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iPhone 6: The little things make it a real star

Galen Gruman | Sept. 23, 2014
The iPhone 6 is the first major redesign of the Apple iPhone since 2010's iPhone 4. The design is new, with the aluminum side band gone and the glass and aluminum halves directly welded for a sleeker, less-industrial look. The iPhone 6 is also bigger, a long-desired improvement in screen real estate. That's normal change in the smartphone world.

Widgets now can live in the Notification Center. The revamped Notification Center has a separate pane, called Today, for widgets. It shows a summary of the current weather and your day's calendar. To that you can add more widgets; scroll to the bottom of the screen and tap Edit to add or remove them. All apps that have widgets dozens already do, from Evernote to Dropbox automatically add those widgets to this screen. A lot of widgets are just quick launchers for their apps, but a few are actually useful, such as those for Yahoo Weather and iTranslate.

iPhone widgets The Notification Center's Today screen is where widgets can be added to or removed from.

Keyboards go crazy. Speaking of widgets, iOS 8 also supports extensions, which lets apps interact directly under iOS's supervision. The Box and Dropbox cloud services now have extensions, so app developers can more easily enable direct file access to their services, for example. But the early extensions are mainly alternative keyboards. I don't get the obsession some folks have over custom keyboards, but what the hey now you can get them.

Speaking of keyboards, a change I really dislike in iOS 8 is the new emoji keyboard that's enabled by default. The key appears near the spacebar, where it's easy to tap by accident. Unless you live in social media, it's more junk to wade through. You can remove it in the Settings app's General pane's Keyboard section. (I did.)

iOS 8 also offers the QuickType feature that suggests words above the keyboard as you type, so you can select the one you mean before typing it out. It's a feature you'll love or hate, because it can be as distracting as it is helpful. (To disable it, set the Predictive switch to Off in the Keyboards section of the Settings app's General pane.) Here's a tip: You can temporarily hide the QuickType bar by dragging it down, then drag it back up when you want it again rather than disabling it.

The Handoff feature is subtler than you might think. The big foundational new capability is iOS 8's Handoff, enabled by default in the Settings app's General pane. I love the idea of Handoff, which lets you start an activity on one device and pick up where you left off on another a key enabler of the emerging trend I call liquid computing.

But Handoff works subtly, and it's easy to overlook. First, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi have to be turned on, and any devices you want to use it with need to be signed into the same iCloud account. The devices must also be in Bluetooth range of each other. When you start an activity in a compatible app on one device, the other devices "know" that and offer to take over that activity.


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