iCloud-enabled iOS Photos app is that every picture and every edit is saved across all of your Apple devices automatically. Better yet, there are new tools and filters in iOS 8 and it’ll work on the web.
iOS 8 Family Sharing
Maybe you’ll be more willing to buy into iCloud Drive knowing that you’re going to save money thanks to Apple’s new Family Sharing feature that’s part of iOS 8.
All iTunes, iBooks and App Store purchases on the same credit card can be shared among a total of six people in your family. That beats having to sneakily exchange passwords.
New parental controls force kids to ask your permission before aimlessly downloading expensive apps. This “Ask to Buy” feature beams a message to your device, so you don’t need to be the fun-depriving “bad guy” in person.
Other Family Sharing perks include collaborative photo albums, calendars and optional locating sharing. You can find your mom or dad and that iPhone they always misplace with this extension of Find My Friends and Find My iPhone.
‘Send Last Location’ for Find My iPhone
iOS 8 expands the geolocation capabilities of Find My iPhone with Family Sharing and Find My Friends by integrating it into iMessages, but in true Apple fashion, “that’s not all.”
A “Send Last Location” feature is being added so that your GPS coordinates are backed up to iCloud whenever your battery life is critical.
Apple didn’t announce an iWatch-tied Healthbook app at WWDC, but it did unveil a more plainly named Health app and the developer-focused HealthKit API.
It’s intended to bring together all of the fragmented health and fitness gadgets into one secure location, whether the fitness device deals with your heart rate, calories burned, blood sugar and cholesterol.
Even without a separate fitness device, Apple’s iPhone 5S M7 co-processorcalculates steps and distance traveled, and iPhone 6 may make room for new barometer and air pressure sensors, according to the latest beta.
Beta 3 also adds a caffeine intake tracking as a nutritional category, which is similar to the Jawbone Up Coffee iOS app. For extra protection, there’s an emergency card accessible from the lock screen.
Nike and the MayoClinic are on board with HealthKit in order to deposit health stats into the centralized Health app, and Withings’ Blood Pressure Monitor was a part of Apple’s WWDC presentation.
The more that existing products like the Fitbit Force and Jawbone Up24 join this initiative, the more iOS 8 users will find this to be the health equivalent to Apple’s coupon and ticket stub-collecting Passbook.