Apple just recently debuted the newest version of their mobile operating system; iOS 8 last week alongside the launch of the iPhone 6 & iPhone 6 Plus. In iOS releases of years past, users were greeted with improved performance, UI element changes and a feature or two here and there. But iOS 8 brings much more than that.
This is the first release of iOS where it seems that Apple has relieved some tension in their iron grip of their walled garden approach. Users are able to take advantage of features such as:
- Predictive text on the Apple Keyboard
- Third party keyboard support
- Interactive Notifications
- Touch ID Integration
- Inter-App communications (Probably the biggest feature to date)
(Image: Top keyboard is with predictive text. Bottom keyboard is without.)
This is a feature that existed on Android for a very long time now. Many iOS users have been wishing for this feature for many years. It allows the user to download and install a variety of keyboards created by third party companies. These keyboards are offered in the App Store and can add functionality not available on the stock iOS keyboard. These features include: Swipe input, themes, multiple language input and predictive input (which is now available natively as well). Some popular third party keyboards include: SwiftKey, Swype & Minuum.
The notification center has been a great feature for glancing at incoming alerts without having to open each individual app. This functionality has now been expanded to include the ability to action those alerts. For example, if a user receives a text message, he/she can now instantly reply directly from the Notification Center rather than having to open the SMS application. This functionality surpasses that of Android's Notification Shade.
Widgets are an entirely new feature for iOS. They provide glanceable information from various apps that support widgets so you don't have to open those same applications as often to see refreshed data. This is useful for things like sports scores, stocks, upcoming appointments, etc. Android users are familiar with widgets but the implementation of them in iOS is not what you would expect. The widgets can only live in the Notification Center. This means that they cannot exist on home screens like they do in Android. It's a limited approach but it's a start.
Touch ID was previously only available to be used to unlock the phone and with Apple created apps. Now developers have the ability to extend Touch ID integration with their own apps. This means you can use apps like 1Password, PayPal, Amazon, etc and just use your fingerprint to log into those services rather than having to remember individual passwords. This will bring a whole new ease of use to many apps and services.
Apple has finally adopted the Near Field Communication standard with the introduction of NFC on the iPhone 6, 6 Plus and Apple Watch. The NFC radio will only be used for Apple Pay, the company's own mobile payment solution (at least at first). This service is comparable to Google's Wallet offering on select Android devices/carriers. It will allow users to link their credit cards with their Apple account and simply tap their phone or Apple Watch on a retailers NFC reader to complete a transaction. The details of the transaction are invisible to the retailer so that your credit card information should not be compromised. This is a big move forward for Apple. NFC payments have not really taken off due to many competing standards but now that Apple has released their own iteration this should help the adoption rate climb. The Apple Pay system is expected to launch in October 2014 in select regions.
Personally, I have been waiting for this functionality to hit iOS for a very long time. It's one of the most used features of mine while using Android. To put it simply, this feature allows a user to share data from one app to another. For example if I took a picture using a camera app and wanted to share it to Facebook, previously I would have to exit the camera app, open Facebook and then manually share the image. Now you can simply share directly from the camera app directly to Facebook without having to manually do so. Developers will have to update their apps to include this new functionality.
In conclusion, I believe all of these newly announced features will bring renewed interest into iOS. I would even say that it will lure some Android users over to the "dark side" as it were. Apple has played a lot of catch-up with Android and from an Android power user such as myself, I wouldn't mind giving iOS a second chance. I still can't customize iOS to the same degree I do my Android devices but the iPhone would make for a much more useful daily driver device compared to previous years.