Disclaimer: I’ve said this many a time – I’m an Apple fanboy. Over the years, I’ve bought, in the following order, an iPod Touch, a Macbook Pro, an iPhone 4, an iPad 2 and an iPhone 5. My family has countless more Apple devices.
WWDC – World Wide Developers Conference, to the uninitiated – is one of Apple’s 2 annual events where they announce software and hardware updates. While WWDC is usually reserved for software news, it has been the site product launches in the recent past. Not so this time around. WWDC’s 25th edition was all about software.
In what Apple CEO Tim Cook called the ‘biggest release since the App Store’, Apple introduced to the world OS X Yosemite and iOS 8. Most significantly for iOS 8, they announced a new programming language, a new refined and more powerful SDK, Health and Home Kits and several other tweaks. Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s get down to the good and the bad. In reverse.
THE BAD – Apple iOS 8
There’s this incessant feeling that Apple has started playing catch up when it comes to features in it’s mobile OS. Admittedly, Apple was the pioneer of the smartphone – touch, apps, App Store, etc. But, due credit to Android which has stolen a march over iOS in recent years.
Here are some more features that Apple’s iOS 8 seems to have ‘borrowed’ from others.
1. Predictive Typing and Third-Party Keyboards
Along with offering phone-wide access to third party keyboard apps, Apple introduced a new feature to it’s own keyboard. The feature known as Quick Type will provide predictive typing suggestions when using the stock iOS keyboard. As you’re typing, you’ll begin to see word suggestions just above your keyboard. This has been around on Android for quite some time now, what with third party keyboard providers like Swype, Fleksy, SwiftKey. In fact, this predictive typing has also been available as part of the stock Android keyboard.
The one tweak to this feature, which is different from Android and other third party keyboards is it’s adaptive nature. The word suggestions are contextually tailored to your conversation. As shown in the demo, if your friend messages you to ask whether you want to see a movie or have dinner; the suggestions will include ‘a movie’, ‘dinner’ and ‘neither’. If you’re in a group chat with your friends you’ll see ‘epic’, ‘cool’, ‘awesome’; while on a formal mail, you’ll see suggestions that are more workplace-suitable.
2. Mail swipe actions
Swipe left to mark as unread. Swipe right for Mark/Trash/More. Swipe further right fro Trash. Mailbox, anyone?
There are many who loved Mailbox and used it faithfully until the app faced security issues. While the issues have since been sorted out, users have not returned to Mailbox in droves. Despite that, these admittedly powerful features probably won’t sit well with a few.
3. iMessage – Video, Audio and Media
You could always share photos via iMessage. Now, with iOS 8, you can also send Audio messages, Video messages and share your location. No wonder Whatsapp CEO Jon Koum is not happy with Apple.
very flattering to see Apple “borrow” numerous WhatsApp features into iMessage in iOS 8 #innovation
— jan koum (@jankoum) June 2, 2014
Users stick to Whatsapp for 1 overwhelming, basic reason – cross-platform functionality. I wonder if adding the above features will entice users to shift allegiance.
Worth a mention is that you can raise the phone to listen to an audio message and raise it again to respond. And, we like that!
4. iMessage – Self destructing messages
All rich media iMessages will self-destruct in 2 minutes unless you save them.
Snapchat’s diplomatic response: “It’s exciting to see other companies begin to embrace deletion by default”.
5. Hands-free Siri
There were quite a few people, myself included, who bought the Android-based Moto X solely for the always-listening feature. A user need only say “Okay, Google” for the phone to perk up and await a set of instructions to follow. These could be to set a reminder, send a message or open an app, search online, etc.
iPhone users, rejoice (again, myself included)! You can now say “Hey, Siri” to initiate the same actions.
6. Continuity – Messages and Calls on Mac
Again, something that’s been available on Android. Connect your phone to your laptop/desktop – see notifications, receive messages and reply to messages, take calls and make calls. iOS 8 will now enable Apple users to connect their iPhones to their Macs and take advantage of these functions. All under the umbrella of a feature set called ‘Continuity’ – more on that later.
7. Battery Usage by App, Travel Time Notifications
Android to iPhone switchers miss dearly the depth on information that was available to them with respect to app-specific usage of the phone’s battery. They need not despair any longer.
Apple has also decided to encroach on Google Now by providing travel time notifications to users. Based on your calendar appointments’ location, you will get information regarding when to leave so as to reach in time.
THE GOOD – Apple iOS 8
The list of the Good is longer than that of the Bad. And, that is the reason iOS 8 was not a complete failure. In no order of magnitude or relevance, here it is.
1. Interactive Notifications
Taking a cue from Android, but notably taking it forward are the interactive notifications. iOS 8 will now let you respond directly to notifications from the Notification Centre, the Lock Screen and even when using another app without leaving the said app. These interactions are not limited to Apple’s own applications. Users can like or comment on Facebook posts, bid on eBay products, respond to messages and more.
2. Continuity – Handoff
For an individual like me, who owns a Mac, an iPad and iPhone, this feature is a godsend! Your Apple devices will henceforth be aware of other linked devices in the vicinity. Further, they will also know the exact action you’re performing on that device. This will provide you the opportunity to actually experience ‘seamless integration’. If you begin typing a mail on your iPhone and realise it’s probably going to be long; move to your Mac – there, on your screen, will be a prompt to open the Mail app with the said draft waiting for you. Similarly, if you’re viewing a website on a Mac and would now rather sit back and peruse it; look at your iPad – there in the bottom left corner (like the camera on the right) will be the prompt. Thank you, iOS 8!
3. Continuity – AirDrop
Finally, a feature everybody’s been asking for! Macs have had AirDrop for years, iOS got it with the iOS 7 last year. Strangely, they could not connect to each other! Now they can.
4. Health Kit
iOS 8 will include Health Kit which will collect your data from various third party apps and keep track of your daily activities. Users will have access to the integrated information via the Health application. If you choose to do so, you can pass on this information to your doctor who will be able to keep regular tabs on your health and be alert to the possibility of any medical conditions. Nifty!
5. Home Kit
Along with Health Kit, Home Kit is Apple’s second attempt at controlling a particular genre of applications. Home Kit’s SDK will aggregate third party ‘Internet of Things’ applications in one place, while providing users the ability to command their phone to switch off the porch light. It is indeed an interesting move, in that they are looking to own the genre on a macro level rather than create the ground applications for controlling physical objects. Unlike Google, which went and bought Nest for over $3 billion.
6. Family Sharing
Who would want to purchase an app ten times for ten different Apple devices? While my personal devices may have the same Apple ID, my sister and parents are unnecessarily expending on applications I’ve already purchased. iOS 8 helps resolve this in an easier manner than was earlier available (authorising users). With Family Sharing, you can share applications as long as the 6 (maximum) member share the same credit card. It will also prompt parents to approve their kids’ purchases.
The one announcement that got the loudest cheer from the crowd – Apple’s new programming language Swift. In layman’s terms, Swift will be the code developers will henceforth use to build applications for iOS 8. These applications have been proved to be 93x faster than those built on Objective C – the language currently used.
While the iPhone already has some inter-app functionality, Extensibility on iOS 8 will take it a giant leap forward. To protect your iPhone from malware, the applications have so far been built in silos preventing interaction. However, iOS 8 will allow these applications to work with each other, albeit through the iOS’ security block thereby ensuring privacy protection. As an example of the power of this feature, Apple demo-ed how Safari could use a Bing Translate extension to change the text on a Japanese website into English. Extensibility will also enable developers to create widgets for iOS, which will appear in the device’s notification center.
The Photos App in iOS 8 will have advanced editing features, such as level adjustments and straightening. These will now be synced across your devices using the new iCloud Drive, better and faster than ever before. The edits made will be pushed to all devices with only the final version surviving everywhere.
10. Revamped App Store
As part of revamping the App Store, Apple will introduce initiatives such as app bundling, video introductions and even offer TestFlight within the broader App Store framework. TestFlight is a hitherto independent application that allows users to try out early versions of apps before their official release, and developers to gain valuable feedback in the process. The App Store will also feature an Explore section where users can dig into categories and sub-categories of applications.
So, that covers the most significant updates to iOS 8 announced by Apple yesterday. The OS itself will only be available to users in the Fall. Of course, there were significant improvements made to OS X via Yosemite. But, that’s worth another post in itself.
I’d love to get your feedback. What did you think of iOS 8? The innovative feature set and the ‘borrowed’ features.
Images Courtesy: theverge.com, mashable.com, thenextweb.com