It’s that time of year once again. The latest version of Apple’s smartphone operating system, iOS 8, is now a reality for owners of the iPhone 4S and above, iPad 2 and above, and the fifth-gen iPod touch. And with Apple boldly claiming that it’s the “The biggest iOS release ever”, there’s plenty to talk about, right? Right?
Well, I had intended putting together a Top X features of iOS 8 type article, but, after some quiet contemplation, figured I’d spend a few moments instead suggesting that it’s maybe not such a big deal after all.
Cast your minds back to this time last year, and you’ll remember that iOS 7 proved hugely divisive – almost unsettling for some who were stuck in their iOS 6 ways.
See, iOS 7 introduced a new, clean, “flat” design, with controversially revamped icons, and oodles of fancy new features: Control Center with toggles for functions like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth (I use the flashlight toggle every night when I'm going to bed), multitasking with preview windows, access to Notification Center from the lock screen… It genuinely was the biggest change in iOS since it first raised its head in 2007.
So again, when Apple says iOS 8 is “The biggest iOS release ever”, we’d surely be forgiven for expecting big changes. Why, then, am I sitting looking at iOS 8 wondering: ‘Eh, what’s new here?’
Indeed, if I hadn’t applied the update myself, if someone else had sneakily installed it on my behalf, there’s very little that would’ve made me think: ‘What’s going on here?! WHAT AM I LOOKING AT?!’
But wait! Here comes Apple with a guided tour of what’s new in iOS 8. Let’s check it out.
1. Quickly respond to a notification. Fair enough, that means you don’t have to leave the app you’re in to send a reply. Good.
2. Send an audio message. You mean, like, break a conversation up into lots of tiny little parts? I’m not convinced this will be of much use in everyday life, and there’s the obvious concern of looking like a knob – quite frankly – if you’re sitting sending audio messages on the train, for example. A bit like voice search, essentially.
3. Quickly manage your mail. This pertains to new options when you swipe left or right in the inbox, but for me, the big change in iOS 8 Mail is the ability to shove a draft down to the bottom of the screen while you navigate through your mail – that’s without having to banish your composition to drafts. Just tap to restore it. Lovely.
4. Siri knows the tune. Shazam.
5. Get reply notifications. Again, I’m not sure how much I’ll use this, but I can accept it might be quite handy if you’re waiting for a reply to a particularly important email. Maybe more of an enterprise feature?
6. Reach your favourite people. Double tap the Home button to see recent contacts. From there you can tap on a contact then tap on a method of communication. It’s arguably quicker just to go straight into Messages or Phone, but I like how Apple is using that formerly free space in the multitasking screen.
7. See when a message was sent. (By dragging message bubbles to the left). We could do that in iOS 7, you cheeky devils. Nice of Apple to point out the functionality though. A lot of people seemingly weren’t aware it existed.
8. Share it with the family. My mates are eager to get onboard with my iTunes account so they can share all the apps I get review codes for. I’m surprised that this functionality exists (how does Apple benefit?), and that it’s so open, but no complaints here.
9. Take selfies on a timer. Selfies, bleurgh. Always good being able to take timed shots though. Oh, and this works with the rear camera, too.
10. Quickly type internet addresses. Hold full stop for shortcuts to .co.uk and .com and stuff. The main keyboard is of more interest, with suggested/predicted words already proving helpful.
Yeah, so, iOS 8 isn’t that big a deal, but while nothing really screams “THIS IS NEW!” (other than the keyboard), there are – admittedly – useful features here and there.
Maybe I’ll revisit iOS 8 once I’ve spent a few weeks with it. In the meantime, if you’ve any thoughts – good or bad, feel free to let us know below.