We all knew it was coming, and now it’s here. Apple CEO Tim Cook just put months of breathless speculation to rest by pulling back the curtain on iOS 8 during the company’s WWDC 2014 keynote address in San Francisco. It doesn’t look like the sort of quantum leap that iOS 7 was, but Apple’s head honcho assures us that it interacts in some fantastic ways with the new version of OS X and that it pairs great end user features with great developer features. Well, we’ll be the judges of that. The big keynote is still underway, but here’s what we know so far.
We’ve all been there — you get a message while you’re doing something else, and you just can’t be bothered to switch apps.
With iOS 8, you can pull down from that notification shade and respond from right there. It’s not limited to messages, either — you’ll be able to like/comment on Facebook messages or handle your calendar events.
Apple has introduced Mailbox-style actions to its stock Mail application, too. You can easily tag or dismiss certain missives without even having to open them up, and all it takes is a quick swipe on the contents of your inbox.
The company made a big to-do about how much better Spotlight is in OS X Yosemite, so it’s only natural the iOS version gets an upgrade as well. Among other things, it’ll let you search for apps you haven’t even installed yet, songs in the iTunes store, movie times and locations and more. Media isn’t the only focus here, though. It’ll also show directions to locations you type in to even news.
At long last, iOS is getting an improved on-screen keyboard. In short, we’re looking at an improved recognition service that can more accurately predict what it is you’re trying to say. Hopefully this means an end to all the “ducking” typos going on out there.
IMESSAGE TAKES ON WHATSAPP
Facebook just bought Whatsapp for an obscene amount of money, but that hasn’t stopped the folks in Cupertino from replicating some of the app’s most-used features. Among other things, you can send audio and video messages from within the app — in the old days, you’d have to pop out into the camera or Voice Memos to create your content and then send it over. Even better: you can respond to one of those audio messages right from the lock screen if you just raise your iPhone to your face.
We’ve touched on this elsewhere, but the newly announced Continuity between iOS and OS X is a very, very welcome shift for Apple. You’ll be able to pick up and initiate phone from within OS X, even when your iPhone is across the house. Is someone calling you? You’ll get a caller ID notification, and a quick touch lets you use your Mac as a speakerphone. And if one of your non-Apple pals shoots you a plain ol’ text message, your iPhone will relay it to all your other iDevices.
QuickType for iOS 8 adds SwiftKey-style predictive typing
Apple has just announced QuickType, a new predictive typing keyboard for iOS 8. The system appears similar to SwiftKey, a popular third-party keyboard for Android; it predicts the next word you’re going to type based on the sentence context and your past history.
“It does all this learning on the device and it protects your privacy,” said Apple’s Craig Federighi onstage at WWDC 2014. QuickType does not, however, appear to include any swipe-to-type functionality as seen in Android and Windows Phone.
SwiftKey released a note-taking app for iOS in January. Apple appears to have been working on a feature like QuickType for quite some time, with traces of it appearing as early as iOS 5.
Apple HealthKit announced: a hub for all your iOS fitness tracking needs
Apple just unveiled HealthKit, a new app bundled with iOS 8 that’s designed to help users keep better track of their personal health and fitness data. HealthKit provides an easy-to-access hub where iPhone owners can monitor important health metrics on a daily basis, while also stepping back to examine their fitness trends over a longer period of time. But simply calling HealthKit an “app” may be underselling it somewhat. Health apps have proven tremendously popular with consumers, and this represents Apple’s attempt to seize that market — at least among iOS users. It’s also been speculated that HealthKit will work in tandem with the fabled (and still unannounced) iWatch.
Until now, Apple has shied away from making its own fitness software. Instead, the company has for years provided a mobile platform — iOS — that’s allowed companies like Fitbit, Jawbone, Nike, RunKeeper, and MapMyFitness to showcase their apps. It’s also made strides to improve the iPhone as a fitness tool by adding specialized hardware like last year’s M7 coprocessor.
APPLE IS MAKING ITS OWN HEALTH PUSH
But apparently Apple has decided that it’s time to jump in with iOS 8 and Healthkit. At the very least, that decision is likely based off of strong data. Apple sells devices like the Jawbone Up24, Fitbit Flex, and Nike Fuelband in its own retail stores; the company is perfectly aware of how popular they’ve become.
9to5Mac first broke word that Apple was preparing its own push into fitness tracking earlier this year. Soon after, the site published “recreated” screenshots revealing “Healthbook.” Those reports, which came months ahead of today’s WWDC keynote, effectively spoiled one of the major additions to iOS 8 — and there aren’t many. The upcoming software update is largely an iterative progression of the brand new user interface and design style that Apple introduced with iOS 7 last year.
Apple introduces new iPhotos app for iOS with shared editing across all devices
Apple has just announced some changes to the way iOS handles photos that will hopefully make things a lot more convenient for users. iOS 8 will come with a new Photos app that lets users access every photo they’ve taken across all of their various devices. It’s not just the images themselves either; the new app will also share edit states, so you can tweak an image on your iPhone, then dive into the same photo on your iPad and revert and tweak those same changes.
Siri now identifies songs, works without touching the phone
Apple is trying to make Siri smarter in iOS 8. The redesigned version of Siri can be activated without touching the phone — in other words, “Hey, Siri” is the new “Okay, Google.” Siri was already plugged into pop culture, but now, it will also tell you what song you’re listening to. Apple has announced a partnership with music recognition service Shazam that will let Siri do what its popular app has been doing for years. The feature was rumored before the event, and it’s a useful and obvious addition to a digital assistant
Apple will bring third-party widgets to iOS 8
While introducing OS X 10.10 Yosemite, Craig Federighi showed off a new widget system for the Mac notification center, allowing users to pin small apps right in the “Today” view — and now we’re learning that the iOS notification center will have a similar feature, as well. In iOS 5 and 6, users could access weather, stocks, and Twitter / Facebook post buttons, but those were removed in favor of the Today view for iOS 7.
However, now users will be able to add widgets to the iOS notification center — and it sounds like 3rd party apps will be supported, as well. It’s a major change to iOS, giving it perhaps the most comprehensible glanceable information setup that we’ve seen on iOS yet, and gives the OS something that can compete with Android’s widget system and the Windows Phone live tile system.
Apple’s HomeKit turns the iPhone into a remote for your smart home
Apple wants to make the smart home a whole lot smarter. With a feature called HomeKit that’s coming in iOS 8, iPhones will be able to start controlling smart devices, such as garage door openers, lights, and security cameras. It’ll all be controllable through Siri too, so Apple says that just by saying, “Get ready for bed,” your home can automatically dim its lights and lock its doors.
HomeKit will allow iPhone users to control individual smart home devices right from their phone, though Apple hasn’t said whether that’ll be done through an app designed for the device or through an interface on the phone itself. Homeowners will be able to put their smart home devices into groups, allowing them to control a series of items at once — perhaps an entire room’s worth of appliances or an entire floor’s lighting.
This is Apple’s first step into the burgeoning smart home market, and it should help to make these new home products begin to look a lot more appealing. Smart home products have been grappling with major incompatibility issues, so ensuring that products all work together is a huge boon for buyers. “There are great apps and devices on the market, but we thought we could bring some rationality to this,” Apple software chief Craig Federighi said today, at the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference.
Initial partners include August, which is known for its beautiful smart lock, Philips, which makes the Hue connected lightbulb, and other including Honeywell, iHome, TI, and about a dozen more.
Apple has a new programming language called Swift, ‘and it totally rules’
Apple introduced a boatload of new consumer features for OS X and iOS today, but one of the biggest announcements for developers could be its new programming language, Swift. Craig Federighi just announced it, saying that Apple is trying to build a language that doesn’t have the “baggage” of Objective-C, a programming language that came from NeXt that has formed the basis of OS X and eventually iOS. Coders will be able to see the results of their programming in real time as they write the code, and it should definitely be faster than Objective-C as well.
To enable developers to easily keep working on their apps, Swift code can live right besides C and Objective-C code in the same app. We’re a ways off before seeing the results of this new code, but it’s something that developers have been waiting a long time for — it got a bigger cheer than any other announcement made so far today.
Apple announces OS X 10.10 Yosemite with refreshed, iOS 7-inspired design, available for free this fall
At its annual conference for developers, Apple today announced the next version of its desktop operating system, OS X. OS X 10.10 Yosemite follows in the footsteps of last year’s OS X 10.9 Mavericks with an even cleaner design and more features inspired by iOS. This year, the theme is all “Continuity.”
The flat design, translucent panels, and lack of gradients and textures of iOS 7 can be found throughout OS X 10.10, lending a much more modern look to the desktop operating system. App icons feature new, flatter designs, and the dock and windows of apps have sharper corners. App windows can also adjust their color temperature based on a user’s selected background, not unlike iOS. There is also a new, user-selectable “dark mode” that dims the entire interface for better focus while working. Apple’s Craig Federighi calls it a focus on “clarity, but also utlity.”
The Notification Center has been expanded with a new “Today” view for calendar, reminders, weather, and more, and Apple says that it can be extended even further with third-party app widgets. Apple’s universal search tool, Spotlight, has been redesigned and improved with more functionality, including instant results for web searches.
One of the biggest changes is Apple’s new iCloud Drive service, which integrates all files stored in a user’s iCloud account into the Finder file browser. Users can browse their files stored in the cloud and organize them into folders and tag them like any other types of files. Apple says that all iCloud Drive files will sync across Mac computers and even Windows PCs. MailDrop is a new feature in Apple’s Mail app that lets users attach large files to emails with their iCloud accounts, bypassing the attachment size restrictions many email services have. Mail has also gained the ability to edit attached images with simple text and arrow overlays.
The theme of Continuity in OS X is greatest seen in its new abilities to interact with an iOS device. AirDrop between OS X and iOS is finally supported, allowing users to transfer images and other data between their mobile devices and their desktop without using a cable. Users can seamlessly transfer the file they’re working on in Pages on their Mac to an iPad or iPhone.
Apple says that developers will be able to access the new OS X 10.10 Yosemite starting today, while a public release will be this fall. As with last year’s OS X 10.9, 10.10 Yosemite will be available as a free upgrade to existing users.
Apple announces iCloud Drive, a Dropbox-like folder to sync files across devices
At WWDC 2014, Apple announced iCloud Drive, a Dropbox-like file system for storing your documents in the cloud. Each app you use with iCloud Drive gets its own folder inside the interface, which you can access through Finder, and files are synced across OS X, iOS, and Windows. Even if you don’t use any iCloud-enabled Macs, you can just drop in files and folders to sync them across your devices.
Steve Jobs once vowed to destroy Dropbox with iCloud. That didn’t happen. Now, a few years later, Apple has finally launched its true Dropbox-killer. However, back in the age of Jobs, cloud syncing apps weren’t nearly as much of a commodity as they are today. Apple fans will love iCloud Drive for syncing files between their Apple devices, but Apple likely won’t convince Dropbox and Google Drive-faithful from switching, especially since iCloud storage costs a lot more than storage on most competitors. Also, while iCloud Drive works on Windows, it remains to be seen if Apple will open up APIs so mobile developers on Android and / or Windows Phone could adopt the storage platform.
Until today, it had been a pretty quiet year for iCloud. In October, Apple killed off local syncing inside iTunes, leaving users to pick iCloud or another cloud services company like Google for contacts, calendars, and email. In September, Apple’s cloud storage and syncing solution saw an iOS 7-style redesign, and in August, Apple rolled out iWork for iCloud, an online collaboration platform that lets you edit documents with friends in real-time. More importantly, Apple has busy upgrading and tweaking iCloud behind the scenes to address mounting developer complaints about reliability and syncing issues.