NEED TO KNOW: Apple iOS8 – The biggest update yet

20 November 2014 | Kavit Majithia

iOS8 is the eighth iteration of Apple’s highly popular mobile operating system, and the long-awaited successor to iOS7.

What’s new about iOS8?
The launch, which was announced at Apple’s latest media-frenzied press conferences, was showcased alongside the giant’s launch of the iWatch, iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus devices. It comes with a range of new features and capabilities accessible on a selection of recent Apple devices, ranging from the new iPhone 6 to the iPhone 4S.

Expert technology analysts have described the update as essential. It provides much-needed features in the messaging space, including third-party extensions for keyboards, and new capabilities in the touch ID space, where Apple has lagged behind its main competitors.

The iOS8 keyboard, which Apple describes as its smartest yet, provides users with clutch word suggestions that predict the next word a user will type, and it is intended to become more in tune with what you are likely to say as time goes on. Apple software and its devices have largely remained restricted in terms of allowing third-party applications until now, but iOS8’s provision of access for SwiftKey, in addition to other keyboard services, is another welcome addition.

Along with some other minor modifications to iOS7, Apple’s update to its camera places a particular focus on editing, giving photographers licence to apply filters for brightness. There are also new tools to enable cropping for pictures and videos, rotating and amending light and colour. One of the simplest yet most attractive features of the camera application is a search engine, allowing users to search for photos taken based on location and dates.

What new markets will it tap into?
While Apple Pay did not launch on the very first iOS8 update, customers did not have to wait very long and it was made available on the 6th generation of iPhones in mid-October. Similar services have already been launched by a range of carriers, including Apple’s main rival Google. However, with Apple combining the platform with the popular iPhone, the market expects the mobile payment world to now take off.

“We believe Apple will prove effective at marketing mobile payments to consumers, not as a technology but as something that will make paying for goods and services with your phone fast, easy and even fun,” said Eden Zollner, principal analyst, consumer at Ovum.

Apple Pay was launched with the backing of major card schemes, a range of global banks and big-name retailers. It will work in two different ways, but effectively it will work by using your iPhone to pay for goods in retail stores. The service will be verified by touch ID and Apple’s engineers hope it will gain enough popularity to rid the world of credit card swiping.

The second payment method is touch ID payment transaction within Apps, and analysts predict that more application providers will sign up to Apple Pay when they realise how easy it will be for consumers to purchase things through touch ID. The archaic method of entering your credit card details into an app could soon be a thing of the past.

Using Apple Pay at a retail store is presently only available on iPhone 6 or 6 Plus, as they are the only two devices with a Near Field Communications chip combined with Touch ID. However, by next year, users of the fifth generation of Apple iPhones are likely to have the same capabilities.

Apple’s mobile health platform was heavily marketed before the launch of iOS8, and the application mainly acts as a stat-tracking device. It presently includes 38 applications for monitoring fitness and wellbeing, as well as food and nutrition. The iOS8 update for health is based on the participation of third-party applications, but the latest iPhones, including the 5S, log steps and running data directly through an M7 co-processor.

One notable capability is Apple’s medical ID card, which stores blood type, medications, personal height and weight information. It also stores the user’s emergency contacts, which can be accessed on the lock screen in a worst-case scenario.

What focus does it have on convergence?
As part of Apple’s growing commitment to convergence with other devices and other users, Apple’s family sharing feature allows you to share a range of data, including media and location services, with members of the family. iOS8 also has a “Find My iPhone” option in the iCloud. This can be very helpful, as it immediately connects to an Apple server and notifies you of your device’s location on request.

In accordance with Apple device convergence, iOS8 now also allows for Airdrop between iPhones and Macs, so you are able to receive calls on your computer. Finally, the loveable voice-based mobile intelligence assistant is now able to tell you what song is playing in a café or on the radio if you ask them nicely.