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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  • KoolAidMan1 - Thursday, September 18, 2014 - link

    That's because iOS 8 is mostly an under the hood update for developers to further increase performance and functionality. SceneKit, Handoff, Metal API, etc.

    Tech stuff, not shiny gimmicks like we know you're into
    Reply
  • Donkey2008 - Friday, September 19, 2014 - link

    Oh look. Another smarty comment from an Android fanboy. Seems like its been 1-2 minutes since we heard one. Glad to know that the biggest douches on tech forums (Android owners) are still on top of their game. Reply
  • sprockkets - Saturday, September 20, 2014 - link

    Sorry if you think that is a "smarty" comment from an Android owner.

    After 143 comments, as usual, darwinosx hasn't bothered to say one word of praise about this update, yet he/she will always be trolling any story about android or a device running it.

    Grow some skin - darwinosx in comparison spews nothing but bullsht.
    Reply
  • Axee7 - Tuesday, September 23, 2014 - link

    DOn't buy iPhone 6 Plus.. Its huge and over thin and it get bent so easily.. I just saw horrifying pics here :( read more on AxeeTech dot com Reply
  • zepi - Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - link

    "Not everyone has an Apple device and therefore not everyone has iMessage."

    And this renders whole iMessages almost useless. Why on earth would one use it in the first place when free crossplatform apps are available?
    Reply
  • p_giguere1 - Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - link

    Because you don't always know whether your recipient has the necessary app installed and their account info when necessary. For a lot of people you text and you are not necessarily very close to, it's just awkward/long to ask "Do you have Hangouts? What's your Google account?", so you'll just send a regular text. That's where iMessage is relevant. In this case, the question is more like "Why on earth would one NOT use it rather than a regular text", since it's literally as easy as sending a text and only have added benefits. Reply
  • Ancillas - Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - link

    On an Android phone, Hangouts and SMS are integrated into one view, just like SMS and iMessage.

    The difference is that when I send a message from my iPhone to my buddy who has an Android phone, he can't use iMessage because he doesn't have Apple hardware. That's absurd. I'll just install Hangouts, and we get all the same features.

    Along the same lines, if I want to have the ability to take my iMessage conversation off of my phone and on to my computer, then I have to have OS X. Again, that's crazy. Using Hangouts, I just hop on to a browser on any computer, and I have all my messages right there.

    PalmOS did this right by putting Google messages inline with SMS messages (along with other providers). Apple could do this, but they won't because they want to protect their ecosystem. I will not endorse that closed-model design, even though I use iOS. I choose to use the Hangouts app in iOS, but I don't use Hangout for SMS (even though it is supported).
    Reply
  • steven75 - Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - link

    What's absurd is expecting everyone to have or create a Google account in order to use Hangouts. SMS is universally supported. Reply
  • Impulses - Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - link

    SMS has many serious issues, it's time for something better... If iMessage supported a universal protocol it'd be the bomb, but Apple would never do that. Reply
  • cj100570 - Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - link

    You must be confused, you don't have to create a Google account to use Hangouts for SMS. Never have. If you set Hangouts as your SMS app it merely takes the place of the default app. Reply

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