Apple Announces iOS 8 with Health, Shazam and More

iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite Announced at WWDC

On Monday, June 2, Apple kicked off their annual Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC).  Every year, Apple unveils developer previews of new Mac and iOS software, which typically get released later in the year to the public.  This year was no different, with iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite being announced, both with major changes and hints to the future of Apple’s roadmap.  There are tons of details about the changes, some of which I’m still digesting.  Overall, iOS 8 appears to raise the bar once again to what a mobile operating system should strive to be.


Last year with iOS 7, Apple redesigned the entire OS from the ground up.  This was a major change that impacted how apps are designed and used and iPhones and iPads.  For iOS 8, there are some design tweaks, but the enhancements come primary from new features of the most heavily used apps and services on the devices: Messages, Mail, Sire, iCloud and more.  The biggest news from the event is something I haven’t fully grasped yet, which is the introduction of a new programming language called Swift.  This works with Xcode, their current language to build apps.  I’ll need to research to see exactly what the impact of this is, but from what I’ve read so far, it’ll help create the next generation of apps, and keep developers in the Apple ecosystem.  The magic will come when developers start creating apps with Swift this fall.

For iOS 8, here are the major new enhancements that consumers will see:

  • Enhanced notifications that are now interactive, allowing users to reply from a message when an alert is received or accept a calendar invite without entering the app.  In the Notification Center, widgets can now be added.
  • Big changes in messages, allowing new voice and video messages to be sent and then have them automatically deleted after a set period of time.  Additionally, you can share your location with others in messages, edit group name messages and remove people from group messages without them knowing (but they’ll probably notice that something’s up).  Heads up WhatsApp and Snapchat.
  • An app called Health, which is home to all of your health app’s information.  This is definitely a precursor to a rumored Apple iWatch device.  For users of health tracking apps, this is your centralized hub where you can access your data.  Think of it as Passbook for health.
  • Mail is now more like the free Mailbox app, which Dropbox acquired last year.  Swipe to delete, hide or remind you later.
  • Shazam in Siri: hold down the home button and Siri, using Shazam, will let you know what song is playing and even allow you to buy it right then and there.  Also, you can enable Siri simply by saying “Hey Siri,” without holding down the home button.  It’s just like Google Now on the Moto X.
  • QuickType predictive texting.  Android apps have had access to this for years.  iOS 8 will learn how you text and the tone you use in Messages and Mail and will suggest autocomplete for you.  I think there are many possibilities with this, as it appears to really learn you.
  • iCloud Drive.  Think Google Drive and Dropbox.  Now there’s one for the Apple ecosystem, with 20GB costing $.99/month and packages all the way up to a terabyte of storage.
  • Photos now shows you ALL of your photos stored in iCloud.  You can search photos, too, based on time, location, album name and more.  There are new photo editing enhancements as well.
  • Spotlight has some nifty changes as well, letting you search for things directly from the text field.  It will display results from Wikipedia, iTunes, App Store, iBookstore and more.  It’s powered by Bing and could take away some of the mobile search revenue that Google desperately needs to increase.  No more search page – do it all through Spotlight.  This also works in Safari.

I pulled a description from Macrumors on another big feature, Extensibility:

There are thousands of new APIs for developers, and one of the most exciting of those was Extensibility. This feature allows apps within iOS 8 to share information with each other and with the Notification Center. Demoed on stage, Extensibility allowed filters from third-party apps to be used directly on pictures within the Photos app and it also brought Bing translation to Safari. 

Extensibility also allows apps to install widgets within the Notification Center, which work similar to existing Apple widgets for the Calendar, Stocks, and more. This was demoed with an ESPN SportsCenter widget, which allowed sports scores to be displayed automatically within Notification Center.

This allows for the installation of third party keyboards (and many other uses) to use across your iOS device, something that’s been missing.  From what it sounds like, this is sort of a bridge, allowing Apple to keep control of iOS, but allowing developers to have deeper access, which is what Android fans rejoice about.

There was no announcement to Maps, which likely means this update is coming either at the public release or in a future version.  There was also no talk of a separate iTunes Radio app, making it easier for users to launch and listen to the service.  I suspect there will be a major iTunes announcement in the fall with a major redesign.  With the Beats acquisition, they’re likely working on some sort of new streaming service.

There were many more details shared in the two hour presentation, but I felt these iOS 8 advancements were the most exciting. Expect a lot more to be uncovered as people begin using it and seeing what’s hidden in the code.

Danny Ori

Permanent link to this article: