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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.

Email subscribers to a Microsoft Exchange server can be happy knowing that Mail now supports automatic replies for out of office notifications and that Mail is aware of free/busy status in Exchange calendars.

Mail also recognizes reservations, flight confirmations and other data. When this occurs, Mail sends a notification prompting you to add that data to a calendar event or its appropriate location.

Stay healthy

Before iOS 8, I was using TactioHealth to consolidate all of my health and fitness data from my assortment of devices and apps. Now, with the built-in HealthKit, Apple is offering a single repository for this data, which is then displayed in the app called Health using a customizable dashboard. Third party apps can tap into the data that resides there and also have the ability to add their own data.

HealthKit tracks all sorts of data, including active calories, blood glucose, body fat percentage, caffeine intake, cycling distance, flights climbed, heart rate, lean body mass, respiratory rate, steps taken throughout the day, walking and running distance, and even vitamin intake.

There is even a medical ID card that contains your information, including medical conditions, medical notes, allergies and reactions, medications and emergency contact information. All of this is opt in; the app doesn't go poking around for your data without your permission.

Apple is working with several hospitals on patient trials using the HealthKit services, according to Reuters. If this catches on, this could be huge for everyone.

Like HealthKit, HomeKit is a repository for specific data. Unlike HealthKit, HomeKit is focused on device data associated with home automation products. Devices with HomeKit support can even be operated with your voice, via Siri.

Continuity

One of the major features of iOS 8 won't be available to the general public until the arrival of OS X 10.10 (aka Yosemite), due in October. That's because the next set of features links iPhones and iPads with Apple's traditional Mac lineup in a set of features called Continuity. Continuity is made up of: Handoff, AirDrop, Automatic Hotspot, and, eventually, SMS relay.

Handoff is a great new feature in which your Apple devices are aware of what each is doing. If you need to switch to a different device, you can continue your work on that device automatically. For example, if you're browsing the Web on your Mac and decide to go outside, you can continue reading that webpage on the iPhone by swiping up the icon located on the lower left of the Lock Screen. That icon changes depending on what app you are using; swiping up on the icon will open whatever you were doing on the Mac on the iPhone, continuing your work on one device exactly where you left off on the other.

 

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