Apple Unveils iOS 8 at WWDC 2014: Here’s Everything You Need to Know
June 3, 2014
Yesterday, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook kicked off the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) by taking the wraps off iOS 8. Cook described iOS 8 as a ‘huge release’ that promises to renovate every aspect of the iPhone: bold words supported by a ton of incredible new features for end users as well as a raft of new SDKS with more than 4000 APIs for developers.
iOS 8 comes with a host of new features and improvements for both users and developers centered around health and fitness, iCloud integration, messages and notifications. Here are the list of new features and updates announced for iOS 8:
iOS 8 users will be able to interact directly with notifications on the lockscreen. For instance, users can swipe down on a text message notification in order to reply directly without switching to the Messages app. The feature is handy as it will help users save a couple of steps by not having to leave the app that they are currently on. Additionally, developers will also be able to create widgets for the Notification Center.
2. HealthKit and Fitness
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As widely rumored before the conference, Apple unveiled HealthKit, a comprehensive health-tracking service that can help users keep better track of their personal health and fitness by pulling in data from third-party fitness apps. Senior Vice President, Craig Federighi called this a significant improvement over the current situation, where the health information of each user is strewn across various apps or ‘silos’.
On the iPhone home screen, HealthKit will simply be displayed as Health app, a different service which provides an easy-to-access dashboard that helps users to monitor personalized healthcare statistics and contacts their hospital directly if any irregularities occur.
Nike is among the first companies that signed on to integrate its apps with the platform. The company is also working with the Mayo Clinic and other health institutions to allow healthcare providers to receive and transmit data from user checkups.
Apple also took a big step towards fixing the broken iCloud service by unveiling iCloud Drive, a new integrated cloud-based storage system that grants users greater control and flexibility over the files they store online.
Every app that uses iCloud for sync and storage will be assigned a folder of its own and users will be free to create new ones when needed. Once synced, users can easily access these through the Finder on other Mac and iOS devices. In a bold move, Apple is extending the service even to Windows customers.
4. Family Sharing
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Family Sharing is a new feature that will let families share iTunes purchases across devices. For example, if a member purchases an app or in-app content through their device, they can share it with up to six family members. For this feature to work, families will need to share a common credit card for all of their devices. Families using the feature will also be able to access each other’s calendars, reminders and photos.
Additionally, it also allows parents to regulate their kids’ transactions. Parents will be able to approve or deny purchases made on their kids’ devices, making it more difficult for kids to run up large bills on in-app purchases.
Apple also introduced Quicktype, a predictive typing suggestion feature that observes the words often typed by a user and how they respond to specific individuals to suggest the word that the user is likely to type next. As users type, they will now see suggestions just above the keyboard. These suggestions will adapt based on what’s being said and who the user is messaging.
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Another great new addition is HomeKit, an SDK that aggregates third party Internet of Things apps into one place thus allowing users to control their locks, lights, doors and thermostats at home from an iOS device. The feature will save users from the need to open multiple apps to control each device.
Emulating Google Now, iOS 8 users will now be able to talk to Siri with just a voice command of ‘Hey Siri’. The upgraded voice assistant will come with built in voice-streaming and voice-recognition capabilities. To top that, Siri will now have 22 dictation languages and will even support iTunes purchases.
Mail on iOS 8 will allow users to compose a mail and view their inbox at the same time. For example, when a user is composing an email, he can swipe the draft down to view another message and then tap to bring it back up. The new email experience, will also include the ability to swipe to flag or mark as unread.
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Messaging also received a major update in iOS 8. Group messaging threads can now be titled and set to ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode. Messages will also let users share their locations with one another. Apple is also adding a new ‘push-to-talk’ feature that allows users to hold down the screen to turn on the microphone and speak a message into a messaging thread. These audio messages are automatically played when a user raises the iPhone to their ear.
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Having arrived in the market with the launch of iPhone 5S, Touch ID is a fingerprint authentication technology that until now was used by Apple alone. With iOS 8, Apple opens Touch ID as an added layer of security to third-party apps, thus enabling developers to protect information better.
Apple announced a new Photos app that will integrate with iCloud, allowing users to share pictures with other Apple devices like a Mac or an iPad. For example, if a user edits a photo on an iPhone through the iCloud, that edit will be saved on the user’s Mac as well. Users can also use the smart suggestion feature to search for photos by location, time, albums and more. For any user, the first 5GB of iCloud data is free, with plans ranging from 20GB for $0.99 per month, 200GB for $3.99 per month, all the way up to 1TB.
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In the past, building cloud-connected apps had been a huge pain point for many developers, who were forced to turn to third-party solutions like Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform or Amazon Web Services. To counter this, Apple announced CloudKit, an ‘effectively free’ developer framework that lets them tap into Apple’s iCloud to build cloud-connected apps.
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Apple is also introducing Metal, a new 3D API designed to increase the efficiency of iOS gaming. The technology will reduce overhead by granting developers deeper access to the devices’ hardware and processing power. The Metal technology will offer a 10-fold increase in rendering efficiency. Other iOS 8 gaming frameworks announced by the company include SpriteKit and SceneKit.
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Apple developers now have a new tool in their toolbox called Swift, a brand new programming language that will replace Objective-C. The company claims that ‘Swift’ is faster than Objective-C though it will still work with Cocoa and Cocoa Touch. It will also give developers live feedback as they code using ‘Playgrounds’.
The amazing iOS 8 upgrades, OS X 10.10 Yosemite, and various other features announced at this year’s WWDC has left developers thrilled to the core. While a developer Beta of iOS 8 was released yesterday, the public release of the OS is slated for this fall.