Full Review of iOS 8

We got to see what iOS 8 looks like, how the design has been tweaked from iOS 7 and what new features we can look forward to in the new version of iOS. When can civilians get their hands on iOS 8? Initially it will be restricted to a beta testing programme, which app developers (or those willing to claim they are app developers) can pay to sign up to. These betas will be unfinished versions of iOS 8 that are likely to contain flaws, glitches and design elements that are later changed, but joining the beta means you can get a good idea of iOS 8’s broad design ideas and main features before committing to the final version

 User Interface and Visual design 

iOS 7 Vs iOS 8 Logo
iOS 7 Vs iOS 8 Logo

iOS 8’s interface is largely the same as iOS 7’s too. But there are a few changes. Take the app-switching interface. As well as your open apps, this now shows circular thumbnails of recently ‘used’ contacts. Tap one of these and iOS 8 offers icons that let you ring, FaceTime or text that person, depending on what contact details you have available. However, most of the changes to iOS’s interface are designed to cope with new features, which we will look at next.
After a succession of operating systems that looked roughly the same, iOS 7 was a stark departure: brighter, lighter, less skeuomorphic and far more modern than iOS 6. As we expected, Apple hasn’t done anything as radical as this for iOS 8. iOS 8’s broad aesthetic cues are as far as we can tell almost exactly the same as iOS 7, with the same clean, minimal icons, and transparency effects in place of iOS 6’s skeuomorphic design elements. It retains the bold (but very slightly toned down) colour palette of later iterations of iOS 7, which saw the bright green of iOS 7.0 darkened a touch.

New features of IO8

iOS 8 has a host of brilliant new features, which we’ll look at one by one in the following section. But it’s worth remarking before we start on one interesting aspect to Apple’s presentation: a lot of emphasis was given to developer-specific, highly techie parts of iOS 8, and the new openness Apple is allowing in the things that app developers can do within iOS 8. So we’ll divide this into two parts: innate features that iOS 8 itself can do, and developer features that will allow apps to do new things.



Messages – which Apple software head Craig Federighi pointed out is the most used app in iOS – gets lots of handy tweaks. Group messages are organised far more conveniently. You can use iOS’s Do Not Disturb mode on a per-thread basis, such as situations when a group message thread has got out of hand and your device keeps buzzing with notifications of new messages. Or, in a more drastic measure, you can leave a group message thread at any point. If lots of people in the thread have been posting images or videos, you don’t need to worry about keeping track of them all, because Messages organises all the attachments in a Messages thread at the bottom of the thread. Finally, you can share your location with other members of a thread indefinitely or for various limited periods of time. You can send voice and video messages that self-destruct (to save memory) after a certain period of time unless you choose to save them. Brilliantly, voice messages sent via Messages appear in the lock screen with a waveform graphic, and you can listen to the message in question by simply lifting the iPhone to your ear – iOS detect the motion and interprets the gesture automatically (as usual, we look forward to testing this out and seeing how accurate it really is). You can then reply, again without pressing any on-screen controls; speak your reply, then lower the phone and the message is sent.

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The Mail app has been updated with gesture support and a wide range of small but convenient tweaks and new features. You can use gestures to delete, flag or ‘unread’ messages, swiping across a message to perform the chosen action: it’s a single swipe to mark as unread, flick across and tap to flag, or drag all the way across to delete. We’ve seen gesture support like this in third-party apps but it’s nice to see Apple taking developments on board. In a form of in-app multitasking, you can flick a message down to the bottom of the screen, check or copy material from another message, and then return to it with a single click. From the demo, it appeared to be roughly the same as minimising a window on a desktop OS – highly convenient. And Federighi showcased the ability of Mail to recognise an invitation in a marketing email as an event, and offer to add it to Calendar. Last of all, a new feature called MailDrop allows emailed attachments to be stored in the cloud rather than sent directly with the message, so that the recipient can read the rest of the message (and download the attachment separately) even if a full server would previously have caused a bounceback.


Interactive notifications

As you’ll have noticed when we replied to a voice message from the lock screen, iOS 8 lets you accomplish far more without leaving the app you’re in, thanks to more responsive notifications. Facebook, Messages or Twitter notifications pop down into your screen and can be responded to there and then – you get the option to reply or Like, accept or decline Calendar invitations and so on, all from the lock screen or Notification Centre. Alternatively, notifications can be flicked away

Furthermore, Apple says iOS 8 will be able to learn the words you typically use and understand the context in which you’re typing, such as a business or personal communication – messages it sense are intended for business use would see more formal suggestions. This sounds amazing, but we didn’t notice a particularly nuanced grasp of context – although this may be something else that improves with time. The best we could say is that QuickType appeared to sense differences in tone on a per-app basis: in other words, it tended to offer more casual words in Messages, and was more formal in Mail. We’d got the impression from the keynote that it would be more subtle than this (detecting lexical tendencies relating to specific people and specific conversations, for instance), but more testing will be needed before we can comment on that. In order to safeguard privacy, all the information QuickType acquires about your writing style will stay on the device, Federighi insisted.Continuity, This could be the biggest attention-grabber of all, and affects Mac OS X Yosemite as well. It’s a very cool concept. Continuity is the name Apple is giving to enhanced compatibility between its new desktop and mobile platforms, enabling you to for instance answer iPhone calls on your Mac (a notification will appear even if your iPhone is downstairs charging), or continue a message started on iPad on Mac or vice versa. If you’re composing an email on your phone and walk up to your Mac, Mail on the Dock in Mac OS X will prompt you that you’re composing a message; you can click it to carry on writing the email on your Mac. Finally – and much requested – iOS 8’s Continuity allows you to AirDrop between your mobile device and the Mac.


Here’s a small but attractive change to the Safari interface: on iPad, you can get a ‘bird’s eye view’ of all the tabs you’ve got open. And the sidebar from Mavericks is now present in Safari on iOS. Apple didn’t announce it during the event, but Safari users will be able to use DuckDuckGo – highly privacy-focused search engine – as the default search. This was one of several subtle shots at Google – whose business model is built around gathering large volumes of user data – that Apple  took during the night. In a further nod to privacy fans, Safari on iOS 8 will enable Private Browsing on a per-tab basis. The main changes in the way you use Safari, however, are likely to be seen in the developer changes we’ll discuss later – the ability for third- party apps to share data with Safari and be added to the sharing pane, for instance.



Apple didn’t discuss this on stage, but there are some nice updates for the Camera app. If you tap the screen to focus on a point in the frame, a slider appears underneath that allows you to adjust the exposure compensation on the fly. The implementation is a bit odd – it seems more effective to swipe across the entire screen, when the intuitive thing would be to move the slider itself – but it’s a handy extra feature. Other updates include: Time-lapse video: Probably the most imagination- catching of the Camera updates; it’s a surprise this didn’t get a mention on stage. iOS 8 introduces a new Time-lapse video mode, whereby the Camera app will take photos at dynamic intervals to create a, well, time-lapse video. Camera timer: Odd this hasn’t been included before, really. iOS 8 will feature a camera timer. Burst and Panorama modes get more inclusive: In iOS 8, graphics optimisations will give users of older iPhones access to the quicker burst mode previously only available to the iPhone 5s (other phones used to get a slower version of this, which only snapped images once every half-second or so). And the iPad gets access to Panorama photos. Separate focus and exposure controls: You will soon be able to independently control the focus and exposure of a scene in iOS 8. There are several ways the Camera app could implement this, including tap-to-focus with an exposure slider or two separate tap-to-focus reticles.

iCloud Drive


This is a sort of Dropbox-esque cloud storage service with seemingly wide cross-platform, cross-app compatibility.  If you’re in an app like Sketchbook, for instance, you can bring up the iCloud Drive pane, and access the files there. Any edits you make are saved back to the original location. You’ll have access to all of those documents on your Mac and Windows as well. There are implications for the Photos apps, too, which we’ll come to in a bit.


predictive typing iOS 8 offers a major step forward on the keyboards front. QuickType is a form of predictive typing that looks far more ambitious than the modest auto- correct-level predictions in previous versions. We’re not just talking about completing words you’ve nearly finished typing – in Messages, Mail and similar contexts, iOS 8 will offer entire words that it suspects you may wish to use based on context, in a little palette above the keyboard. For example, if you type a message to a friend suggesting dinner, predictive typing might add “and a movie”. Eerie, no? And naturally this cries out for exhaustive testing. Our testing suggests that QuickType is a potential timesaver that will improve as both the service and the user learn more about the other. On occasion we found ourselves able to type out an entire sentence with single clicks because QuickType was in a particularly astute mood, but in others it was effectively auto-complete with good PR.


Health is a new app that brings together a variety of health and fitness-related metrics – collated from fitness bands and various third-party devices – that you can monitor easily in a single interface. Some analysts expected new hardware to accompany Apple’s health-related software updates – maybe even a health-monitoring iWatch. Instead, these features will work with a range of third-party fitness bands and health accessories. (Nike and Withings products were displayed as examples.) Naturally, that doesn’t rule out some kind of wearable or health-monitoring accessory in the future. Related to this, Apple also announced HealthKit, which will enable third parties to build their own compatible software. Given the many differences between the healthcare systems in Britain and the US (not least the corporate spending power it commands in America), it’s debatable how much we’ll see the examples shown last night – a healthcare monitoring system from a private firm called Mayo Clinic – replicated over here, but it all looks well designed.

Family Sharing

Family Sharing is a lovely idea, that sounds like it will be both safe and convenient. You set up as a family (informing iOS of the various members of your family and their devices) and it will automatically configure photo sharing, location tracking and the free sharing of digital media across up to six family members (they need to share a credit card). It looks simple, although of course we’ll have to reserve judgement until we’ve wrestled with the feature ourselves. In a nice response to some controversies with high-spending toddlers lately, Family Sharing includes a parental lock feature for app downloads: when your kids try to buy an app, they have to get permission (and a permission request automatically appears on your device). Federighi didn’t specify whether this would apply to in-app purchases, but we would assume so, since that tended to be the cause of the worst spending sprees.




Photos is where iCloud Drive comes into its own. Photos shot on any iOS device are automatically saved in the cloud and accessible on all of your other iOS devices. To cope with the enormous volumes of photos this is likely to create on each of your devices, Apple is talking up the enhanced smart search features in iOS 8 Photos. Search terms are returned as locations, times and album names. You can edit photos within the app (using auto straightening and cropping, for instance, and smart editing based on ‘intelligent image analysis’) and the edits are transferred across to other iOS devices, pretty much instantly. All of this worked seamlessly in the demo, needless to say. Will our mileage vary? We’re also a little concerned about the free allocation of space provided with iCloud, which may get used up quickly. Whether users will be willing to pay for more storage is debatable – although the pricing schemes announced tonight do seem quite reasonable.



Another new feature we expected was Shazam, and sure enough, it’s integrated into Siri: Siri can recognise songs that are playing nearby, and then lets you buy them from iTunes. But that’s not the only upgrade for Siri in iOS 8. Car-bound Siri users can now fire it up by saying “Hey Siri!” No need to tap the controls. (Presumably this means the device is always listening out for commands? Will this impact battery life?) And there’s ‘streaming voice recognition’, which simply means Siri displays what you’re saying (or what it thinks you’re saying) while you’re saying it. If nothing else, this will be a godsend for those moments where you say a long question and then see Siri had absolutely no idea what you were saying. Last of all, there are 22 new languages accepted for Siri voice recognition, and 24 new dictation languages.


One last – and relatively minor – change relates to the Weather app. Apple’s weather data was formerly proved by Yahoo; now, it’s from The Weather Channel. We looked at the two forecasts on iOS 7 and iOS 8 at the same moment, and it was pretty much the same – just the odd degree in a few days’ time, and a difference of a minute on that day’s sunset.

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