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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.

Apple announced partnerships with Nike, which isn't surprising, as well as with the Mayo Clinic and Epic Systems, a software provider for a host of major hospitals and healthcare organizations. The Mayo Clinic, for example, is developing an app that will let patients' doctors keep an eye on metrics like blood pressure and reach out if they see something that causes concern.

What about home automation?

Like HealthKit, Apple's HomeKit isn't a gadget. It isn't even an app — not yet, anyway. HomeKit is a set of APIs for third-party connected home companies to integrate devices like smart door locks, thermostats, lights, and appliances more deeply into iOS 8. That, in turn, could let you coordinate multiple devices from different companies and trigger actions with Siri. For example, telling Siri you're off to bed could prompt a series of automated actions that would check your doors, while cutting the lights and turning down the heat.

Apple is working with partners like Honeywell, Haier, August, Philips, Netatmo, Withings, and many others to develop a secure communication protocol that will let your iPhone talk to a wide range of devices without forcing you to use unitasker apps to control each gadget individually.

Android's got the ability to install third-party keyboards. Does iOS 8 finally add support for this?

Funny you should ask! In addition to upgrading the existing Apple keyboard with QuickType, Apple has opened up the keyboard for third-party alternatives. This allows companies who want to support different languages and alternative input methods with their keyboards to move to iOS. For example, Swype (which uses a system where you type by sliding your finger across the keys) appeared on a sample slide during the WWDC keynote.

Some keyboards send your data across the Internet to make auto-correct suggestions, which is scary if you don't want your keystrokes being logged by other people's servers. Apple will let third-party keyboards send your data, but only after asking — so if you don't like the idea of sharing what you type with others, you can say no.

What if I don't want a bunch of apps getting in my way or causing security problems?

As with most things on iOS, you'll be able to turn this stuff off in the Settings app. Apple says these new app options will be sandboxed and are designed to be very secure, but ultimately the control will be in your hands. If you want to tell an app to go away, you'll be able to do so in the Settings.

Can other apps use Touch ID?

Yes! In iOS 7, the touch sensor on the iPhone 5s could only be used to unlock the phone and approve purchases. But in iOS 8, apps can be updated to unlock themselves when the Touch ID sensor verifies a person's identity. The apps themselves won't get any access to your fingerprint data; that remains held in the "secure enclave" area of the iPhone's processor. But they'll get a thumbs-up message — so to speak! — when the fingerprint has been verified.


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