Apple officially announced the new version of its mobile operating system, iOS 8, during its World Wide Developer Conference event in San Francisco, California on Monday, 2 June 2014.
Speaking to developers at the event, senior vice president of Software Engineering at Apple, Craig Federighi announced new features such as “Quick Type”, interactive notifications, better integration OS X, group messaging in iMessage, and improvements to Siri.
Similar to Google’s software keyboard for Android, Quick Type is predictive, offering suggestions on what you might type next based on what you’ve typed before.
Interactive notifications lets users reply to messages directly from a notification, also similar to Android, and lets you perform actions such as “Like” on a Facebook post. This works on the lock screen as well.
iOS 8’s mail application includes new gestures for flagging and marking for later. There is also a gesture to swipe down on a message you’re working on to open your inbox.
The Mail app now lets you add events to the Calendar with a drop-down context menu.
Like the Spotlight search feature on Apple’s operating system for personal computers, Spotlght in iOS 8 searches for apps, points of interest, news, and songs.
Apple’s messaging application has also received a number of new features reminiscent of mobile instant messaging apps WhatsApp and WeChat, including group messaging, as well as sending voice and video recordings.
You can also share your location with people you are talking to.
The group messaging feature will let you name threads or remove people from conversations, choose when to leave a thread, and let you set “do not disturb” by thread.
Siri, the voice recognition and natural language processor for iOS has received keyword support and will let you speak commands when you say the phrase “Hey, Siri.”
It also has Shazam built in, which means Siri can try to detect which song you’re hearing. You will also be able to buy that song in iTunes directly from Siri, Federighi said.
For developers (and users too)
Apple also announced a number of new features for developers, which could have a significant impact on users’ experience with apps.
One such feature is “Extensibility”, which seemed similar to Intents in Android which allow apps to pass data between one another.
This means that not only will iOS 8 apps be able to make use of services offered by other apps, but will also be able to show themselves in the system’s share menu.
Federighi showed an icon for Pinterest added to their list of standard sharing features (e.g. Mail, Twitter, Facebook) as an example.
Extensibility would also let you run a picture through a photo manipulation app from inside the iOS Photos app without leaving it, Federighi said.
Another Android-esque feature coming to iOS 8 is system-wide support for third-party keyboards, with Federighi showing the popular gesture-based keyboard, Swype, is an example.
For both Extensibility and third-party keyboards, Federighi said that they’ve worked within the sandboxing security model of iOS to ensure users’ security and privacy is protected.
Third-party keyboards will not have Internet access by default, Federighi said, though they can request it to add functionality. Users can then decide for themselves whether to grant the keyboard access network access.
Metal, a new graphics layer that can be used instead of OpenGL, along with Apple’s new programming language Swift also promise better-performing and more graphically intensive apps and games. According to Apple, Metal significantly decreases the overhead required for generating 3D graphics, while Swift offers a number of performance improvements for applications developed in it compared to the language currently used by iOS developers, Objective-C.
Other developer features include TestFlight, which aims to simplify beta testing of iOS apps, and app bundles which will let developers sell a collection of applications at a single price (discounted, hopefully).
The iOS 8 beta software and SDK are available immediately for iOS Developer Program members at developer.apple.com.
iOS 8 will be available “this fall” (between September and November 2014) as a free software update for iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s, iPod touch 5th generation, iPad 2, iPad with Retina display, iPad Air, iPad mini and iPad mini with Retina display.