iOS8 unlocks your iPhone

HENRY COOKE
Last updated 14:40, June 3 2014
COSMETIC CHANGES: Apple's Craig Federighi shows off some familiar-looking iconography at the Apple Developers Conference in San Francisco.
Getty Images

COSMETIC CHANGES: Apple's Craig Federighi shows off some familiar-looking iconography at the Apple Developers Conference in San Francisco.

OPINION: 

Your iPhone is a thousand times as powerful as the computer that went to the moon, but you'd be forgiven for forgetting that.

Apple have always "locked down" the experience of the iPhone, promoting simplicity over splashy features - one of the main points of difference between iPhones and Android devices. With iOS8, the new operating system for iPhones and iPad announced today, Apple have unlocked things a little, introducing a bevy of new features for both users and app developers without letting things get too complex. We hope.

iOS8 should be available, free, by some time in September - unless you're still on an iPhone 4. If you are, then iOS8 won't be available for you, but after the slow and buggy iOS7 experience users of older iPhone had to endure, this makes some sense.

NEW MESSAGE: Apple iOS8

NEW MESSAGE: Apple iOS8

SOMETHING BORROWED, SOMETHING NEW

A lot of iOS8 feels like a bit of tuneup, a bit of a catchup with some of the nifty features Android has been pushing for years for now. They made it prettier last year - this year they are making it more powerful.

Notifications, those little things that pop down at the top of your screen, are at long last a little bit smarter. You can reply to a text right from the notification, rather than having to open the messaging app then go back to what you were doing. You can even like Facebook posts right from the notification. You still can't swipe away a notification however, which is pretty annoying.

PHOTOS: Apple iOS8.

PHOTOS: Apple iOS8.

iMessage (or "Messages") got a lot more powerful. You can now share your location from within iMessage, something other messaging apps have been doing for years, and create little audio or video snippets with their "tap to talk" feature. There's also a self-destructing kind of snapchat imitation baked in, but Snapchat isn't going anywhere. You can also reply to SMS messages from your Mac, if your iPhone is near, and answer regular old phone calls from there too. Apple used this feature to call Dr Dre on stage, who they recently purchased Beats by Dre from, and it was just as cringey as you would expect.

Remember how the iPhone 5S has a finger scanner? The one nobody uses? iOS8 allows third party apps to use "TouchID", which means you should be able to log in to pretty much anything with your fingerprint soon. They emphasised that your fingerprint will still be securely locked away in your phone, rather than anywhere near a server, so the NSA should have some trouble harvesting it.

Speaking of fingers, the iPhone keyboard now has one of those predictive type bars along the top, a la SwiftKey or Android. Don't like it? Fine - Apple lets you install custom keyboards now, meaning we will see a proper version of Swype on iPhones soon.

KEYPAD: Apple iOS8.
Apple

KEYPAD: Apple iOS8.

There are some other little things that will be a huge relief to some people.

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"Family groups" allow you to share purchased content with other iOS devices that use the same credit card, and allow your children to use your credit card to buy apps/in-app purchases with your permission.

Siri now types out what you are saying to it in real time, so you can tell how much trouble it is having with Kiwi accents, and they've built in Shazam support so it can identify a song playing around you.

FOR SIX? Apple iOS8
Apple

FOR SIX? Apple iOS8

Given the iPhone's recent release in China, iOS8 now supports the Lunar Calendar and much better Chinese maps.

BEHIND THE SCENES

The more powerful changes aren't quite as obvious.

Apple showed a lot of love to app developers today, meaning we'll all get better apps when iOS launches in a few months. Crucially, they're allowing apps to talk to each other a lot more, so you'll be able to Instagram-filter a photo right from the Messages app, or Bing Translate a text right from your notifications.

This "'nteroperability" of apps could be a pretty big deal, if developers make use of it, and I see no reason why they won't.

Apple also introduced a new programming language for iOS8, named Swift, and some new 3D stuff. This should mean faster apps for everyone, and developers certainly seem excited by it.

AND THE IPHONE 6?

One feature I haven't mentioned is "Healthkit", and the accompanying app "Health".

Basically, Apple have created a little platform-within-a-platform to keep track of your bodily data - the stuff fitness trackers and running apps are already feeding into the iPhone. It all looks a bit half-done right now, and a lot of people are presuming that the iPhone 6 will have some new sensors to exploit the system.

Or that could be part of the long rumoured Apple iWatch - we'll have to wait and see.

Henry Cooke believes the internet is mankind's crowning achievement. Read more of him on his blog at rectangles.cc

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