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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.

The Messages app now has some handy shortcuts for sending pictures, sound bites and videos, but the caveat is that these features are only enabled when contacting users who have the iMessage service. If your recipient has a device that only uses SMS, then the Messages interface remains the same as before, lacking the quick shortcuts for sending audio or video new in iOS 8. That doesn't mean videos and pictures can't be sent; it just means that contacts relying on SMS do not show the updated interface.

When you are using the iMessage service, there is a camera and a microphone icon to the left and right respectively of the Messages text input area. Holding down the microphone automatically initiates a recording session, enabling you to give a quick spoken reply. When finished, without lifting your thumb, you can swipe left with your thumb to delete, or swipe up with your thumb to send.

The recipient will receive an audio file inline in the text conversation. This file displays as an audio waveform that can be played by tapping a play button. The message can also be played from the Lock Screen by simply raising the phone; the iPhone will sense the gesture and automatically play the message once you place the phone to your ear. From here, you can respond, and when you lower your iPhone, your voice response is automatically sent.

After using it over the summer, I found this to be a truly neat and welcome way to communicate, with all of the benefits of texting (such as the ability to pause and think before replying) without the pesky texting part.

Videos and pictures can be quickly recorded and sent, too. To send a picture, press and hold the camera icon to the left of the entry field, point at your subject, and then swipe up with your thumb. With this motion, the iPhone will take a picture and then automatically send it to your recipient.

To send a video, tap and hold the camera icon and slide your thumb to the right; the video will automatically start recording. To send the video, lift your thumb and tap to stop recording. Tap the up icon to send or the X button to cancel. As with the audio messages, recipients will receive the pictures and movies in the conversation text, and they'll have the option to keep or delete the media.

By default, incoming audio and video messages are set to self-destruct within two minutes unless the settings have been changed under Settings: Messages.

One last update to Messages (and this actually applies to all updated apps): There's a new photo picker featuring a much larger photo preview. When the photo picker is active, you can scroll through some recent photos from left to right, allowing you to select and send multiple photos and videos.


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