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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.

Another benefit: Family Sharing automatically creates a shared family photo album and family calendar across your devices and automatically links family members with the Find My Friends app and service.

Perhaps the most useful feature for parents is this: When someone under the Family Sharing plan tries to buy something, parents get a notification that must be approved before the purchase and download can begin. This means no more accidental runs on your credit card due to purchases from children.

Support for iCloud — Apple's umbrella term for a set of Internet services used to silently sync data across your Apple devices — has been beefed up in a very visible way. iCloud now has a modifiable file system in which you can create and store documents and other data. This new feature, called iCloud Drive, is essentially like a built-in DropBox for iOS and Mac users.

Like before, documents can be started on one device and finished on another, with all changes and edits applied across your other devices; the main difference is that you can create folders and arrange the data as you would any other directory on your Mac or on your iOS device via the in-app document picker. Even better: iCloud Drive is accessible not just on your Apple devices, but on your Windows PC, as well.

Search and Mail improvements

Spotlight's search functionality has been expanded to display a new range of search results. Right from the Home screen, Spotlight can search for applications in the App Store, Wiki entries and map data for nearby places, as well as news stories. You can still search for content — like songs, TV shows, and books — but now the search shows results for matches on the iTunes Stores, too, and data like movie show times.

Mail gains some useful new features as well. For instance, you can delete, flag or mark an email as read using gestures. Swiping a finger all the way to the left on an email in the mail list deletes it, while a slow swipe to the left brings up options to Flag, Trash or access more functions, including reply, forward, move to junk, and the option to be notified if anyone replies to that email thread.

Swiping across an email to the right brings up the option to Mark as Read (or Unread, depending on the message status). This is a customizable option under Settings>Mail, Contacts, Calendars>Swipe Options, but there aren't many options to choose from. You can either Mark as Read/Unread or flag the email using the swipes; I would have really loved to see an option to Move to Junk. I think I would have used that feature more than anything else on the iPhone, actually.


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