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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Mail

The iOS 8 Mail app adds a new collection of swipe gestures for quickly managing e-mails right from your inbox. Swiping right-to-left now displays a “Flag” option by default in addition to the Trash/Archive and More options. You can also now swipe left to right to get an option to mark a message as read or unread; a long swipe will automatically execute the action, while a short swipe simply presents the button that you can tap on to complete the action.

These actions can also be customized under Mail, Contacts, Calendars in the iOS Settings app, with Mark as Read/Unread or Flag as options for the swipe-left gesture, and Mark Read/Unread, Flag, or Archive as options the swipe-right gesture.

When Mail recognizes contact or event information, a banner will also automatically be displayed at the top of the message allowing you to quickly add a new contact or calendar entry, as appropriate.

When composing a new message, you can also now tap and drag it down from the top of the screen to view the inbox behind it. The draft message will stay off the bottom while you browse your inbox—useful for looking up information or copying and pasting from another message—and you can simply tap on it to pull it back up whenever you’re ready to continue.

Safari

Safari on the iPad gets a modified version of the new tab view that was brought to the iPhone and iPod touch in iOS 7, allowing you to get an overview of all of your open pages, with pages from the same site stacked together.

Private browsing now operates as a completely separate mode, similar to how Chrome for iOS handles “Incognito” mode. Rather than offering the option to close existing tabs or switch them into “Private” mode, enabling Private Browsing now simply presents a new, separate tab section where additional pages can be opened separately. Toggling the “Private” button switches between the two modes.

The Safari options within the iOS 8 Settings app now include an option to disable the Spotlight Suggestions described above, as well as a “Quick Website Search” option that provides the ability to search within websites by prefixing the search with the website name.

Calendar

The Calendar app now includes support for adding travel time to appointments, bringing it inline with the OS X Mavericks Calendar app. Travel times set on the Mavericks Calendar will appear in the iOS 8 Calendar app, and vice-versa.

Options have also been added to the Calendar settings under Mail, Contacts, Calendars in the iOS Settings app to display Chinese, Hebrew, or Islamic alternate calendars, as well as enabling week numbers in the Calendar views.

Notes

Rich-text editing capabilities have been added to the iOS 8 Notes app, along with the ability to insert photos.

FaceTime Call Waiting

Apple has introduced support for a “Call Waiting” feature in FaceTime, allowing users to choose to accept or decline incoming calls while already in a FaceTime Audio or Video chat. While this helps users avoid missing incoming calls, unlike traditional Call Waiting, the user is not given an option to place the current FaceTime call on hold—merely to end the current call entirely in favor of the new one.

Wi-Fi Calling

iOS 8 also adds support for Wi-Fi calling on carriers that support it, allowing users to place cellular telephone calls over their home Wi-Fi network and seamlessly transition to a cellular connection when leaving home—useful for situations where cellular service may be spotty.

Battery Usage

Although many users will likely still find their iPhone battery life too short, iOS 8 at least takes a step toward helping you track down which apps may be the biggest power hogs.

By going into Battery Usage under Settings, General, Usage you can get a list of apps that have used the most battery over the past 24 hours or 7 days, expressed as a percentage of power used by each app when the device is not being charged. A “Battery Life Suggestions” section may also appear here if there are any obvious tips you can do to improve your battery life, such as enabling automatic screen locking.

iBooks & Podcasts

Previously available as separate App Store downloads, iOS 8 now adds iBooks and Podcasts as built-in core apps, suggesting that these apps will now only see updates with actual iOS releases. iTunes U notably remains a standalone app—for now at least.

Settings

The iOS 8 Settings app hides a few new changes as well. Most notably, the third-party app-specific section at the bottom now includes an entry for each and every app installed on the device. In addition to the app-specific settings that are normally presented here, this now provides an alternate path for configuring options such as Notifications, Privacy settings, Cellular Data use, and Background App Refresh.

These settings also remain in the same place as they were in iOS 7, but this new method provides a useful app-centric approach to viewing and adjusting them—saving you a long trip around the Settings app when you want to adjust multiple settings at the same time for a single application.

Settings for Brightness and Wallpaper have now been separated into two sections: Display & Brightness and Wallpaper. Other than the addition of a few new wallpapers, these settings otherwise work the same as before.

New Privacy options have been added for Health and HomeKit, allowing users to restrict access to these features on a per-app basis. Location Privacy can also now be restricted to “While using” option for apps that allow for background location tracking. Unfortunately, it appears that not all third-party apps support this feature yet — once properly implemented, this will also help make it clear to users which apps do not track location in the background, as only the “Never” and “While using the app” options will be available for those apps.

A Handoff & Suggested Apps section can now be found under General settings. This allows these features to be individually disabled. The “Suggested Apps” settings can also be found under the iTunes Store & App Store section. When enabled, this feature provides Handoff-style lock screen icons for apps relevant to the user’s current location, such as the Apple Store or Starbucks.

A “Mark Addresses” option can now be found in the Mail, Contacts, Calendars section, allowing you to flag e-mail addresses that don’t end with a specific domain name, essentially replicating the corresponding OS X Mail feature.

Accessibility

Several minor improvements have also been made to Accessibility features in iOS 8. More customization options are available for VoiceOver voices, with Siri’s male “Alex” voice now available.

Time limits can now be set when enabling Guided Access, with sound and voice prompts to indicate how much time is remaining. Touch ID can also now be used to end Guided Access.

Other accessibility enhancements include support for six-dot Braille keyboards, multiple MFI-licensed hearing aids and a hugely improved zoom feature. Zoom now lets you define a “lens” as a specific area of the screen to zoom within, adds a lens-specific slider to change zoom levels, and has the ability to leave the on-screen keyboard unzoomed if you want. The lens can apply grayscale, inverted grayscale, or regular inverted effects, and the maximum zoom level can now be set at 15X.

Conclusions

As we noted in our iOS 8 Review, this latest iOS upgrade is something of a dichotomy between very powerful under-the-hood changes that will take some time for developers to fully embrace and a number of more relatively minor user experience improvements.

Most interestingly, many of the features in iOS 8 aren’t even fully ready for prime-time, depending not only on developer involvement (e.g. HealthKit, HomeKit), but also corresponding Mac OS X updates to deliver the full functionality of iCloud Photo Library, iCloud Drive, and Continuity. In a great many ways, iOS 8 lays the foundation for a lot of really interesting stuff to come, but compared to previous major iOS updates, most users will be reasonably well-served by iOS 7 for now and won’t have as much of an incentive to rush out and update until those other pieces fall into place.

That said, other than the usual plethora of minor issues that accompany major new “point-zero” releases, there’s not any reason to avoid upgrading to iOS 8.0. If you’re in no rush, it may be safer to wait until Apple addresses at least the first round of bugs with an 8.0.1 release.

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