Everything You Need to Know About iOS 8

Today at their Worldwide Developer Conference, Apple showed off the latest version of iOS that powers their iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches.

The biggest, most obvious changes to iOS 8 are in how it plays friendly with computers running OS X. Apple calls these “Continuity” features. OS X will realise that you’re typing an email on your iPhone. If you click that icon, OS X will import your in-progress message and let you continue where you left off.

“Instant Hotspot” will also recognise when your tethering-enabled iPhone is nearby. If there’s no WiFi available but your iPhone has connectivity, you can connect through it without ever taking your phone out.

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iOS can also now push all of your text messages to your other devices, letting you send and view texts from your laptop or iPad the same way you would an iMessage. OS X can also now show Caller ID notifications for incoming calls, and it can receive and make calls, too. The call itself will still go through your iPhone, but it’ll use your Mac as a speakerphone. Also, on Mac you can reply to messages straight away from the notification, but now that feature is coming to iOS, too. When you get a notification of a new text message, you can swipe down on the message to reply. This works for other notifications, too. Event invite alerts, for example — you can accept or decline without ever opening the calendar. These same alerts will show on your lockscreen, as well. You just swipe to respond.

The app switcher screen (the screen that pops up when you double tap the home button) will now display a quick-access list of your most recent contacts. Tapping one of these contacts will give you one-touch buttons for calling, texting, or FaceTime. 

Safari has a new “top down” tab view, in addition to the standard tab view displayed at the top of your browsing window. This view shows you thumbnails of each tab you have opened, grouped by site.

In the Mail app, you can now swipe each email to flag or delete it. A long swipe to the left will instantly send an email to the trash.

The iOS keyboard will now feature something Apple calls “quicktype”, which tries to guess what the next word you’re about to type will be and offers that word up at a single button press. This will be familiar to a lot of Android users. Quicktype is context sensitive, allowing it to detect inbound questions like “Are we still on for tonight?” and auto-offer responses at a tap. To make it somewhat creepy, but in an amazing way, It’ll even learn the way you talk to specific contacts , like you're more formal with your boss or more casual with your friends, and offer different words accordingly.

iOS 8′s Messenger app picks up a few things people have been begging for for ages: the ability to leave a thread, rename a thread, go into “Do Not Disturb” mode, and add/remove thread participants. You can also opt-in to share your current location with the other members of a group message, which can be used if you're meeting up with a friend, or bragging about a holiday. 

Apple has added a “Tap To Talk” button for quickly sending voice messages in messenger. You tap and hold the record button, talk, then swipe up to send instantly. This is probably going to end badly for me, though. 

Taking a page from Snapchat, iMessages can now be set to “expire” after a set number of minutes. A cool feature, in a way. I just use Snapchat for this, though. 

iOS announced a while back that they would be taking a huge step in to the fitness market. With iOS 8, Apple is trying to bring all of the data from your myriad health apps (running apps, fitness trackers, etc) into one place: their new Health app. 

You can also share purchased apps, music, and movies with your family members. The only thing is that all six family members have to be using the same credit card to share purchases. Kids can now send purchase requests to their parents, allowing parents to moderate what their kids are buying even when they’re not in the same room.

The Photos app is now being integrated with iPhoto, somewhat. It now has more advanced built-in editing features, for things like photo straightening and brightening. If your devices are synced on iCloud, tweaks made to photos on one device are instantly made on all of your other synced devices. The future is here, folks. 

The changes to SIRI are pretty impressive. When you’re driving, Siri can now listen for “Hey, Siri!” command for hands-free operation. She can also recognise songs, which will be powered by Shazam, and the voice recognition is all streamed word-by-word, rather than in one big burst at the end. 

This update will be huge for app developers, specifically game developer. Developers can now sell “App Bundles” which means that they can sell a bunch of applications together for a marked-down price. App developers can now offer up video previews of their apps right within the App Store.

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Developers can offer beta programs right through the app store. Third party apps can now add widgets to the dropdown notification center. Third parties can now also build their own keyboards.

Third party apps can now tie into TouchID for fingerprint-based logins, too. Apple says they’ve spent a long time and put a lot of effort in to making this as secure as possible.

Home automation is coming. Homekit is Apple’s way to start putting your house in to the digital age. This means you can control lights and heating and more with your iPhone. You will need to purchase the actual lighting or thermostat that actually works with your iPhone, but it's still amazing. It’ll also have Siri support, for things like “Siri, set house to ‘bedtime’ mode” to dim the lights and lock the doors.

Finally, the biggest news for gamers, Metal, a technology designed to increase the efficiency of iOS gaming, is coming to Apple's mobile operating system in iOS 8.

The technology will reduce OpenGL issues and give developers deeper access to a device's hardware. Designed for Apple's A7 system on a chip hardware, it will offer efficient multithreading, shader technology and more. This means better, faster, more responsive games in 2015.

Epic Games founder Tim Sweeney appeared on stage to show a demo built in Unreal Engine 4 called Zen Garden. Metal technology offers a increase in rendering efficiency (up to ten times better). Zen Garden will be free when iOS 8 is released this fall.

iOS 8 will be available to developers as a beta today, and will be released to the public this fall.