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Apple unveils iOS 8 at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference
Apple iOS 8, introduced this week at the company’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), has a new emphasis on openness to, and integration with, third-party apps and services. IOS 8 makes a number of tasks smoother and more efficient; better leverages iCloud storage; lets you transition tasks between your iPhone, iPad and Mac; gives developers deeper access to OS functions.
Notifications, including those fromthird-party apps, now can come with action buttons, even on your lockscreen. You can click on a button to take an action right from the alert itself, without leaving the app you’re already in.
IOS now lets you swipe with a finger to flag or delete emails, or mark as unread. Drag it all the way to the side to delete. You can minimize a draft email just by swiping it down to get back to your inbox. Mail now can recognize an invitation and you can add it to your calendar right from Mail.
Apple has added an on-device predictive typing engine that fine tunes your text, suggesting words and phrases based on the kind of communication (casual Message, formal Mail, etc.), and the person with whom you’re communicating (your boss, your honeybunny, etc.).
For the first time, iOS will let you make use of third-party keyboards, such as swipe-based text entry, with the platform’s keyboard feature now open to developers.
Several new features are added to iOS’ most-used app. One lets you add a brief music or voice file to your conversation.
Messages and groups
Also new in Messages are tools for managing group messages. You can start a group conversation, name it, quickly invite (or drop) participants, and leave it when you want. Or turn on ‘do not disturb’ and read the thread later.
Drive is a safe iCloud storage space for all of your documents, PDFs, images, etc. They can be accessed from any iOS device, a Mac or even a Windows 8 PC. In iOS 8, to use Drive, your apps must be iCloud-enabled: you open the app, and start a document, which is saved to Drive.
This new app is basically a “dashboard” that collects and displays an array of health and fitness data in an easy-to-read style. You can create an “emergency card” with critical health information, such as drug allergies: the data is available from the lock screen. The data is funneled into Health from third-party apps and devices, and shared with other apps, via a new framework for developers.
Developers use HealthKit to access data stored in the Health app, if you allow it. A blood pressure app can automatically share its data with your doctor (though developers will have to ensure that their apps meet medical privacy regulations such as HIPAA).
Spotlight adds context and reach
Spotlight was originally developed as an OS X desktop search tool. Updated in the new OS X Yosemite release, some of its features now appear in iOS 8. Now Spotlight can look beyond your phone or tablet and take into account your location. This screen shot shows a Spotlight search for “Point Reyes,” bringing up a brief summary of the Wikipedia entry and a photo. Tap on the screen and you’re taken to the full article.
Just say “Hey, Siri” while you’re driving and Siri wakes up to serve. Also new is integration with Shazam to identify music playing on the radio (and use Siri voice commands to buy the song track). Siri also now has streaming voice recognition.
The Photos app is now integrated with iCloud: all your photos can be uploaded and accessed by your iOS and OS X devices. To find what you want, Photos now offers smart searching (shown) by location, time, and albums. Editing controls let you adjust and change the cloud photos right from your device.
App Store improvements
The App Store now includes an “Explore” tab to make it easier to find apps you might be interested in. It adds “top trending” search, an “Editors’ choice” listing, and a continuous scrolling list. Developers can now bundle their apps together and let users buy all of them at once with just one tap.
Continuity links your iOS and OS X devices. You can start a task or activity on one device and then, using what Apple calls Hand Off, pass it to another device, provided they’re in proximity. For example, you’re at a desk working on your Mac or your iPad and someone tries to reach you on your iPhone: the call shows up on either of the other devices and you can answer it from either.
API for Touch ID
Apple has opened up its Touch ID fingerprint scanner - currently only on the iPhone 5s but expected to be rolled out on future phones and tablets and possibly Macs – to software developers. That means their apps will be able to use Touch ID for authentication and authorization.
A new API and a common network protocol with secure pairing, HomeKit will let software developers interconnect your iPhone with the growing array of home automation systems, including locks, lights, thermostats, cameras and security systems.
Apple has stripped away many of the layers between graphics-heavy applications, such as games and animations, and its A7 processor (the “metal” in question). It’s also granted these apps access not just to graphics, but to the integrated GPU itself, and added precompiled shaders and more efficient multi-threading. The result: a massive performance boost for games and similar apps.