Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 8.0 | iLounge Article

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Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 8.0

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Health

One of the major new features touted in iOS 8 is HealthKit, a framework that will allow a wide variety of health and fitness apps and accessories to integrate more deeply into a common database of information, all stored within the new “Health” app on the iPhone.

The app itself, which is only available on the iPhone and iPod touch, provides options to track a wide variety of information, ranging from nutritional intake to steps taken to sleep to body measurements. While data can be manually entered in most of these categories, in practical terms much of this information will come from third-party apps and health and fitness accessories that will hopefully tie in to the HealthKit frameworks.

One additional useful feature of the Health app is the ability to create a “Medical ID” card containing emergency medical and contact information. This card can optionally be made available from the iPhone or iPod touch lock screen under the “Emergency Calls” section, and any contact phone numbers entered into this card can be called as emergency numbers from this screen.

Spotlight

Searching in the iOS 8 Spotlight feature has been expanded to provide access to even more useful information sources while also providing a context-based search. Spotlight is accessed in the same manner as before—simply swiping downward from the middle of any home screen will pull up the search field, and you can then type and go from there.

New search categories include Wikipedia, news, nearby places, iTunes Store content, suggested websites, and movie showtimes. The search feature also works in much the same way in Safari—simply start typing in the search field and the additional results will appear above the normal top hits and search suggestions.

QuickType

New keyboard capabilities have been added to iOS 8 in the form of new intelligent predictive type features and third-party keyboard support. Predictive type will provide three word suggestions above the keyboard when typing normal text, and you can simply tap on a word to complete it and then carry on typing from there.

In addition, QuickType tries to select appropriate word choices in apps like Mail and Messages based on who you’re writing to, so a more informal style may be used for friends and family versus a more formal style when writing to business colleagues. QuickType can also help you quickly respond in the iOS 8 Messages app by providing options to match a question you’re being asked.

If you find it just gets in the way sometimes, the QuickType bar can also be hidden from view by tapping-and-dragging it down toward the keyboard, and it can be brought back into view using the reverse gesture.

Siri

Siri has been somewhat improved in iOS 8, with the most interesting new feature the ability to activate the voice-powered assistant simply by calling out “Hey Siri” as long as your iOS device is plugged into a power source.

Siri also gains the ability to perform a few new tasks, including identifying a currently playing song using Shazam, reading recent e-mails, showing realtime transcription as you speak, and playing voicemail messages.

Tips

To help users become familiar with some of the new features in iOS 8, Apple has added a new “Tips” app. A handful of tips are present to get you going, and Apple expects to add new ones on a regular basis, with push notifications available when new tips appear.

Notifications

Notifications in iOS 8 can now be dismissed right from the lock screen simply by swiping from right to left and tapping the “X” button that appears. In addition, lock screen notifications from apps such as Messages and Mail can be swiped left to display action buttons that allow you to dash off a quick response or take other common actions without having to unlock your device.

This also works for banner notifications from apps like Messages and Mail—simply pull down on the banner when it appears, and a reply field or action buttons will show up beneath the notification. Third-party apps can also take advantage of these notification features.

Quick Contact Shortcuts

Double-tapping on the Home button to bring up the multitasking interface now also shows a list of favorite and recent contacts. Tapping on a contact photo expands options to quickly call or text that contact.

These shortcuts can be enabled or disabled individually under Mail, Contacts, Calendars in the iOS Settings app.

Extensions

With iOS 8, developers can now add extensions to their apps to allow content to be displayed in the Notification Center “Today” view.

Content can also be shared into third-party apps via the standard iOS sharing controls.

In addition, third-party apps can now use the Touch ID sensor on compatible iPhones to provide in-app authentication.

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