Significant changes are coming to iOS this fall, many of which promise improvements for those who use their iPad for work or play.
As has become a tradition, Apple used the keynote speech from its annual World Wide developer conference to demonstrate the next version of its mobile operating system. The actual release isn’t scheduled until this fall, and all the details of the new features won’t be known until later.
The iOS hides its file system from users, a boon to those getting their first iPad but a frustration for power users. This latter group should rejoice at the announcement of iCloud Drive, which will take all the files stored on an iOS and OS X device and automatically upload them to an online service. Each iOS app will have its own folder.
While the iPhone certainly has its place, working on a small screen can be frustrating. Those who start an email on their iPhone and then wish they could easily hand it off to their iPad will be able to do so with iOS 8. And Apple’s new Continuity feature will also display SMS messages from non Apple phones in iMessenger on an iPad, so chats can continue on whichever device the user prefers.
Another goal of Continuity is to make it much easier for people to turn their iPhone into a hotspot for their iPad.
With the newest version of the Mail app that will be bundled with iOS 8, Apple is making it much easier to flag messages or mark them as unread with finger motions in the message list.
And users will be able to flick the email they are writing down off the screen so they can access other messages, then bring the message back up with another flick of their finger.
Apple is redesigning some of the aspects of the Safari web browser. The next version will be able to display a collection of thumbnails to show tabs open in the background. A left column is also being added for favorites, reading list, and shared links.
Last month, there was a rumor that iOS 8 would include split-screen multitasking… a rumor that turned out to be false. Still, Apple has begun taking down some of the barriers between applications. The next version of this operating system will allow two iOS apps to directly communicate. Today’s keynote demoed one of the possibilities, with Bing Translate converting the text on a webpage displayed in Safari from Japanese to English.
This feature will also enable system-wide replacement on-screen keyboards, so users will no longer be forced to use only Apple’s.
In addition, developers will be able to create widgets that run in the Notification Center.
To encourage iHouseholds, iOS 8 will allow up to six individuals who all share a single credit card to access each other’s apps, book, music, video, etc. This can be configured so that a parent has to approve any purchases made by their children, and these approvals can be made remotely from a iPad or iPhone.
Family Sharing will also include a group calendar.
Apple says Messages is its most-used app, and it is getting a range of new features, such as the ability to send a audio recording or the user’s location.
In iOS 8, users will be able to respond to notifications without leaving the app they are in. For example, users will be able to append a response to an incoming text message directly to the notification that the message has arrived.
Those who use the Siri voice-control system while driving should be pleased to hear that Apple is adding the ability to say “Hey Siri” and then begin issuing commands or questions without the need to touch the tablet or phone. The service will also be able to identify songs and buy tracks.
Apple is also adding predictive typing to the keyboard.
Apple has promised that users of every tablet from the iPad 2 to the latest iPad Air will support iOS 8, although not every model will support every feature.
The upgrade is going to be available for free.