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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.

As I mentioned earlier, Notification Center will now support third-party widgets and actionable alerts; additionally, the Sharing button can be customized with third-party actions and additional sharing options. For instance, developers can add actions like Translations or their own photo filters to Apple's Photos app. Documents and specific app data are available to other apps via secure APIs, so that data is no longer living in its own silo.

While the built-in keypad now provides contextually sensitive suggestions on a per-thread level, that's not the only news for virtual keyboard fans. Extensions offer support for additional third party keyboards as well, so expect a flood to hit the market shortly after iOS 8's release.

iOS 8 also opens up other possibilities for developers by allowing access to Touch ID results, as well as new directions for their apps with Camera, HealthKit, HomeKit, PhotoKit and CloudKit APIs. These new APIs grant developers access to specific aspects of the operating system without compromising user security.

Developers also have access to other underlying technologies called SpriteKit, SceneKit and Metal that should help create some amazing games. Finally, Apple has introduced Swift, a new programming language for building iOS apps.

Following up last year's successful iOS 7 launch couldn't have been easy. But overall, the new features in iOS 8 are really handy, and are implemented in ways that don't slow down the system or bog down the interface with clutter.

There are some features that Apple has taken longer to implement compared to its competition — such as the ability for apps to access each other's data or support for third-party keyboards — but Apple added these features without compromising on security by creating APIs specifically to address those shortcomings.

Bottom line

Do I recommend iOS 8? Like any first-release software, there are a few rough spots and lingering bugs — but for the most part, iOS 8 is as responsive and snappy as iOS 7 before it.

iOS 8 introduces some new features that you will be using on daily basis, including the handy actionable notifications and — when Yosemite is released in October — all of the features under Continuity. Many people will love the fact that applications are now allowed to extend the operating system beyond Apple's original specs, and still others will like Apple's new health-tracking initiatives.

There is no doubt iOS 8 is packed full of really handy features, and other than the obligatory warning regarding first-release software, I can sincerely recommend upgrading to iOS 8.


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