Apple has unveiled iOS 8, the latest version of its iPhone and iPad operating system. Slated for release this autumn, the free update adds a number of new features to compatible phones and tablets.
Though it doesn’t usher in as big a cosmetic change as last year’s iOS 7, the new operating system does add some genuinely useful looking features. Read on to find out more details about context sensitive texting, taking phone calls on your iPad and new ways to keep track of your health and fitness.
Smartphone reviews – every mobiles tested from the 5s to the S5
Apple iOS 8 – five key features
QuickType keyboard – predictive typing suggestions are nothing new to smart devices, but Apple is looking to improve on the formula. Its suggestions are context sensitive, meaning that if someone asks ‘do you want to go for dinner or a movie?’ It will actually give you the predictive text reply options of ‘Dinner’ or ‘A movie’. Apple also claims the same system will remember the words you use most – if you prefer formal words, you’ll get formal language, while those who prefer to be chattier can expect more slang.
HealthKit – Apple’s new Health app acts like a sponge, by absorbing all of the exercise and fitness data that other apps (even non-Apple apps) are generating. This will let you get a more rounded picture of things like your daily nutrition and fitness, and also gives you one place to see and interact with all that information.
Handoff – if you have multiple Apple devices then Handoff will make it easier to work across all of them. If you’re writing a message on your iPhone, but then pick up your iPad, that same message will be there and ready for you to continue working on it. If you have an iPhone and an iPad, you will even be able to pick up incoming calls on your iPad (even if your iPhone is in another room).
Family sharing – if your kids have iPhones of their own you’ll be happy to learn that Apple has made one iTunes account shareable across multiple devices. This means that your family’s purchases will be available to share on up to six Apple devices. More importantly, that account will be linked to just one credit card, so you’ll be able to veto the apps, films and music purchased. Apple also announced improvements to the Touch ID fingerprint scanner that should mean those purchases can be given the green light at a touch.
The internet of things – smart thermostats, alarms, locks and light bulbs are rapidly becoming everyday home accessories. Rarely though do they all directly communicate with one central app on your smartphone or tablet. Apple is looking to change that building a common security protocol that will pull devices from different manufacturers into one app, meaning you could switch your lights off and lock your door at the touch of a button.
Which? expert view – ‘another step towards the “internet of things”‘
There is a lot borrowed in this update – iCloud Drive is Google Drive while Healthkit piggy backs on what Samsung, Nike and others have been doing for a while already. But that’s not necessarily bad news and all these additions are welcome.
Apple have given the notification centre a welcome tidy up and while the changes to messaging are nuanced they are important and should make it easier and quicker to send messages.
The announcement of Home Kit, essentially using your iPhone as a remote for your house and everything in it was bolder. I’m not sure I want Siri to turn off all my lights and lock my doors when I tell her goodnight – she still can’t find a decent Italian restaurant or get the weather right after all. But Apple’s attempt to actually start connecting smart devices is an important step towards the much vaunted, but little seen, ‘internet of things’.
Rory Boland – deputy technology editor