It has been a yearly practice for Apple to reveal its newest iOS and Mac OS on WWDC (Worldwide Developer Conference) and it is the same this year. iOS 8 and OSX Yosemite debuted yesterday in San Francisco. I was a little disappointed that no new hardware was introduced in the event. Nevertheless let’s find out more on iOS 8 first!
In iOS 7 the whole OS has been redesign so Apple will keep the same flat look for iOS 8 and refinement will be found here and there along with some new features. In the keynote Apple has separated the features into 2 parts, for end users and for developers. Features for end users are what we can use day to day and features for developers is the new flexibility in iOS 8 so that they can create better and more powerful apps in a simpler way. I will start with end user features first.
iCloud Drive is the feature I like the most in iOS 8. iCloud Drive is a place where you can store all your files and you can access them via Mac, iPhone, iPad, iPod and also Windows 8 machine. It is similar to Dropbox and all files created or edited will be synced across all devices. There is no file manager in iOS so this can be something similar. The files in iCloud Drive can be accessed and edited by related apps and to use it in other apps you do not have to import them anymore as they too can access to iCloud Drive. You can continue your work unfinished with other device easily with iCloud Drive and this integration is further improve by the next feature.
One of the biggest improvement here is the seamless integration between iOS devices and Mac. Imagine you are browsing the Internet on Mac and you decided to lay back on your couch to continue to surf the net with your iPad. Previously you will have to find the link again but with Handoff, you can skip this step. A Safari logo will appear at the bottom right corner of your iPad lockscreen and swiping up from there you can continue your surfing of the Internet. Handoff can recognise what are you doing on one device and the devices you signed in with the same iCloud account will always ready with the same thing. So if you are working on a spreadsheet with Numbers with iPad, your Mac will know that and you can always continue your work with a click on your Mac. Apps from Apples support Handoff but rest assured that third party apps can add this feature via some coding. This is very useful if you have multiple Apple products.
Continuity does not stop here. Now you can answer your phone call and reply your message from iPad and Mac. You can also make call by highlighting the phone numbers or searching for contact in Mac too. When your Mac is out of Wifi range, you can connect it to your iPhone’s hotspot without touching your phone at all. If I am not mistaken, these features are enabled via AirDrop so you need to have it on your device to work. The integration between mobile devices and Mac is better than ever and thumbs up for Apple to do it nicely. I do hope I can see this from Microsoft.
Family Sharing is a new feature for you to share purchases from iTunes, iBooks and App store with your family and relatives. Up to 6 people are allowed to linked together with the same credit card without using same Apple ID. This means that you can download anything bought by one of the members in the group. This can save you some money. Parents can also approve their children’s purchases from their own devices if they are connected to same credit card.
Other than purchases, photos can be shared too via the family album. Calender can be shared to so that you can have an overview on your family members’ activity and you will know if this is a good time to give a call or not. The other thing is that you can track the position of your family too and I totally can imagine why this will be the most hated feature by youngsters.
The new Health app is the answer from Apple for the other competitors like S Health from Samsung. What Health can do is working as a data centre for you. Certainly current Apple products cannot measure how healthy are you but with some third party apps and accessories such as Nike+, your health condition can be monitored. All of these apps can send the date to Health app and it can give you a overview of your healthiness. You can also add in your emergency card which will be shown in your lock screen. The emergency card will have your blood type, allergies or more so that you can be helped. Without the support from third party apps this will be useless and only time can tell whether people will use it or not.
iCloud Photo Library is introduced where all photos and videos taken in all your iOS devices will be synced together so that you can access them anytime, anywhere. Any edits will be synced too. You can expect a lot of photos in your devices and Apple let you search from your seas of images through albums, location and date taken. The photos will be stored in full resolution so you can imagine your storage will be filled up very quickly and Apple does not give you extra free storage. You are still stucked with the 5GB iCloud storage only and if you want more, you have to pay for it.
Editing tools have been improved here. You can crop and rotate the image by selected degrees to straighten the photos. In Photos you can adjust light and color of the photos. The software will change the exposure, brightness, constart, shadows and the rest to make the change we want. You can change each parameter manually too. Filters can be added too, either built-in or third party one. Default camera app will have separated focus and exposure control. Timer mode and burst mode is coming too. Panoramic mode is made available for iPads. A new mode for video is made available too – Time-lapse Video.
When notifications pop out, you can pull down to perform some quick action without opening the app at all. For example, when someone message you, you can pull down and reply the person. If you choose to ignore the message, you can flick the notification upwards like what we have in iOS 7 to dismiss it. This will improve multitasking and Apple should have done that much earlier. This is available in lock screen too.
Speaking of multitasking, double press on home button will bring us to multitasking interface and previously the top of screen is empty and now Apple fill the space with favourite and recent contacts you interact with. You can send a message and start a call using phone or Facetime. Personally I don’t see this very useful and I feel that this will mess up the clean multitasking interface.
In iOS 8 you can send and receive voice and video message like what we have in Whatsapp. There’s a mic button and holding it will start the recording. After you have done you can swipe up while holding the button to send it, or swipe to the left towards the ‘x’ sign to discard the recording. On the left there is a camera button where you can send video message with the same operation way.
Group conversation can be renamed and you can turn on Do Not Disturb to disable notifications for that thread while getting notifications from the rest. If you find the group too disturbing, you can leave the thread too. In the group conversation you can share your location to your friends. For privacy you can choose to share it for an hour, a day and forever. The photos and videos attached in the message can be found easily in thumbnail mode so that you do not have to scroll and scroll and scroll to find them. These features are quite basic in my opinion and I would like to have a search button to search for certain messages sent or received earlier.
The mail app got some love from Apple too. The most useful new feature here is the ability to pull the drafting mail down to the bottom of the screen and access the information in the inbox or other folders. Very often that I need to copy something from the other mail but it will be very difficult to change between my draft and my inbox. After you have done referring, you can pull up the draft to continue to write. This makes sending email in mobile devices less frustrating.
The other small things is the ability to swipe right from left on an email to mark it as unread quickly. Swiping left from right will bring up 3 options, namely More, Flag and Trash. A big swipe left from right hand side to the end will place the email to trash so that you can delete useless email quickly.
- In iOS 8 third party keyboards are supported and users can choose their own favourite keyboard to type with. Companies like Swype has announced that they certainly will release a iOS version. The new smarter Keyboard words prediction which will suggest words depending on how you talk to the person previously.
- Widgets can be added to Notification Centre to have glance-able information. However I feel that this will make the notification centre very messy.
- Spotlight Search can give smarter results such as Wikipedia result, nearby places recommendation and suggestion from iTunes store, App store or iBooks store.
- Bird’s Eye View on all tabs and a sidebar for bookmarks, Reading list and Shared Links in Safari (iPad Only)
- Stronger Security and more business feature is built into iOS 8 for enterprise.
- Access Siri by speaking “Hey, Siri” instead of holding home button and Siri can identify songs now and suggest you to buy it from iTunes store.
- You can check Battery usage contributed by different apps to improve battery life.
Developers have greater flexibility when building their apps as Apple has lifted some limitation. You can actually skip this part if you’re not a developers but do remember that developers build apps for people like us. So knowing what they can do right now can help us to have a sneak peek on how powerful the future apps will be.
- Apple works with companies like Philips to introduce a standard for household electric appliances control via iOS devices. Siri can be used to turn on lights or adjust the temperature in your house.
- Photo editing tools and filter can be added to native Photos app. Photos can be edited directly without required to import the picture to the app’s storage.
- Touch ID is open to developers. Certain apps can require user to sign in via Touch ID. Finger prints are still stored securely in the A7 chip and apps cannot access the biometrics data of users. What they can do is check for approval only.
- Apps can add widgets in notification centre, add itself to the sharing options and custom actions.
- Developers can use different keyboards in their apps.
- Developers can add video previews in addition to the screenshots of their apps in App Store.
- Apps from same developers can be bundled and sold in a discounted price.
There are new tools for developers too, such as Spritekit for 2D games, Scenekit for casual 3D scene rendering and Metal to allow maximum performance from A7 chip for highly immersive 3D console-level games. If that is not enough for you, Apple introduced a new programming language called Swift. The most impressive part of this code in my opinion is the Interactive Playground where the results will appear as you type. For example if you have a loop to increase a number by 1 every second, a nice graph will be shown along the time axis and value magnitude axis. This will make programming faster and more efficient.
OS X Yosemite
The new OS X is not named after an animal finally. Yosemite is a national park in California, US and you might be interested on how you pronounced it. ( Here! ) I never use a Mac before so I can’t judge if this update is worthy or not. The interface has been flattened and looks a lot like iOS 7 & 8. Translucency is used here to enhance the visual effect and layering but it certainly reminds me of Aero effect in Windows Vista and Windows 7. However, it is still very beautiful user interface and I like it a lot. If you don’t like the UI being so white, you can change to dark theme too.
The new spotlight search will show a new search windows in the middle of the screen and like iOS, it can give smarter and broader suggestion. Finding things can be easier. The notification centre has a new today view and you can add widgets too. The Continuity between iOS and Mac OS discussed earlier is a great addition. New features have been added on Safari and Mail too.
Compatibility & Releasing Date
iOS 8 will be compatible with iPhone 4s and newer iPhones, iPod Touch 5th Gen, iPad 2 and newer iPads. Beta versions for Mac OS X Yosemite are available for developers now. The public version will be available in fall and no exact date is given, just as usual. Both updates including OSX Yosemite are free of charge as promised last year.
iOS 7 was a big overhaul so I did not expect any change on design on iOS 8. However, the new features, while being welcomed, are not enough to impress me. The rumoured split screen multitasking is still not here yet and I really want that badly. Customisation is far too limited as I mentioned in previous post while comparing with the other mobile OS. The new features introduced here are not really blowing me out of my mind and I would wonder why Apple did not do that earlier. However, this is still a very worthy update. The introduction of iCloud Drive will be very useful. The integration between iOS and Mac OS will be unrivalled if compared to Windows-Windows Phone and Chrome OS-Android. I also can’t wait to use the new camera app and the new photo editing tools as I used them quite frequently.
Some people might comment that iOS is becoming more and more like Android and Apple is copying Android. Then Apple’s fans will have their own argument. Personally I am quite sick of this. But do keep in mind that those features are not found first in Android itself too. Google certainly gets a lot of inspiration from the Android rooting community and the other OS too and their ideas were not all original too. So my point here is that there is no point to argue where the feature originated at all. In the tech world, everyone is copying everyone else, whether you want to admit it or not. What matters is that the competition between OS will improve each other and what end users like us should do is to use it and not to argue where it comes from. Cheers!
I will update my device when iOS is available and we will talk more about it next time as there might be features being added or cut in the final release. You can visit Apple’s website for more info on iOS 8 and OS C Yosemite.