Apple officially introduced iOS 8 at their WWDC 2014 Keynote address on Monday. New features for the mobile OS include support for third-party keyboards, improved notification features, an upgraded autocorrect feature, a new health tracking component named HealthKit, and much more.
Messages gets some great new improvements, including the ability to name conversation threads, the ability to add and remove users from a group conversation, the ability to leave a message thread, and a “Do Not Disturb” feature to allow muting of particularly noisy threads.
Users will also be able to share their location with others in the messaging app, and will have the ability to record and send audio and video messages right within the app. Those messages can be viewed in the app, or even via the lock screen. Users will also be able to hold the phone up to their ear to reply, and the voice message will be sent automatically when the phone is lowered.
HealthKit is Apple’s new API that will collect and consolidate a user’s health information from multiple third-party apps and accessories. A “Health” app will monitor a user’s fitness metrics using that data to establish personalized thresholds for readings.
Apple says they have been working with the Mayo Clinic, and the system will allow doctors and patients to use HealthKit to set those thresholds, notifying doctors automatically in the case of something being wrong.
New interactive notifications will let users pull down notifications and respond to text messages or other notifications without leaving the current app. Users will also be able to interact with notifications on the lock screen. This will allow responding to an iMessage or Facebook post right from the on screen notification.
In a move that is likely to be cheered by iOS users, Apple will now allow the use of third-party keyboards, such as Swype, system wide. The keyboards can be used in any app that the normal iOS keyboard can be used in. Apple also introduced a new native iOS keyboard called “QuickType,” which offers predictive word suggestions that adapt to the current situation. QuickType can learn a user’s habits, and language, and Apple assures privacy of the user will be protected.
Siri got some love with the iOS 8 update, as she gains the ability to be summoned by saying the phrase “Hey, Siri.” A definite plus when using Siri in the car. She also gains Shazam song recognition, the ability to make iTunes purchases, 22 new languages, streaming voice recognition to display search results as users speak, and more.
Developers will now be able to use Touch ID in their apps. While fingerprint data will be safely stored in the A8 processor, Touch ID will be used to automatically unlock passwords that are stored in the keychain in order to grant access to apps.
The new Family Sharing feature will allow families of up to six members to share the same credit card among their Apple ID accounts. If a child attempts to make a purchase from the iTunes or App Store, the adult will receive a pop-up message on their device, asking them to approve the purchase.
Family Sharing also allows family members to share photos, calendars, reminders, and more amongst up to six users. Brady Bunch, you’re out of luck.
Apple has included thousands of new APIs for developers in iOS 8, and perhaps the most exciting of those was Extensibility. This feature allows iOS 8 apps to share information with each other and with the Notification Center. The new API allows such features as the filters from third-party apps to be used in the iOS Photos app, and Apple also showed off a Safari extension that brought Bing translation to Safari.
The new feature also allows apps to install widgets similar to Apple’s own Calendar and Stocks widget into Notification Center. A demoed ESPN SportsCenter widgets displayed sports scores within Notification Center.
iOS 8 is available today as a beta for developers, and will be available to the public this fall.