Apple’s iOS 8 operating system has arrived, and the firm claims it is the biggest update yet. At a whopping 964MB it may be right. Once installed there are plenty of new features, functions, tricks and improvements to delight Apple device owners.
Keen to help make sure you make the most of the new iOS 8 update, I’ve been playing with the new platform to suss out some of the best new upgrades.
10. Email notifications
If you’ve got an important email conversation taking place and need to be alerted to the next reply then the new email notification function is ideal.
Simply open the email thread you want alerts for and then click on the little flag at the bottom-left of the screen and select the “Notify me…’ option. This will mean you’re alerted the next time a reply arrives. A small alarm bell image will appear next to the email in your thread to acknowledge that the alert is set.
If you want to turn it off, simple repeat the above but choose ‘Stop Notifying’.
9. Interactive notifications
Apple has worked to improve the ability to interact with notifications – such as messages or calendar invites – as they arrive.
For example, on receiving a message on the lock screen, you can swipe across to select reply or delete the notification. Calendar invites can be accepted or denied too.
If you’re already using the phone and a message arrives, you can swipe down from the notification as it appears and type your reply from ‘on top’ of the app you’re in. Once it’s sent you simply resume what you were doing.
8. Hide photos
A small addition, but one that could be handy in numerous situations. With iOS 8 you can now ‘hide’ photos from your ‘Photos’. To do this simply find the offending image in the ‘photos’ section and press down. The ‘Hide’ option will then appear.
This means if someone were to start swiping left or right after you’ve shown them a photo (a cardinal sin of iPhone etiquette), they won’t come across any images you’d rather they didn’t see.
Be aware, though, all images will be visible via albums, so make sure you’re in the right part of your photos before you start happily sharing to all and sundry.
7. Battery life insights
Battery life is one of the few areas where little genuine progress has been made on most smartphones. But with iOS 8 Apple is at least trying to give users more insight into what is draining their battery faster than a sink with seven holes.
By heading to battery usage (accessed via Settings > General > Usage > Battery usage), you can now see which apps are draining the battery and by how much. This should make it easier to spot those energy-heavy apps and stop them running.
On first glance it appears Twitter is especially power hungry, so that could be a good one to close after you’ve finished passing on your latest world-changing thought to your followers.
6. Hands-free Siri
If your iPhone is plugged in you can now access Siri without having to touch the phone at all. This could make Siri far more useful, especially when driving and the phone is plugged in and charging.
With the function enabled (turn it on via Settings > General > Siri > Allow Hey Siri) you can simply say ‘Hey Siri’ and the function will spring into life, allowing you to ask it for everything from directions to weather updates and sports scores.
Hopefully Apple will one day be able to make this function available without being plugged in as well.
5. Email drafts
Email drafts is a simple but very useful new feature Apple has added to the Mail app. Now, when you start writing an email, a pop-up appears that is independent on the main Mail app.
If, during the course of writing your mail, you need to check something from another email, you can swipe the draft downwards and it will sit at the bottom of the screen.
This allows you to browse around the Mail app or go off and use other services, before returning to finish off the email at your leisure.
4. Quick contact access
We all have those select few favourite contacts we email, text and call on a regular basis, so iOS 8 has added the ability to access these people quickly, through the double-tap multitask window.
Now, when you double tap, as well as seeing your currently open apps, you are also presented with little ‘circles’ for both your favourites and most recent contacts. Clicking on the person’s circle offers the ability to call, message or FaceTime.
3. Video and audio messaging
Apple has added several changes to messaging, most notably the ability to send audio and video messages that automatically delete after two minutes – clearly looking to meet the needs of the Snapchat and WhatsApp crowd.
You can also share your location within messages, give group messages names and leave group messages so your phone isn’t overloaded with notifications.
To send a video or audio file simply press and hold on either the microphone button or the camera button to record a message and then send. The media will delete after two minutes of being viewed or listened to.
However, this can be changed so it does not delete. Simply head to Settings > Messages and then scroll down to Audio Messages and Video Messages and select the ‘Expire’ option. Then change it from two minutes to ‘Never’.
2. Cross-device content access
Apple has improved integration between its different devices on iOS 8 with a feature called Handoff, which works across any devices on the same iCloud account. If a user has been working on a document on their MacBook, for example, and then switches to an iPad, they will see a small prompt in the bottom corner of the iPad screen with the document icon.
They can then swipe up on that icon from the iPad screen and carry on working on that file. If you’re browsing the web on an iPhone, you can continue from the same link when switching on your Mac. Handoff works with apps including Mail, Safari, Pages, Numbers, Keynote, Maps, Messages, Reminders, Calendar and Contacts. Apple has even opened up the feature to developers, so they can build Handoff into third-party apps.
This has also been extended to phone calls. If a user receives a phone call on their iPhone, the caller ID will appear on their Mac and they can receive that call on their desktop rather than mobile, as long as both devices are running on the same WiFi network.
You can also AirDrop content between iPhones and iPads and Mac devices, as long as the Mac is running Yosemite.
1. Keyboard and typing improvements
Perhaps the biggest and most notable improvement made to iOS 8 is the keyboard. Apple has added its new QuickType tool to messaging, which dynamically predicts and presents words based on the context of the message.
Early use suggests this is a major improvement over auto-correct as rather than waiting for your to make a (supposed) mistake and then leaping in, often doing more harm than good, QuickType suggests words as you type.
It’s fairly accurate and should only improve as it learns your typing style. Furthermore Apple seems to have enhanced the overall smoothness of the typing experience and accuracy of the letter selection, with fewer typos cropping up.
If you have a third-party keyboard you like – say Swype or SwiftKey – you can now use these too as Apple has given developers the ability to allow access to other keyboards in their apps, even Apple’s own messaging or email app, for example.
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