In addition to dedicating a portion of the WWDC 2014 keynote to bashing Android, today Tim Cook took to the stage to unveil several new developments in the world of Apple. Probably the most important of these announcements was the revealing of iOS 8, which admittedly brings a laundry list full of improvements.
As you probably guessed already, a good deal of these changes are new to iOS but not necessarily new to Android or even to Windows Phone 8. For example, we already discussed how Apple plans to open up 3rd party keyboard support and is even rolling out its own new keyboard with predictive capabilities.
Without further ado, let’s jump in and take a look at some of the biggest new features and improvements found in iOS 8 (aside from keyboard changes).
Starting in iOS 8, Apple is making notifications significantly smarter by allowing users to reply to text messages, accept calendar invites and more — all without leaving the app they are currently in.
Yes, these changes are all things that are very familiar to Android users, but it’s still a massive leap foward for Apple and will greatly improve the iOS experience.
Better iOS and Mac integration
There are multiple solutions in the world of Android for getting your computer, tablet and phone to share important information with one another. Still, we admit that Apple’s solution looks pretty seamless, bringing the ability for iOS and iOS X devices to recognize when other devices are in proximity and allowing users to easily hand tasks over from an iPhone or iPad to a Mac — and back again.
With the latest version of Mac OSX and iOS 8, Apple device owners will also be able to easily check out text messages from a Mac and they will even be able to place or receive a phone call from the Mac without having to pick up their phone to do it.
Apple’s iOS 8 update will bring improved group messaging that lets users name threads, add/remove folks and even set Do No Disturb for certain message threads. There’s also iCloud integration for sending photos or voice recording and location sharing.
Apple is also improving Spotlight in iOS 8, bringing the ability to search for restaurants, news, and even apps. Speaking of the latter of these, this includes apps that aren’t even installed on a user’s device. Apple iOS users will also be able to search for songs and get a list showing results from their library as well as those that can be purchased from iTunes.
Apple is introducing a new family sharing program which makes it easy to share purchased content with up to six family members. There’s also a parental control feature here that will notify parents when a child wants to purchase an app and parents will have the power to accept or reject the transaction.
When Siri was first introduced, it was a big leap forward and probably one of Apple’s most “killer” features. As time has gone by, however, Google Now has not only caught up in most key ways, it’s actually moved well beyond it in many areas.
In iOS 8 Siri is taking a jump forward of its own, introducing a “hey, Siri” function that allows you to activate Siri while driving. There’s also added song recognition from within Siri thanks to a partnership with Shazam.
Widget support in the notification tray
Apple’s iOS update won’t just open the keyboard up to 3rd party developers, developers will also be able to create iOS widgets that will appear in the device’s notification tray.
Apple is no longer the only major (current) flagship device out there in the mobile world to offer a fingerprint scanner with offerings like the Galaxy S5 available as alternatives. With iOS 8, Apple wants to improve the TouchID experience by allowing third-party developers to utilize the tech in their own apps such as Facebook, Twitter and the list goes on.
There’s one catch, however: all the data will need to stay on the device and out of the cloud.
Apple Homekit is currently more of a promise than anything, but it still has plenty of potential. In short, it is a communication standard that opens the door for smart home products that communicate easily with an iPhone and can even be used with Siri for commands like dimming your lights and more.
As earlier rumored, Apple also took the time to announce its new health app and service, called HealthKit. Basically Healthkit works with third party apps and lets you combine info from all these different apps into a centralized place. iOS users will also be able to use the app/service to share information it collects with doctors, which is an interesting idea to say the least.
So what does all of this mean for Android users? Does it change anything?
Honestly, for those of us that are dedicated to Android and the Google ecosystem, no, today’s announcement changes very little. That said, Apple certainly brought its A-game with iOS 8 and has in many important ways “caught up” to the Android experience in several areas while introducing at least a few features that set it apart from what Google’s mobile OS offers. The features listed above are the biggest iOS 8 changes, though that’s far from a complete list.
Where iOS 8’s new additions matter most is for those that are already using iProducts but on the fence about whether to continue forward with the platform, and for individuals that really aren’t loyal to one platform or the other as long as the offered feature sets are fairly even.
Of course even if iOS 8 has now improved its feature set and arguably “caught up”, it doesn’t change the fact that hardcore Android users will likely never been swayed by the platform due to its closed, controlled nature. It’s also worth noting that iOS 8 isn’t expected to arrive until the fall and by then Google’s I/O could bring us plenty of new changes and even possibly a whole new version of Android that could once again expand the feature gap between these two platforms.
What do you think of iOS 8 based on what you’ve seen and heard so far? Impressed by Apple’s latest update or are they merely attempting to play catch-up?