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June 3, 2014updated 22 Sep 2016 11:31am

iOS 8 – everything you need to know

A round-up of all the key features from Apple's biggest release yet.

By Vinod

Apple unveiled the latest version of its mobile software, iOS 8, at its WWDC conference in San Francisco last night, and although there was no iPhone 6 or iWatch to accompany it, the new OS did include lots of new tricks and tools. Hailed by the company as "the biggest release since the launch of the App Store", here’s our rundown of everything you need to know about iOS 8…

iOS 8

It’ll bring your Mac, iPad and iPhone closer together than ever before

"Continuity" was the big theme of the first day of WWDC, and iOS 8 looks to be the first version to bring your Mac and your iPhone closer together than ever before. Part of this is down to Apple enabling AirDrop file transfers between Macs and iOS devices, but primarily it is due to the new Handoff feature, which allows you to pick up work where you left off when switching between iOS 8and OS X devices.

Handoff lets you access documents, emails or texts that you may have started on your iPad or iPhone without any overlap – and the process works the other way round as well. Handoff also lets you handle phone calls directly on your computer, and if you see a phone number on a webpage, you can just click it and use the Mac as your speakerphone.

Building on this inter-compatibility, SMS messages are no longer limited to mobiles. This means that if you receive an SMS or iMessage on your iPhone, you’ll now be able to see it and reply to it on your iPad – and even your Mac.

Group messages have also been enhanced, as you can now add and drop people from conversations and silence non-stop incoming message annoyances via a group-specific Do Not Disturb toggle. Apple has also taken a few tips from Snapchat, introducing self-destructing voice and video clips.

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It wants to help you type faster

Apple appears to have finally got the hint from Android users that a faster and more interactive typing interface is vital for its customers. Taking a hint from apps such as Swype and Swiftkey, iOS 8 introduces Quicktype, which Apple claim makes its "smartest keyboard ever,"
Quicktype finally adds long-awaited predictive texting that’s akin to its Android rivals, with a row of potential next words now appearing above the keyboard alongside three word-finishing suggestions and then next-word best guesses.

This will even vary depending on which app you have open, so that you don’t casually drop in slang words or in-jokes into an important work email. It will even learn your contacts in order to spell everyone’s names correctly.


It’s hoping to make you healthier

Apple’s much-rumoured health application finally made an appearance in iOS 8 and asides from a change in name (most had it down as being called Healthbook), HealthKit lives up to many expectations. The app will act as a gateway for third party devices, from fitness trackers to health apps, to share data on your wellbeing with your iOS 8 device.

Apple has moved to calm security fears by saying that apps will only be able to access health data that you give them explicit permission to.

It’s made Siri faster and more intelligent

Apple has upgraded Siri as the voice-recognition service faces increased competition from the likes of Microsoft’s Cortana, as well as Google’s Android Now. Similar to the latter’s "OK Google", Apple’s offering will now boot up whenever it hears you say "Hey Siri", taking you directly to the app.

The voice recognition engine also now streams directly, so you can keep track of recognition as it happens to see if you made a mistake, and Siri can now dictate in 22 new languages. Lastly, Siri now also includes Shazam song recognition, so you can get rid of that annoying earworm that has been stuck in your head all day.

It’ll be more hands-on than ever before

The fingerprint sensor introduced with the iPhone 5S has been a little limited in its functionality so far, being restricted to a small numbers of existing apps. This should soon change, however, as Apple has opened up TouchID to developers with iOS 8, showing off an interesting demo with online banking company in which a user’s fingerprint was used to authenticate access to their account.

It’ll be available soon, for all the latest Apple devices

Just like its predecessor, iOS 8 will be available as a free download for users with the latest compatible Apple devices. The company didn’t give an exact date for public release, but it is available to developers now.

Based on past launch cycles, iOS updates normally become available as soon as a new iPhone is ready to launch, which usually happens in September, so you could get your hands on it in just a few months.

As for compatible devices, Apple is taking a similar route to iOS 7 in making its newest update available to owners of its most recent devices. This means everything since the iPhone 4S for mobiles and the iPad 2 for tablets, as these devices feature the Bluetooth 4.0 functionality needed for always-on syncing.

The full list of compatible devices is as follows: iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPhone 5C, iPhone 5S, iPod Touch 5th generation, iPad 2, iPad with Retina display, iPad Air, iPad mini and the iPad mini 2 with Retina display.


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