iOS 8 Brings New Health, Cloud And Messaging Features To iPhone And iPad

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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iOS 8 debuts at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) and will be released on iPhone and iPad later this year

Apple has added a number of new health, enterprise and usability enhancements to iOS 8, which was debuted at the Cupertino-based company’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco and will be released to iPhone and iPad users this autumn.

The latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system isn’t quite as radical a visual overhaul as iOS 7, which was shown off at last year’s WWDC, but Apple CEO Tim Cook is adamant that iOS 8 is “the biggest release since the introduction of the App Store.”

Health and iCloud

iOS 8 (5)Headlining the new feature set is the widely anticipated health functionality, which comprises Apple’s own Health application and HealthKit. The latter aggregates data from a variety of health and fitness applications such as Health and Nike+ so users can track wellness information such as exercise, calorie intake and sleep.

Naturally, the collection of health information is a sensitive issue and Apple has promised users will have total control over what information is shared with which application, but it is confident it can help the health industry and has deals in place with a number of US medical institutions.

Apple has also announced iCloud Drive, which stores documents and photos that can be accessed on iOS, Mac and Windows devices and shared between different iOS applications. The new Photos app uses the service to securely store photos on 5GB of free iCloud storage, with an additional 20GB available for $0.99 a month and 200GB for $3.99 a month, with tiers going up all the way to 1TB.

New usability improvements include interactive notifications that allow users to directly respond to events such as messages or Facebook interactions, while double tapping the Home button now shows recent contacts, not just apps.

Messaging improvements

Messaging has also received an overhaul with many of the popular features of over-the-top applications like Snapchat and WhatsApp imitated. Users can now leave or silence overactive group threads that are causing incessant and irritating notifications, while users can now leave voice and video messages in iMessage chats with the ‘Tap to Talk’ feature.

Apple says it knows multimedia messages can take up valuable storage space, so these can be set to self-destruct, allowing you to cover your tracks if your activities require discretion.

New ‘Quicktype’ keyboard technology introduces better predictive text to make typing messages faster and more accurate and learns how you type over time. Emails should be faster to deal with thanks to new gesture controls in the Mail application, while iPad users will be able to read SMS messages and pick up calls if the tablet is connected on iPhone as part of Apple’s cross-platform vision.

Other new features include improved spotlight search, enhanced tab browsing in Safari for iPad, improved Siri functionality, including automatic Shazam song detection, and the ability to share music, movies and apps between family members if they use the same credit card details

Enterprise boost

Apple also made a big deal about the enterprise, claiming that 98 percent of the Fortune 500 companies use iOS in their business.

“It turns out iOS is a huge hit in the enterprise,” said Craig Federighi, senior vice president of software engineering. “We’re gonna get the last two [percent].”

iOS 8 (4)Federighi said enterprise valued the security, privacy and management features of the platform, including the automatic configuration features included as part of the Device Enrolment Programme, and promised there would be plenty of enhancements for businesses in iOS 8.

These include pass code protection, VIP threads, automatic out-of-office emails for Microsoft Exchange, support for third party document providers in iCloud and expanded document management for books and PDFs – something which is seen as vital for the education sector.

Cook said he hoped that iOS 8 would build on the success of its predecessor which took the platform to an “even higher level”. The company says iOS 7 is running on 89 percent of all iOS devices and boasts 97 percent satisfaction rates.

“These are customer satisfaction rates that no one gets. It’s enormous,” he said. “We could not be happier with iOS 7 and the momentum of iOS devices.”

iOS 8 is intended to work closely with Mac OS X Yosemite, which was also detailed at WWDC, while Apple also revealed a number of new developer tools and options for the mobile operating system, such as new APIs, App Store options and a brand new programming language called Swift.

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