One of Apple’s big announcements from WWDC 2014 was the new version of iOS, the company’s mobile operating system. Aside from a few new apps, iOS 8 doesn’t break any huge new ground or revamp the system. It’s not revolutionary. However, what Apple has done with iOS 8 is introduce some key features that users have been wanting for years. Also included were some features that show Apple changing direction, specifically towards third party developers.
Here are the eight features from iOS 8 that we are looking forward to:
1. Interactive Notifications
iOS notifications have been famously broken for quite some time. After they got passed over in the iOS 7 revamp, I began to think that Apple would never truly fix them. While the introduction of Interactive Notifications won’t completely fix the problem, it is certainly a great step forward. In iOS 8, you’ll now be able to take actions right on notifications, without having to open up an app. Whether it’s accepting a friend request or replying to a text message, Apple just made their notifications a whole lot more useful.
2. “Hey, Siri”
Presumably to compete with Google “Ok, Google” command, Siri will be getting a big update in iOS 8 that makes accessing the voice assistant app easier than ever before. Although they didn’t go into the specifics, it sounds like you can now turn on Siri only by speaking the words “Hey, Siri”. The Moto X managed to do this without losing battery and without getting your voice confused with someone else’s—here’s to hoping Apple has managed to do this as well. Either way, “Hey, Siri” in the car might be the thing that is truly exciting about this feature.
HealthKit is a new app introduced in iOS 8 that puts all your health measurements and data in one convenient place. At WWDC, Apple showed off integration with products such as the FitBit and the Nike Fuelband, as well as apps such as Nike+ Fuelband. Apple didn’t go into detail as to where you’d get some of this data, for example, from something like an iWatch, but clearly Apple is wanting to step into the Health game in a big way.
4. Third Party Keyboards
Not only did Apple announce their new predictive typing keyboard, QuickType, they also announced that they would finally begin supporting third party keyboards. This means that users will finally get to swap at the iOS keyboard for something Swype, a long requested feature on iPhones. It’s another example of how Apple is finally playing catch-up to Android and opening up their platform a bit more. Who knows, maybe someday we’ll even be able to set a default browser.
The update to iMessages in iOS 8 is a big one. As a way of competing with apps such as Snapchat, you can now quickly send voice or video messages—they even get auto-deleted after a while! On the iOS 8 also introduces a new feature that lets you easily share your location with a contact, either for a temporary amount of time, or permanently.
Another update that we have been waiting years for is third party widgets. According to Craig Federighi, he had asked Steve Jobs about widgets back in iOS 2. While we don’t have home screen widgets yet, third party developers can now create widgets for the drop down “Today” screen. On stage at WWDC, they showed someone bidding on an Ebay auction, right from that drop down screen. If that’s any indication of the possibilities, there’s plenty to be excited about with widgets in iOS 8.
Similar to HealthKit, HomeKit is a place where are all of your home automation apps can exist and connect to one another. While Apple didn’t go into detail about how HomeKit would work, it’s clear that Apple is finally getting into the home automation game in a way that could really shake things up in that industry. The thing that is really exciting about HomeKit is that it shows Apple’s willingness to open up their platform to third party developers—they know they can’t do it all, and they’re willing to work with others to make for a better experience.
8. iCloud Drive
iCloud Drive is Apple’s big solution to its iCloud problem, by actually letting you see the files and folders that you’ve got stored in the cloud. The interesting thing is that iCloud Drive gives you access to files and folders on an iPhone, which is something Steve Jobs had always been against. But with the competitive pricing and all-encompassing Apple ecosystem, iCloud Drive might be a pretty good cloud alternative to DropBox or Google Drive.