We (might) have got our answers to the most anticipated question(s) of the previous week. Did Apple deliver what many of us supposed it would? Given everything Apple introduced in their two-hour conference, this is not an easy question to answer.
The conference was as fitting as expected from a company that has mastered brand advertising. The new programming language Swift and continuity between iOS devices and OS X was their focus in many ways. However, apart from those “woah” reactions related to Swift, many are of the opinion that Apple didn’t introduce anything new. I believe that it is too early to speculate, for instance, the proportion of developers who will adapt Swift, and when, given different reactions. As for the iOS 8 features, it was about time Apple users get some of the great features Android users already enjoyed. With these new “little familiar” features Apple is surely reinforcing its brand, getting more into competition and probably preparing to introduce something truly new in the future.
So what are the big iOS 8 news we were so eager to hear and see?
Tim Cook described iOS 8 as a “giant release” and it was giant, in a certain way.
With interactive notifications, you can now reply to messages without leaving whatever app you are in. With double tap, you will be able to see people you communicate with most frequently. Notifications can be actioned even on the lock screen, for instance, with a calendar event, you can just swipe to respond. Third party apps are supported as well, so you can now “like” a photo on Facebook right from your home screen.
Mail got several features that will enable you to navigate better between messages. You can delete or flag an email with a swipe. You can also add items such as calendar without leaving the message, and perform another task by pulling down an email draft without closing it.
The most frequent app used in iOS, messages, got some important updates. You can name group threads, add or remove people or yourself from a conversation and mute chat as well. You can send audio or video message more easily, and if you don’t choose to keep the messages you receive, the messages will autodestruct (they take up so much space on iPhone). You can listen and reply to audio messages (from the lock screen) just by raising your iPhone to your ear. If you want to find your friends, you can share your location through messages, and show them where you are from an hour, for instance. The upgrades, as you can see are very similar to those of Snapchat and WhatsApp (Koum was flattered).
Quicktype is a new keyboard feature that lets you type faster than before by predicting typing selections. The feature will learn from you, and suggest personalized autocomplete text. This feature could potentially eliminate those embarrassing auto-correct errors.
Third-party keyboards are now available, one of the great advantages Android users had.
iOS 8 users are now able to add widgets to the iOS notification centre.
Siri is now accessible with just a voice command “Hey Siri”. The service got other improvements as well, enabling you to make iTunes purchases, for instance. It has also integrated Shazam song recognition, and support 22 more dictation languages.
Family Sharing is now linking Apple IDs. Up to six family members can now share iTunes content, as well as calendars, group messages and the like. You can get notifications if a family member wants to buy an app or in-app purchase, allowing you to approve or deny the purchase.
Apple got into fitness tracking space with a new service HealthKit, and a new app Health. The app will collect and display your health data collected from health tracking devices and other health-related apps. Since the Mayo Clinic is a partner, users will be able to contact medical professionals and to check the results, if they want to share their data.
With Photos app, all your photos are now stored on iCloud and with iCloud all your files are synchronizing across all of your Macy and iOS devices (and Windows). It is very similar to Dropbox, and you will be able to adjust photos (adjust light and colour, crop and straighten), and search by location, time, and album names. Storing those photos is not going to be free, however.
Spotlight now lets you search for the apps you own and those you don’t (on the App store). Not only will you be able to search for the content stored on your device, you can also search for news, songs, movies, restaurants, and more; the suggestions will integrate results from different sources.
AirDrop now works between iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, so you will be able to move documents and other items back and forth between your iPhone and Mac, receive caller ID on your Mac and pick up the call, dial straight from the computer or in general work from both devices.
Apple introduced centralized home-automation platform in iOS, HomeKit. You iPhone will be able to communicate with connected devices from various manufacturers in your home, and control things like the garage door, lights, the thermostat, and more. You can even use Siri to control those devices.
Will these features attract new users? Perhaps. Apple said that it has sold over 800 million iOS devices (100 million iPod touches, 200 million iPads, and over 500 million iPhones). At the conference, Cook emphasized that 130 million of those users were new, and that since the iOS 7 launch, more than 97 percent of users have upgraded to the latest iOS.
Regarding these features, we surely can see similarity with other services and apps, especially Dropbox, Snapchat and WhatsApp. Most of them are already featured in Android and some in Windows Phone.
Apple surely is catching up with some of the basic conveniences of today’s smartphones; however, whether these apps and features will overshadow its counterparts depends on time, and certainly on their efficiency. One thing is sure: when Apple tends to get something right, in time, they certainly do it right.