Apple unveils iOS 8, its biggest release since the launch of the App Store

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By Brandy Shaul Comment

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Apple today unveiled its iOS 8 operating system, which includes new features for users, and new tools for developers to create better user experiences. In addition to new Messages features and and a focus on a more intuitive user experience, Apple has unveiled the iCloud Photo Library, Family Sharing, Apple’s QuickType keyboard, iCloud Drive, a new Health app, and more.

To start, the iCloud Photo Library allows users to access all of their photos anytime and anywhere. Photos are organized and accessible across enabled devices, with the photos app offering improved editing tools for creating the perfect shot. For one, the Photos app can straighten horizons in tilted photos, while users can fine tune the light and color of their photos with new options. Using iCloud, these adjustments are automatically updated to all of a user’s devices.

The iOS Messages app will receive some hefty improvements, including the ability to share voice clips, remove or add contacts from group messages, leave conversations, toggle an option to not be disturbed, share multiple photos and videos at once, and share a user’s current location from within the app for an hour, a day or longer.

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The new Health app provides a one-stop-shop for health information, gathering information from a user’s favorite health apps and fitness devices. iOS 8 supports the ability for these apps to communicate with each other, and with user permission, information from one app can be shared with another to provide a complete view of a user’s current health and fitness.

Elsewhere, users can take advantage of Apple’s QuickType keyboard, which offers smart recommendations based on a message’s context. That is, QuickType recognizes the recipient of, and the context of the message, and offers suggestions for popular phrases, which can be selected and sent without the need to type individual words. The keyboard learns over time, with this “intelligence” remaining encrypted on a device and never sent to the cloud.

Finally, Family Sharing will make it easier for groups to communicate and share purchases. Up to six members can participate in a single family unit, using the same credit card. These users can browse and download content from each other’s iTunes, iBooks and App Store libraries. In addition, parents can toggle the “Ask to Buy” option for children, so parental permission is required for those users before any purchase can be completed. Plus, Family Sharing offers all users a shared family photo stream, calendar and the ability to locate others and their devices.

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“iOS 8 offers simpler, faster and more intuitive ways to use your device with incredible new features like iCloud Photo Library, a new Messages app, the QuickType keyboard and an entirely new Health app,” said Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering. “We’re also giving developers amazing new tools to make managing your health and your home from your devices an integrated, simple and secure experience.”

iOS 8 is now available in beta for members of the iOS Developer Program. It will launch as a free software update for everyone this fall, and supports iPhone 4S+, iPod Touch 5th Generation, iPad 2+, iPad Air and iPad Mini. More information on the platform is available on Apple’s website.

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