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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.

iPad users who also have iPhones will get one bonus feature, too: the ability to see and respond to SMS messages from non-iOS users.

Apps from other vendors

Are my apps going to be more powerful in iOS 8?

Boy, are they. In the past, apps were apps — when you saw them, you were in them. (Sometimes they would run in the background, but you couldn't see them then.) But in iOS 8, apps will be able to manifest visually in unusual ways — as widgets and by being projected into other apps.

What are widgets?

Widgets are miniature versions of apps that will run within Notification Center's Today view. When you install an app that contains a widget, Notification Center will let you add it to the Today pane. These are very simple interfaces through which apps can provide at-a-glance information — the latest baseball scores, say — within the Notification Center window. Apps will also be able to also provide links within the widget to launch the full app.

What do you mean that apps can project themselves into other apps?

You know how when you use the Photos app to email a picture, a Mail window slides in? You're still in the Photos app, yet some small portion of Mail has appeared inside of it. App projection is sort of like that. In iOS 8, apps will have the ability to launch small, short-lived services that extend functionality — for example, sharing content to a Web service, transforming data, photo editing, changing webpages in Safari, and hooking up with Internet storage providers.

I keep hearing about Apple's interest in health and fitness apps. Does iOS 8 have anything like that?

Rumors have swirled about Apple entering the crowded yet underwhelming wearables market. But the iOS 8 health announcements aren't intended to tie directly to one device. Rather, iOS 8 will connect many different health-related devices and apps.

iOS 8 will feature its own new app, Health, which is powered by a system called HealthKit. HealthKit is a set of tools for health and fitness apps to report your personal health information into a shared database. Connected medical devices will be able to pour data into the HealthKit database, as will apps. The Health app will be where users can get a comprehensive picture of their health, with a customizable dashboard that shows you the metrics you care about.

If Apple releases its own health-related device in the future, presumably it'll take full advantage of HealthKit, but there's no need to wait. Users can integrate data from whatever wearables and apps they're using now, and Apple doesn't have to pick a one-size-fits-all winner in a fragmented market.

 

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