At Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) today, the company announced iOS 8, the next version of its mobile operating system, with a number of new user-facing features, as well as a raft of new developer SDKs. The mobile OS is available in beta to developers today and is scheduled for release this fall.
With iOS 8, you’ll now be able to interact directly with notifications from banner alerts and the lock screen. For instance, you can swipe down on a text message banner notification in order to reply directly without switching to the Messages app. Third-party developers will also be able to create widgets for Notification Center.
iOS 8 now includes HealthKit, a repository for health data from other apps, including third-party offerings. Apple is working with the Mayo Clinic app to integrate HealthKit to automatically contact doctors in response to blood pressure levels.
Apple is improving iCloud photo storage so that your iOS devices will have access to all photos you’ve taken across all devices. The storage will come at a price, though. Your first 5GB of iCloud data is free, with plans ranging from 20GB for $0.99 per month, 200GB for $3.99 per month, all the way up to 1TB.
TouchID arrived with the iPhone 5s last year, but it has so far been limited only to Apple’s own use. With iOS 8, Apple is opening up the fingerprint authentication to third-party apps, but it will do so without having to pass your biometric data to developers.
Mail on iOS now lets you swipe to flag or mark as unread. When composing an email, you can swipe a draft down to find another message and then tap to bring it back up.
A new learning QuickType feature will offer predictive typing, similar to Swiftkey. Developers will also be able to create system-wide third-party keyboards. By default, extended keyboards will work offline, but they can request permission to also sync online. QuickType will base suggestions based on what’s been said in your conversations and tailor recommendations to who you’re speaking with (your boss versus your buddies).
Voice and video messages
Apple reworked the Messages app for iOS 8. Group messaging threads can now be titled, set to do-not-disturb. You can also push-to-record self-destructing audio and video messages. You can listen to and reply to audio messages by raising your iPhone to your ear.
Siri will also get hands-free activation using the “Hey, Siri” hotword with iOS 8. The virtual assistant also adds support for Shazam song recognition, 22 new dictation languages and purchasing iTunes content.
The new iCloud Drive cross-device file sharing service works on iOS 8 across apps.
Apple has added new enterprise-focused features to iOS, including expanded data protection, VIP threads, and third-party document sharing.
Alongside iOS 8, Apple has added a number of new features aimed at keeping developers happy. The App Store will get improved search, support for discounted app bundles and new TestFlight beta testing support this fall. Apple acquired TestFlight and its parent company, Burstly, earlier this year.
Developers will also be able to create Extensions that can hook into other apps. For instance, Apple’s official Photos app will have access to third-party photo filters.
iOS and OS X will have tighter integration as a result of iOS 8 and the newly-announced OS X Yosemite. Mobile Safari now has the same tab view and a sidebar as Safari on OS X.
Apple also announced new HomeKit and CloudKit SDKs. HomeKit will help developers integrate connected home apps with iOS and Siri, while CloudKit will offer scaling cloud storage for developers.
Apple also announced a new Metal 3D graphics SDK that offers as much as a 10x reduction in overhead over OpenGL. To show off Metal, developer Epic Games demoed an upcoming zen garden app with thousands of cherry petals, hundreds of koi fish and a responsive sand garden.
Apple also shocked developers at WWDC with the announcement of a new programming language called Swift.
iOS 7 arrived last September with a dramatic visual redesign that exchanged imitations of real-world textures with a completely flat appearance. New features from last year’s update include a Control Center, redesigned notifications, a multitasking interface and AirDrop file transfers.
Head to our WWDC 2014 page to keep up with the rest of our coverage of today’s event.