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Apple iOS 8: What Consumers, Developers Gain

Here's what Apple's iOS 8 and iOS SDK news at WWDC means to users and developers.

Apple WWDC 2014: 9 Things To Expect
Apple WWDC 2014: 9 Things To Expect
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Apple on Monday revealed iOS 8, OS X Yosemite, and an incredible array of developer tools during the opening keynote of its 2014 Worldwide Developers Conference. The company may have introduced a wide range of great new features in iOS 8, but the changes to the SDK are far more important to help Apple's struggle against rival Google.

Apple's two-pronged attack benefits consumers in myriad ways. Let's address those first.

iOS 8 adds several crucial gap-closers to the user interface that have long been available to Android handsets. For example, the Apple keyboard in iOS 8 adds QuickType word prediction to make typing faster. Both Android and Windows Phone already offer this feature. Apple also said iOS 8 can support third-party keyboards, such as Swype. Now all three platforms are on a more even playing field when it comes to text input.

Apple significantly improved its Messaging application in the face of competition from third-party providers. Messaging, which Apple said is the most-used app on its iPhones, can now easily add and drop recipients to and from group chats, share locations, and send vanishing voice/video messages. This addresses some of the features in WhatsApp, BBM, and others.

[For more on Apple's OS strategy, see Apple OS X, iOS Draw Closer.]

Family Sharing will make it easier to share content between iOS devices. The feature allows up to six "family members" to access iTunes, iBooks, and App Store purchases as long as they're billed to the same credit card. Anything purchased by one family member is instantly available to the entire group. Family Sharing goes further by making it easier to share photos, calendars, location, and other information. Some of these features come naturally to Android and Windows Phone.

iOS 8 introduces iCloud Drive, a cloud-based file management tool that will automatically sync content between iOS and OS X devices. It supports Apple's iWork suite and a range of other file types (PDFs, Docs, etc.), providing access to them across Apple's ecosystem of hardware. Further, Apple made AirDrop compatible between iOS and OS X (just as I had hoped). This makes it a cinch for users to push files between Apple devices at a moment's notice. Apple also talked about Continuity, a tool that will sync settings and content between iOS and OS X devices so users can stop working on their desktop and pick up in the exact same spot on their iPad or iPhone. Clearly, Apple hopes to retain consumers who might otherwise turn to Google Drive or Microsoft's OneDrive -- along with the productivity and other cloud-based services offered by the two.

Apple improved its Spotlight search tool, which now provides answers pulled from the device and across the Web. It is better at predicting search queries and offers suggestions faster than ever. Spotlight is now built into the Safari control bar and doubles as a search tool and Web site address field.

There are hundreds of additional new features in iOS that iPhone and iPad owners will surely enjoy when the operating system becomes available in the fall. Developers also have plenty to be happy about, too.

The new iOS SDK adds 4,000 -- yes, that's four thousand -- APIs for creating apps. Apple built these APIs into 10 core tent poles: Touch ID, PhotoKit, Camera API, HealthKit, HomeKit, CloudKit, SpriteKit, SceneKit, Metal, and Swift.

Touch ID is huge. This lets developers access and use the fingerprint scanner on the iPhone 5s (and presumably future iOS devices). In other words, banking apps, healthcare apps, fitness apps,

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Eric is a freelance writer for InformationWeek specializing in mobile technologies. View Full Bio

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User Rank: Ninja
6/5/2014 | 2:40:26 PM
Not An Apple Fan but...
And yet the one feature Apple has that is lacking on the Android platform is the ability of the user to control what, if any data, applications may transmit back to the MotherShip.  This is tremendous power that appeals to a great many privacy advocates that should be trumpeted from the rooftops to drown out the bells & whistles crap of any other platform. 
User Rank: Ninja
6/4/2014 | 5:30:28 PM
As a developer I was worried about the new language. It is some what like Javascript and the language guide is really helpful. Hoping to get hands dirty with Swift soon.
User Rank: Apprentice
6/4/2014 | 2:11:01 PM
TouchID Kit is huge
I think allowing TouchID to use for different apps is huge. And to some extend it is a game changer. Imagine in next few years the possibility to cast your vote directly from your smartphone (regardless of which platform you are using). It will completely change the dynamics of the politics. I bet voter turnaround will be huge and casting a voting will be as easy as paying a bill from your smartphone. Possibilities are mind-boggling. 

Very very interesting developments. 
User Rank: Author
6/4/2014 | 12:05:39 PM
Apple plays Android catch-up
The Android phone camp had some fun with this round of Apple announcements, for sure.
Li Tan
Li Tan,
User Rank: Ninja
6/4/2014 | 3:46:45 AM
Re: catching up?
I am more interested in its iMessage. It adds new features compared to current iOS. But these features are not something new - WebChat has almost all these functionalities. So somehow I am inclined to agree on the point "Apple is catching up". 
Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
6/3/2014 | 4:41:37 PM
Re: catching up?
The Continuity feature is already available for Web applications. Start your work at home in Google Docs, for example, then pick it up at the office by logging on there.
User Rank: Apprentice
6/3/2014 | 12:52:10 PM
catching up?
Summary, Apple is trying to catch up. :) .... no flaming, i'm using iphone :P
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