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iOS 8 FAQ: What we know so far about Apple's next-generation mobile OS

Macworld staff | June 4, 2014
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.

When you double-press the Home button (or use a gesture on the iPad) to open the multitasking interface, a new row of icons will appear atop your recently-used apps: avatars of people you've recently communicated with; if you scroll to the right, you'll get your Favorites list. From there, if you tap one of those photos, you'll get quick access to buttons to call, message, or FaceTime that person.

What's this about a new and improved Spotlight?

Though OS X Yosemite is getting the biggest improvements in its search tools, iOS 8 is getting its fair share, too. Now, when you search in Spotlight, you'll be able to access inline Wikipedia information; news; Maps data for nearby places; results from Apple's iTunes, iBooks, and App Stores; suggested websites for your query; and movie showtimes — all in addition to the contacts, email, messages, apps, and music that already appear in search results. The same engine will be built into the new Safari's toolbar, too, so you can choose to do searches there instead.

Are there any improvements to Siri?

Apple's virtual assistant got only a short nod in the keynote, but there are a few cool new improvements coming in iOS 8. For one thing, Siri promises to become even more responsive. When your phone's plugged in, you'll be able to get Siri's attention without even pressing the Home button: Just yell, "Hey, Siri," followed by your command, and the phone will come to attention. If you're thinking this will eat up battery life, don't worry: the device needs to be plugged in.

Even if your device isn't charging, though, you'll still be able to access some of Siri's other tricks: It will now recognize words as you say them, rather than waiting until you've completed your sentence; you'll be able to use Shazam technology to have Siri listen to and identify music (and buy that song from iTunes if you're so inclined); and, if you're a foreign language speaker, Siri will soon be available in 22 additional languages.

Is AirPlay any better?

Those who use the Apple TV as a presentation device (or a good way to share slideshows at your friend's house) will be excited about iOS 8's peer-to-peer AirPlay discovery/playback service, which will let you AirPlay video and mirror your device's display to an Apple TV without connecting to a Wi-Fi network. It's a neat way to share projects, photos, or video without fussing with network passwords.

What's Family Sharing? Is it multi-user?

Family Sharing — due to debut with OS X Yosemite — should bring a measure of sanity to households full of Apple devices. The idea is simple: You have multiple people in your home and just as many Macs, iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches. Each member of the family will be able to join the Family Sharing group (up to six people are allowed), which will be associated with a single credit card. That done, any member of this group will be able to download almost any media bought by any other member of the group, without sharing Apple IDs or passwords. (Apple has indicated that not all media will be eligible for sharing.)


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