As another year goes by we see a new iPhone and a new version of iOS to accompany it. We also got a preview of the Apple Watch which will be going on sale next year. Our reviews of both new iPhones will be coming soon, with a look at new iOS features specific to those devices like ApplePay. But with iOS 8 rolling out today to millions of existing iOS users across the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch, it's worth taking a look at what Apple is bringing to the users that are already in the iOS ecosystem. 

This year brings the eighth iteration of Apple's mobile operating system, and with it comes features that users and developers have desired on iOS for many years. On the surface, iOS 8 seems like a minor update compared to the massive visual overhaul that iOS 7 brought. Indeed, there's no new design language, and no enormous changes to existing apps. But under the hood, with its features for application extensibility and continuity across the devices in Apple's ecosystem, it's a massive update that will be revealed over time as developers begin to take advantage of Apple's new features and APIs. If iOS 7 was the biggest update for users since the original launch of iOS and the iPhone 7 years ago, then iOS 8 is the biggest update for developers since the launch of iOS (at the time called iPhone OS) 2.0 and the App Store.

What's unique about iOS is the developer beta process that Apple runs in the time between announcement and release. While Google has taken a step into this area with the Android L developer preview, and Microsoft provides betas for Windows Phone 8.1, no mobile operating system operates on the 2 week beta schedule that iOS does. This cycle is interesting because it gives insight into Apple's development process on a smaller scale than looking at the changes from one major version of iOS to another. With iOS 7, developers became even more involved with this process as Apple began to really listen to the feedback given by people beta testing their software.

For example, the font weighting that we currently have is much heavier than what was originally demoed at WWDC back in 2013. It took many betas for Apple to eventually settle on what was a good balance between appearance and legibility. Likewise with iOS 8, I have observed many changes as Apple has gone through the different beta versions. The design of contact circles in the app switcher went through three or four different versions before Apple eventually settled on their current appearance. The buttons in Notification Center had a similar number of changes. Unfortunately, even when using iOS 8 betas on a daily basis it's difficult to keep track of all the changes made over time. What's most important to consumers is the end product though, and so with the exception of some features like SMS Relay, this review takes a look at the changes when making the jump from iOS 7.1.2 to iOS 8.0.

With that all said, lets dive into iOS 8, starting with the app that users use most.

Messages, Mail, and Recent Contacts
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  • robinthakur - Friday, September 19, 2014 - link

    Er, no that's nonsense. If I start typing a message to somebody in my address book on an iOS device, it turns blue if they have iMessage but to Android users it's green which means it is an SMS and it reaches them perfectly fine. Honestly, if it worked the way you say it did, it would be totally pointless. iMessage syncs with all Apple kit so this benefits people who use iPads and Macs, which is fine because it makes life easier. If I send a Hangout on my HTC One M8 to somebody with a Google account but who doesn't have Hangouts enabled, it goes through fine, but they never reply. Which is the more useless? I wanted to like Hangouts, but the hideous green interface or the fact that hardly anybody I know user Android makes it suboptimal and tend to just leave it in the SMS setting which is a far worse solution than on my old iPhone with iMessage because I could send without cellular signal and send pictures,voice etc. for free over wifi. Seriously, of the two implementations, I definitely prefer (and miss) iMessage.
  • Impulses - Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - link

    Well, for one thing, people that initiate a group chat on iMessage just end up annoying those of us who have to interact with it thru SMS and can't seamlessly reply to the whole group etc ... So that's one reason not to use it.

    Photos sent over iMessage also end up overcompressed when sent to an MMS recipient, and trying to explain to someone why you would prefer they email it or Dropbox it is like pulling teeth.

    Granted, you could rightly state most of those issues stem from user ignorance, but I'm the end it's really Apple's attempt at transparently blending a universal system with a proprietary one that's causing the confusion.
  • WinterCharm - Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - link

    False. That's completely wrong. If the messages app detects that not everyone in the group you are messaging has iMessage, it simply forces the entire group to use SMS, so it's seamless for everyone.
  • grayson_carr - Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - link

    No, you are wrong. It forces the entire group to use MMS, not SMS. There is a difference. In many countries, SMS is free, but MMS (used for group texts, pictures, etc.) is not.
  • Impulses - Thursday, September 18, 2014 - link

    False. That's completely wrong. I've been in plenty of conversations with iPhone users (most of my friends) where one of them suddenly goes "why isn't Frank responding, is he not coming?" because they don't realize I'm not on iMessage and my replies ate only going to the originator of group chat.

    Thanks for playing but try again. I could get around that by initiating a group SMS for everyone in the chat (once I figure who THAT is after a few replies), but it's a big hassle since each individual reply from each person will come in under the thread for that particular person.

    Usually the chat originator just ends up repeating what I've said, it's a pain, and iMessage can eat me.
  • sherifone - Thursday, September 18, 2014 - link

    Thats because on Android group MMS is a crap show. Apple supports the standard correctly and on Android it is handled on an app by app basis, sometimes very poorly. It is your phone/app's fault you didn't get the message.

    iOS detects that there is a non iMessage user in the conversation and it turns into a group MMS. There is no such thing as a group SMS, just FYI.

    This works flawlessly among my android and iOS friends. Mostly because my Android friends are educated in the way MMS/Group messaging works and took the time to find a functional app and/or phone.
  • Impulses - Thursday, September 18, 2014 - link

    I didn't fail to receive any messages, read my comment. Point is turning it into a hybrid group MMS/instant message convo is not very helpful to others and turns into a mess, because I can't easily reply to the group and I'm basically forced into the conversation as well... With no option to back out of it or ALL subsequent replies. It's not just non-iPhone users that are affected either.

    It might seem all transparent and easy to use for them, except when it ceases to be. I've lost track of the number of times an iMessage user has sent a group message asking something (like everyone's address for wedding invitations, etc) and the rest of the iMessage users blindly reply. Other iMessage users don't (and shouldn't) see those replies, only the originator, but I end up seeing all of them...

    Any time you send a group MMS to someone on iMessage every other user you sent it to is invariably gonna see that iMessage user's reply, which doesn't follow standard SMS/MMS logic.
  • robinthakur - Friday, September 19, 2014 - link

    Yep, definitely agree since I mopved from iPhone to Android, I was shocked at how backwards messaging still is on the platform, most still use SMS and Hangouts has hardly any traction. All my friends who are iPhone users regularly bitch and moan that they have no idea if i've read something, and that they receive multiple identical texts from Hangouts and I would say they now message me less because it is just hassle for them. Hopefully my iPhone 6 plus arrives soon.
  • retrospooty - Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - link

    clearly you havent used Hangouts. It's fully integrated with text messaging. It just works
  • robinthakur - Friday, September 19, 2014 - link

    Is that why both my HTC One M8 and my brother's Motorola G send the same message multiple times to recipients which drives them crazy? As the sender, I have no idea this is happening until I start getting complaints that i've just sent the same text 5 times. It seems such a simple app, the fact that it doesn't actually work must be pretty embarrassing for Google. In all my years of using iMessage, it never screwed up that badly and generally worked pretty slickly across all my devices with a decent carrier. Google would help themselves if they got rid of having Messages AND Hangouts in the AOSP. Most users have no idea which one to use and opt for Messages and then think that Android is incredibly backward as a result.

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