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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  • NetMage - Monday, September 22, 2014 - link

    With both iPhone and iPad logged into same Apple account, in iPad WiFi you should see the iPhone Hotspot as a choice - selecting it will activate the iPhones hotspot and then connect to it. Reply
  • soryuuha - Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - link

    so..can you finally send any file over bluetooth? Reply
  • Impulses - Thursday, September 18, 2014 - link

    Huh, you couldn't before? I guess I haven't really sent anything over BT since I had a dumb phone. Actually I sent stuff over BT from my first Android phone to other dumb phones for a while (ringtones mostly), seems like a pretty antiquated method to do anything now... Then again, Inge been using NFC for similarly basic stuff for like two years now. ;) Reply
  • SirPerro - Thursday, September 18, 2014 - link

    "Many of the improvements are in areas of the OS that have long needed to be improved or changed. There are also number of additions that take a great amount of inspiration from other mobile operating systems. While this may be seen as copying by some, for users the end result is that their experience is improved and they have features they did not have before, which is what really matters."

    That wasn't what mattered in the multibillion lawsuits Apple filed in the past, right?
    Reply
  • SirPerro - Thursday, September 18, 2014 - link

    The whole "update the OS to update the email app" thing is reaching to android 1.6 levels of stupidity Reply
  • NetMage - Monday, September 22, 2014 - link

    iOS updates are differential. Putting all updates on the same schedule has its advantages, and iOS development is still a fairly small team. Reply
  • bigstrudel - Thursday, September 18, 2014 - link

    Clean install iOS 8 on the 5S gave me 6280 on Octane. And I never got 5700 (Low 5000's at best) on iOS 7. There's a lot more improvement here than indicated in your review. Reply
  • NA1NSXR - Thursday, September 18, 2014 - link

    I don't know why the conclusion is so tempered. iOS7 was a terrible release that was basically a physical makeover with very mixed results for usability. iOS8 looks like a solid step forward for features and usability on a platform that needs a lot of these things being introduced. I am staying behind until a JB is released or until I take delivery of my new device but considering the ecosystem this is one of the biggest releases in many years. Reply
  • solipsism - Thursday, September 18, 2014 - link

    I love being able to make and receive phone calls on my Mac but I have 4 issues with it. Some severe while others are just annoying.

    1) The speed at which the iPhone starts ringing and Mac starts ringing needs to be more in sync. The same goes for after you pick up one of the other. Perhaps a small, more efficient communication protocol for letting each device know what about the session.

    2) You can make or receive a call on the Mac and then hand it off to the iPhone by pressing the top bar on the iPhone. This does not work the other way. Why doesn't it work the other way?

    3) There is no dialer pad for the Mac so if you make or receive a call that requires you to press buttons for an automated system you have to then grab your iPhone and go to the Phone app and then the dialer pad to input the keys. You also have to makes to do this without pressing the top bar or it will disconnect from the Mac and you'll be using your iPhone for the duration of that call.

    4) The app that open on the Mac says FaceTime in the Dock. Not a deal breaker by any means but it just all looks sloppy and incomplete.

    PS: Am I the only one that still doesn't fully grasp what is considered Handoff and what is Continuity. Is it a unified term "Handoff and Continuity"? I'd think continuity is what has existed for years now with iCloud syncing data between apps, but handoff is the evolution of that to actually have the app show up in the Dock (Mac) or Fast App Switcher (iOS) to be clicked.
    Reply
  • NetMage - Monday, September 22, 2014 - link

    Continuity enables not just syncing data, but syncing state as well (e.g. editing a document on one device, switching to the other device and picking up at exactly the same place). Reply

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