As another year goes by we see a new iPhone and a new version of iOS to accompany it. We also got a preview of the Apple Watch which will be going on sale next year. Our reviews of both new iPhones will be coming soon, with a look at new iOS features specific to those devices like ApplePay. But with iOS 8 rolling out today to millions of existing iOS users across the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch, it's worth taking a look at what Apple is bringing to the users that are already in the iOS ecosystem. 

This year brings the eighth iteration of Apple's mobile operating system, and with it comes features that users and developers have desired on iOS for many years. On the surface, iOS 8 seems like a minor update compared to the massive visual overhaul that iOS 7 brought. Indeed, there's no new design language, and no enormous changes to existing apps. But under the hood, with its features for application extensibility and continuity across the devices in Apple's ecosystem, it's a massive update that will be revealed over time as developers begin to take advantage of Apple's new features and APIs. If iOS 7 was the biggest update for users since the original launch of iOS and the iPhone 7 years ago, then iOS 8 is the biggest update for developers since the launch of iOS (at the time called iPhone OS) 2.0 and the App Store.

What's unique about iOS is the developer beta process that Apple runs in the time between announcement and release. While Google has taken a step into this area with the Android L developer preview, and Microsoft provides betas for Windows Phone 8.1, no mobile operating system operates on the 2 week beta schedule that iOS does. This cycle is interesting because it gives insight into Apple's development process on a smaller scale than looking at the changes from one major version of iOS to another. With iOS 7, developers became even more involved with this process as Apple began to really listen to the feedback given by people beta testing their software.

For example, the font weighting that we currently have is much heavier than what was originally demoed at WWDC back in 2013. It took many betas for Apple to eventually settle on what was a good balance between appearance and legibility. Likewise with iOS 8, I have observed many changes as Apple has gone through the different beta versions. The design of contact circles in the app switcher went through three or four different versions before Apple eventually settled on their current appearance. The buttons in Notification Center had a similar number of changes. Unfortunately, even when using iOS 8 betas on a daily basis it's difficult to keep track of all the changes made over time. What's most important to consumers is the end product though, and so with the exception of some features like SMS Relay, this review takes a look at the changes when making the jump from iOS 7.1.2 to iOS 8.0.

With that all said, lets dive into iOS 8, starting with the app that users use most.

Messages, Mail, and Recent Contacts
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  • MykeM - Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - link

    It's installing in my 2 year old iPhone 5. One feature I'm looking forward to is Extensibility. It would be much simpler than my current method of automation using either Drafts or Launch Centre Pro (x-callback-url).

    My only fear is performance degradation due to my older hardware. But I saw very little performance hit when switching from iOS 6 to iOS 7 despite leaving the graphics feature (gaussian blur and animation) ON and using Background App Refresh on quite a number of apps.

    Look forward to reading this review tonight. And once AT releases the iPhone 6 review, I will then decide if it's worth investing in a new phone.
    Reply
  • greg zx - Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - link

    "While I have used iCloud Drive, I cannot show any screenshots of it as they would have to be from the section in the Finder application on the beta version of OS X Yosemite, and that remains under an NDA."

    iCloud Drive is also included in the Finder on the most recent Public beta of Yosemite, which IIRC is not covered by NDA, so you could have done a screenshot after all.
    Reply
  • Brandon Chester - Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - link

    "Further, Apple agrees that You will not be bound by the foregoing confidentiality terms with regard to technical information about pre-release Apple Software and services disclosed by Apple at WWDC (Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference), except that You may not post screen shots, write public reviews or redistribute any pre-release Apple Software or services." Reply
  • WinterCharm - Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - link

    Where is the iPhone 6 review? I'm waiting on the Anandtech one, complete with benchmarks, because most of the reviews out right now suck :P Reply
  • redidas - Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - link

    As someone with an iPad 3 this is really unfortunate. The thing is already nearly unusable with iOS 7. Now its going to get even more slow? 2.5 years after its release?

    I wish Apple offered some kind of trade in bonus or replacement-program for it. I have not had a compelling experience with it that has made me want to purchase another iOS device. I get the newer models are way faster and all, but I feel like I paid $600 for an Apple experience and never received it.

    In the end though, what *really* irritates me is that they keep pushing the new software onto a device that clearly can't handle it, and they obviously haven't gone out of the way to make the software run well on the device.
    Reply
  • Death666Angel - Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - link

    Don't people usually rave about the resell value of Apple devices? Why not just go on ebay, sell your current one and get the new one? :) Reply
  • redidas - Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - link

    32 GB iPad 3's are going for about $250 on ebay.

    Regardless of the price, the problem is that it's just barely 2 years old, and has essentially become unusable because of the performance issues.
    Reply
  • Dug - Thursday, September 18, 2014 - link

    Strange. I have an iPad 2 and iPad mini and both run great with iOS 8.

    And why did you buy your device if you didn't believe it offered an Apple experience?
    Reply
  • redidas - Friday, September 19, 2014 - link

    The iPad 3 had an apple experience under iOS 6. iOS 7 became too much.

    The iPad 3 was sort of released before it was ready. It was quickly replaced by the iPad 4 about half a year after release...
    Reply
  • EJ257 - Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - link

    Wish they added a on/off toggle in Control Center for the GPS. They can keep the fine controls on which apps get access in the privacy menu but a quick way to toggle GPS would be nice. Reply

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