Apple has a busy week this week with the start of Apple Watch pre-orders on Friday, but the company isn’t sitting around until then letting time pass them by. Yesterday the company dropped some major software updates in peoples laps with the release of an Apple TV software update, the OS X 10.10.3 update, which introduces the brand new Photos app and –– the update most people are excited about –– iOS 8.3.
Before we crack on here’s a breakdown of what users can expect from the new Photos app inside OS X 10.10.3:
- Browse your photos by time and location in Moments, Collections, and Years views
- Navigate your library using convenient Photos, Shared, Albums, and Projects tabs
- Store all of your photos and videos in iCloud Photo Library in their original format and in full resolution
- Access your photos and videos stored in iCloud Photo Library from your Mac, iPhone, iPad, or iCloud.com with your web browser
- Perfect your photos with powerful and easy-to-use editing tools that optimize with a single click or slider, or allow precise adjustments with detailed controls
- Create professional-quality photo books with simplified bookmaking tools, new Apple-designed themes, and new square book formats
- Purchase prints in new square and panoramic sizes
Apple has already pumped out a slew of updates to bring its iOS 8 platform up to speed as well as add in support for its upcoming Apple Watch. There’s a fair few additional updates on the cards before the arrival of iOS 9 later on this year, though nearly all we be focussed on stability.
Hot on the heels of iOS 8.3’s release is iOS 8.4 –– the update is now available in beta. iOS 8.4 will likely be the last iOS update ahead of Apple’s WWDC convention. The BIG update inside iOS 8.4 is to do with music, and below is the official word from Apple on what you can expect from the new-look Music app for iPhone and iPad.
The iOS 8.4 Beta includes an early preview of the the all-new Music app. With powerful features and an elegant new look, enjoying your music is easier than ever. This preview provides a sneak peek into what we’ve been working on, and what’s to come — the music is just getting started.
- All-New Design. Music app has a beautiful new design that makes exploring your music collection easier and more fun. Personalize playlists by adding your own image and description. Enjoy stunning pictures of your favorite artists in the Artists view. Start playing an album right from the album list. The music you love is never more than a tap away.
- Recently Added. Albums and playlists you’ve recently added are now at the top of your library, making it effortless to find something new to play. Simply tap play on the artwork to listen.
- Streamlined iTunes Radio. Discovering music with iTunes Radio is easier than ever. You can now quickly return to your favorite stations in Recently Played. Choose from a selection of hand-curated stations in Featured Stations, or start a new one from your favorite artist or song.
- New MiniPlayer. With the new MiniPlayer, you can see what’s playing and control playback while browsing your music collection. To open Now Playing, just tap on the MiniPlayer.
- Improved Now Playing. Now Playing has a stunning new design that showcases your album artwork the way it was meant to be. In addition, you can begin wirelessly streaming your music using AirPlay without leaving Now Playing.
- Up Next. It’s now simple to find out which songs from your library will play next — just tap the Up Next icon in Now Playing. You can even reorder, add, or skip songs whenever you like.
- Global Search. You can now search from anywhere in the Music app — just tap the magnifying glass. Search results are conveniently organized to help you quickly find that perfect song. You can even start an iTunes Radio station right from Search.
Apple says iOS 9 will be the most stable update it has issued in years, and in order to ensure everything goes swimmingly the company is adopting a similar beta-approach to the update, whereby users will get early access to the software in a bid to help Apple iron out all the kinks before it is release properly.
Here’s everything you need to know about the iOS 8.3 update.
Bug Fixes & Stability Updates Galore
iOS 8.3 appears to be heavily focused on bug fixes and stability improvements with many on the interwebs reporting annoying glitches like shaky animations and delayed notifications are now fixed. I mean, just look at this list Apple included with the update for “Improved Performance”: App launch, App responsiveness, Messages, Wi-Fi, Control Center, Safari tabs, 3rd-party keyboards, Keyboard shortcuts, Simplified Chinese keyboard.
And that’s before we even get to the dozens of bug fixes, including Wi-Fi and Bluetooth fixes, orientation and rotation fixes, Messages fixes, Family Sharing fixes, CarPlay fixes , Enterprise fixes, and Accessibility fixes.
Tons of Little UX Tweaks
Of course stability and bug fixes aren’t the only improvements. Apple has also taken the time to refine many little user interface aspects of iOS 8.3. One of my favorites is solely available for the iPhone 6 Plus. When you are in landscape mode on that device and the keyboard is displayed it now features italic and underline options in addition to the bold option on the keyboard.
Passbook has also gotten more usable thanks to new headers that clearly separate your passes from your credit and debit cards. Payment cards now appear under the Apple Pay header at the top of Passbook and all your other passes appear below the Passes header. There’s also a + button next to each header that easily allows you to add new cards or passes. And speaking of Apple Pay, iOS 8.3 adds Apple Pay support for the China UnionPay network.
In the Photos app albums now have icon identifiers on them. So albums that only contain photos will have a white photo icon on them and albums that have videos have a video camera icon on them. But perhaps the best UX tweak is the elongated space bar on the keyboard in Safari, which makes it easier to avoid accidentally tapping the full stop key when typing in a web address –– a major annoyance before this update.
iCloud Photo Library
iOS 8.3 also brings iCloud Photo Library out of beta. iCloud Photo Library stores your entire photos library in the cloud, making it available to all your devices at once as well as syncing your favorites, albums, and edits across all your devices.
A big new feature of iOS 8.3 is the diversified emoji keyboard. Now you can select the skin tones of the emoji icons. Here’s how: when you bring up the emoji keyboard by tapping the globe key on the keyboard find an emoji that is a body part, such as a face, hand, or legs and tap and hold on it. Doing so will bring up the skin tone picker, which allows you to select between six different skin tones for the icon. But be warned, if you change the skin tone of an emoji and send it to someone who’s not on iOS 8.3 or OS X 10.10, the emoji will show up, oddly, as an alien.
There are also several new flags and some new tech emoji’s that look like the Apple Watch, iMac, and iPhone.
If you’re a car lover, iOS 8.3 also has a cool new feature for you: wireless CarPlay. Now if your car has Bluetooth or Wi-Fi you can connect your iPhone to its CarPlay system wirelessly. Goodbye Lightning cable!
Google Two-Factor Authentication
Are you a big user of Google’s services? Then you’ll like this iOS 8.3 update. iOS now supports Google two-factor authentication, so you can add Google accounts without the need for app specific passwords.
Download Free Apps Without A Password
But it’s this last update that is the killer feature for me. Apple has now included a setting that allows you to disable the need for a password when downloading a free app from the App Store. Previously the only setting options for downloading apps were requiring a password every time or requiring a password again after 15 minutes had elapsed since the last time you entered it.
While those two settings still remain, there’s now a new one that allows you to disable the password requirement for free apps. To turn it on open your Settings app and select iTunes & App Store. On the Password Settings screen under the Free Downloads header, toggle the Require Password switch to OFF (white). Note that you’ll only see this option available on devices without Touch ID or on devices that have Touch ID disabled. Apparently Apple thinks Touch ID makes purchases so seamless those users don’t need this option.