Given iOS 7's major visual overhaul last year, it wouldn't have been surprising if Apple decided to take a step back and focus on small under-the-hood improvements in iOS 8. But that didn't happen: iOS 8 looks like it'll be every bit the game-changer that its predecessor was.
But this time, the focus is on system features and app improvements more than visual tweaks. In particular, the impending update will see a seismic foundational shift in the way apps communicate with each other, opening the door to a richer, more colorful experience for all Apple's mobile users.
Make no mistake: There's a lot of new stuff in iOS 8. Here's what we know about it so far.
When is iOS 8 coming out?
Apple says "this fall." If the pattern of recent years holds, Apple will hold a press event in the fall announcing new iPhone and iPad models, and iOS 8 will come out a few days before those new devices hit the market. If we were to venture a guess, we'd say sometime around the middle of September — that would give Apple time to get its new mobile devices in stores before the holiday shopping season begins in earnest. But again, that's just an educated guess.
What devices will it run on?
Essentially everything from the iPhone 4s onward: The iPhone 4 won't run iOS 8, but the iPad 2 — and its technological twin, the iPad mini without a Retina display — will. iOS 8 will also run on the fifth-generation iPod touch.
So what's new in iOS 8?
How much time do you have? There will be new photo features, big changes in Messages, predictive typing, the first major update to the iOS keyboard, iCloud and iTunes improvements, support for health apps and home automation, an improved version of Spotlight, and much, much more. And then there are Apple's Continuity features, which will mate the Mac and iOS devices in a whole bunch of interesting ways.
OK, so explain: What's this Continuity?
Continuity will connect your work across multiple devices with little to no effort on your part. That will include things like: seamless file transfers using AirDrop across Macs and iOS; accessing files from iCloud Drive from any device; answering phone calls coming into your iPhone on your Mac; sending SMS messages from an iPad or Mac; starting an email on one device and finishing it on another; and more. Apple previewed Continuity's feature set using its own built-in applications, but it looks as though third-party apps will be able to build in support for the feature, too.
Wait, wait — iCloud Drive? Does iOS 8 finally get a file system?
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