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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.


Speaking of photos, the Photos app also gets welcome updates.

Located at the top right of the Photo app, just to the left of the Select button, there is now a Spotlight icon (Spotlight is the iOS search engine). This allows you to search for photos using location and dates, which should help you find that specific picture you're looking for. The Photo search field automatically includes recent results as well as some smart searches of recent photos. Interestingly, photo results are not available when a Spotlight search is conducted from the Home screen.

The Photos app has gained some new editing features, too. When you select the Edit button on the upper right, the button is replaced by a magic wand icon, which automatically adjusts your photo to what it interprets as optimal levels. Generally, this auto-enhance feature does a good job bringing out colors and compensating for common lighting errors.

Near the bottom of the screen, there are buttons to Cancel the editing mode, Crop, Filters, Manual Adjustments and an option to Revert back to the original photo. Each button does what you would think; the Manual Adjustments button lets you tweak light, color and other settings using a simple drag-to-adjust mechanism that automatically adjusts specific parameters such as Exposure, Brightness, Shadows, Contrast and more. These settings can also be manually fine-tuned, if you're inclined to tweak by hand. During editing, if you wish to see a before and after comparison of the photo, just press and hold your finger on the picture; the software will display the original file.

Within the Photos app, just above the Home button, there is an icon in the shape of a heart. Tapping this heart will automatically make that photo a Favorite and store that photo in a Favorites album on this device — and the Favorites album of every device that your Apple ID is linked to.

Given that the iPhone — and smartphones like it — went a long way to killing the consumer digital camera market, it only makes sense that Apple engineers would figure out ways to make photo-taking better.

One of the enhancements built into the Camera app is the option for a self-timer. Previously, this was available in third-party applications like Gorilla Cam, but it's a welcome feature to have built in. The icon is located at the top menu to the left of the Camera Flip button. When tapped, the icon slides out of the way to reveal a 3- or 10-second countdown option. When either option is selected, the Self-Timer changes to reflect the change, which is helpful in determining at a glance if the Timer feature is on or off. Press the shutter to begin the countdown, with the remaining time in the countdown displaying on screen. Pressing the shutter button while the timer counts down cancels picture-taking process.


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