iOS 8's best hidden features
We saw a bunch of really great and pretty surprising updates to iOS at WWDC this week - and crossed off more than a few items on our wish list - but now that we've had a chance to fiddle around with the beta, we've unearthed some hidden tricks and features that are going to make iOS 8 a powerhouse.
An All-Knowing App Store
We never used Wish List all that much much in the App Store, but it's gotten a lot stronger in iOS 8. Not only does it remember every single app we tell it that we want to download later, it now keeps track of songs we ask Siri about, and even culls our iTunes Radio listens and Music Store previews for suggestions - just in case we might have forgotten to buy something.
More Customisable Mail
Apple is always trying to beef up its Mail app, and we're liking what we see so far in iOS 8. We were begging for some triage power, and Apple has responded in its own way, enabling long-swipe deleting of messages and letting us customise the left swipe with either Mark as Read/Unread or Flag/Unflag buttons. And Mail is smart enough now to fetch all related messages in a conversation, no matter where they're hiding. It's no Mailbox, but it's a start.
A View of Which Apps Are Murdering Your Battery
Battery life will be an issue on our iPhones until Jony Ive figures out a way to charge them kinetically, but at least in iOS 8 we'll know why they're draining. A new option in the usage menu of the Settings app lets us see which apps are responsible for our red battery icon - so we'll know if Twitter is hogging our juice or we're just playing too much Candy Crush.
Swipe to Dismiss Notifications
The Notification Center got something of an upgrade in iOS 7, but Apple actually made it useful in iOS 8. It's been whittled down to two tabs - today and notifications - and you can quickly customise your widgets without zipping over to Settings. And now you can dismiss a notification with a simple swipe, saving precious seconds spent trying to tap those dastardly X's.
A Smarter, Safer Safari
Since we still can't change out Apple's default apps (although you do have ample alternatives), we're pretty much stuck with Safari for another upgrade cycle. Fortunately, Apple has made that less of an issue in iOS 8.
Those concerned about prying eyes can set the ultra-private DuckDuckGo as the default search engine. You can say goodbye to mobile-site headaches, too. Just pull down on the favourites screen to request the desktop version of whatever site you're on. And while you're at it, check out the new list of your most frequently visited sites.
A Notes App You Might Actually Use
We don't know many people who actually use Notes, but perhaps that will change now that we can underline text and add pictures. But we doubt it.
Fine-Tuned Camera Controls
Apple added some cool features for shutterbugs in iOS 8, but one they didn't talk about is being able to manually tweak your exposure while setting up your shot. Just tap as you normally would to focus and you'll see a little slider that will adjust the shutter for the proper amount of light.
Also new is a time-lapse mode to make those cool stop-motiony movies, and a three- or 10-second timer for all of us who are sick of taking selfies.
Channelling the Weather
In iOS 7, the Weather app got a marquee makeover, but in iOS 8, the changes are more than skin deep. Rather than getting its forecasting information from Yahoo, Apple went straight to the source, pulling temperatures and conditions directly from The Weather Channel, making for a more accurate snapshot.
Also, you can look nine days ahead now and get an hourly forecast for a full 24 hours (instead of 12) as well as a short description of what's to come without needing to pull down the Notification Centre.
Personalised Share Sheets
Apple's new app extensions could very well end up being the greatest feature in iOS 8 and change the way we work on our mobile devices, but we're still going to be stuck using the same old share sheets that we've had since iOS 6. At least we won't have to swipe to get to the app we want, though; Apple's made share sheets in iOS 8 completely customisable, so you can put the important ones right up front.
Location-Based Lock Screen Notifications
We were so amazed when we first saw this on MacRumors, we had to go check it out for ourselves. Sure enough, Apple has built elegant notifications right into the lock screen. Just walk into (or by) a Starbucks and a tiny icon will appear opposite the camera shortcut. Pull up and you'll be magically transported into the app and ready to make a purchase.