Although many are claiming Apple’s WWDC Keynote presentation was a disappointment, the features announced at the conference are tackling some of the biggest issues nearly every iPhone and iPad user has been complaining about. Maybe you were expecting a Smart Band to be announced, or the next iPhone, but no matter what you were waiting for, the features you can take advantage of without upgrading your hardware are exactly what everyone has been waiting for.
(Disclaimer: any predictions in this article about future products by Apple are 100% predictions, and should be taken as such).
This is one of the most mind-blowing features Apple is adding into their software. You might have noticed how people are switching to Android devices, claiming “Apps can do more” on the platform. And with the current and previous generations of iOS, this has generally been true. But not any more. Applications are no longer built in their own zones, blocked from interacting with each other, which has been the main difference between the Android and iOS platforms. Apple has opened up its file system with any service. You’re no longer forced to either save all your documents on your phone or upload them to Apple’s iCloud. For example, the Google Drive app could save your Pages documents, or OneDrive can hold your photos. Any app that integrates with this built-in iOS 8 feature will be extendable with these cloud service providers instantly, without work from each developer to integrate multiple clouds. People also complained that the keyboard isn’t smart anymore. An objection I never actually understood. But Apple has been listening. The keyboard on iOS 8 is changable, and applications can install their own system-wide keyboard, that works in apps across your entire platform–not just inside the app itself. Hello Swype. There are other features apps can add too, like Widgets to Notification Center, or Like and Comment buttons to the notification of a Facebook post, and a Reply option to a new text message without leaving Notification Center. Instagram can add its filters directly into the Camera app, and apps can use your fingerprint instead of a written password. Bing can translate foreign webpages in Safari without pulling you into another new app.
Even though the keyboard on iOS 8 is interchangable, the new built-in QuickType keyboard with predictive typing is stunningly innovative. This has been a feature on Android for some time now, but rumor has it, the system on Android is moderately underdeveloped. It takes some getting used to only typing a letter or two of your word, and sometimes not even anything at all, but tapping your words to make a sentence rather than figuring out what to say makes life a lot easier. QuickType also looks at what you’re replying to, and suggests replies based on that, so if your friend asks you if you know how to do something, the default option could be “I don’t know,” or if someone asks you if you want to see a movie, you can reply “Yes” or “No” with just one tap.
For the power Apple users (like myself), Handoff is one of the most exciting features built across all of your devices. With Handoff, you’re able to relay things that generally would only be available on one of your devices to all the others. And it’s automatic. You may have already had a taste of this experience with sending iMessages from your Mac, but being given all the features from your phone now through your iPad or OS X device is something else completely. As you have your phone charging in your bedroom, the kitchen or wherever you plug it in, you may be using your laptop on the other side of the house when a new call comes in on your iPhone—you no longer need to walk across the house to answer anymore, since your Mac is ringing too. Answer it from your Mac and you’ll realize how lazy you actually can be with Handoff. Handoff works with more than just notifications and calls though. When you find a cool desktop website on Twitter or Facebook with your phone, just open it in Safari and as you move to your Mac, Safari on your Mac can show you what you have open. When you’re writing a draft in Mail, you can seamlessly move to your Mac to finish the message. Mail opens and the draft will be waiting for you. iOS 8 also adds an API for developers to extend this feature, so it’s not just Apple’s software that can make switching devices easier than ever. Imagine ignoring a Snapchat on your phone and being able to reply from your Mac or iPad.
HealthKit and HomeKit
You may have been thinking about getting one of the health bands for tracking your workouts, your sleep and other data throughout you day, and now Apple is jumping in with the new technology too. Although they didn’t announce any Apple branded bands during WWDC, we can’t rule out the possibility of an accompanying strap with the next generation of iPhone—a band that would already be fully integrated with iOS 8’s HealthKit features. But even if Apple isn’t creating one of these bands, the company decided to let the existing market shine through—so if you’ve been holding off getting one of these accessories, iOS 8 gives you an even better reason. Developers will be able to implement iOS 8’s Health features into their products without an expensive partnership with Apple, meaning the wristbands on the current market will all make great companions for HealthKit. The strong integration of a connected house with HomeKit in iOS 8 makes it even cooler to jump on the smart light switch bandwagon. HomeKit marks the first ever ability for an app to push it’s features into Siri—something developers have been waiting for since the assistants inception, and we could easily see this become big in future Apple releases. The new kit also makes it easier to automate your life. For example, set your alarm to play your music AND turn on the bedroom lights in the morning when it’s time to get up, or even have iOS look at your sleep patterns with HealthKit and wait to wake you up at the most convenient time. These new features can change the way we interact with our phones.
What this means
iOS 8 has a tremendous amount of enhancements for developers, and these changes are going to make apps more immersive, and more integrative with each other and with the iOS system. This is the first time Apple is opening up their secret world to developers, and they’re being careful about it. Even with the new extendability, iOS continues to remain the safest and most advanced mobile platform. Let me know your thoughts on iOS 8 or the overall WWDC in the comments, or on Twitter @hnryjms.