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iOS 8 packs some snappy new features

Michael deAgonia | Sept. 18, 2014
It's almost fall again, and so Apple has released the next generation of software that powers its mobile lineup: iOS 8. As always, this is a free update, and it packs new features and enhancements, both obvious and subtle.

Once the upgrade is complete and the device rebooted, a multi-language Welcome screen will be displayed. Perform a Slide-to-Unlock swipe and Apple's Setup Assistant will guide you through the process of connecting to a Wi-Fi network and enabling Location Services. If you chose to perform a Restore, this is where you'll see options to set your device up as new or to restore from a backup via iCloud or iTunes.

A similar interface

Like iOS 7, iOS 8 is designed in layers, with views zooming you in and out of your content, interface overlays influenced by personalized backgrounds, and the parallax effect creating the illusion of graphics subtly residing on separate planes.

Last year, the Lock Screen was revamped for a far cleaner look and allowed users to swipe anywhere on the screen to call up the Home or passcode screen. In iOS 8, the Lock Screen gets additional functionality without added clutter.

One of the highlights is the new Interactive Notifications. These are notifications with optional action items, allowing you to perform specific functions without opening the app itself. An interactive notification can be activated by swiping to the right on the Lock Screen, bringing up contextually pertinent actions. For instance, an email notification, when swiped to the right, will allow you to respond to or dismiss the notification; you can also Mark as Read, Trash or dismiss the notification.

Starting in iOS 8, Apple has created APIs that allow developers to extend the functionality of some system functions, including — but not limited to — these interactive notifications. For example, the recent Apple keynote showed Facebook notifications with options to Like or respond to a post from within the notification. But I'll get to more of this in a bit.

I've run into one annoyance with the new interactive notification, specifically as implemented by the Messages app: Notifications do not update if you receive another email while you're responding. Nitpicky? Sure, but it would be nice to see the next message when responding to a specific thread. Otherwise, this is a useful step in the right direction.

Now is a good time to note that the Messages app has received some welcome new features, including the ability to name group messages, add and remove people from group threads, and — best of all — the ability to enable Do Not Disturb on a per-chat basis or leave a group chat altogether.

To the upper right of a message, there is a new Details button that, when tapped, brings you to information about the contact and the conversation. It also shows you more ways to communicate with your contact (including phone/audio/FaceTime calls), share your location, mute the conversation and review the attachments shared in the conversation in one location.


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