iOS 8 Release Date, Launch Details & Features: iOS 8 Update Rollout Today!

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Latest iOS 8 News

Apple’s new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus come with the new iOS 8 operating system as standard. New features have been introduced all over the place and here’s what we know so far. There’s a new horizontal view mode, designed for the iPhone 6 Plus, which means when you turn your phone onto its side the UI changes for a better view. Now when you turn your phone to a horizontal orientation you also get a brand new keyboard. The QWERTY now switches alongside the screen, meanwhile down the sides of the normal keyboard are some new buttons. These include dedicated copy, cut, and paste keys.

A new feature called “reachability” allows you to double touch the home button and bring the entire screen down. It means you can touch the on-screen controls at the top of the handset whilst only using one hand (for example, a web browser’s toolbar). There’s a brand new barometer inside the handset that allows you to measure relative elevation – this means it can figure out if you’ve gone up a mountain or are running along a flat road.

Apps not updated for the iPhone 6 Plus will “just work” as it can upscale directly in the same style as a desktop. Developers can now update the apps using the APK that was released tonight. Apple’s iMessage app has now changed, there’s a new quick type feature that predicts your words depending on how you are typing. You can also now send voice notes directly in iMessage.

iOS 8 will be available worldwide on September 17. It’ll be rolling out as an update to iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, iPhone 5C, iPhone 5s, iPod Touch 5th Gen, iPad 2, iPad with Retina display, iPad Air, iPad Mini, iPad Mini with Retina Display

Here’s all the latest news relating to Apple’s iOS 8 update:

Apple has announced the new version of its mobile operating system for iPad, iPhone and iPod: iOS 8. The new software builds on iOS 7’s extensive revamp from last year, adding in mobile payments, support for third-party keyboards (hello, Swiftkey for iOS!) and lots of UX changes. As expected there is a raft of new features and abilities contained within. Siri. TouchID. Apps. The lockscreen – everything has been updated, rejigged and overhauled, turning iOS 8 into the platform we all hoped iOS 7 was going to be.

Read on for everything else you need to know about Apple’s newly announced iOS 8 platform.

iOS 8 Release Date

Today, September 17, is the official rollout date for iOS 8 to start appearing on existing iPhone, iPad, and iPod products, ahead of the September 19 date when Apple’s new batch of devices – the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus – will start landing in stores and on the doorsteps of pre-order customers.

If you have an iPhone already, you may very reasonably be wondering when exactly when today you’ll be able to grab iOS 8. As always, these things are staged gradually in phases, so just because your phone refuses to update after the supposed rollout time, doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a problem. You may just have to wait a bit longer.

According to multiple reports Apple is preparing to flip the big switch at 10AM Pacific Standard Time (PST), which is about 6 o’clock this evening for those of us in the UK. In fact, a literal timetable has appeared on Twitter showing what time the rollout will hit for different regions. It’s not clear if it’s actually come from Apple (though as journos at The Guardian point out, it looks a bit like the Apple font), or if it’s something some enterprising soul has hastily assembled based on all the launch time rumours which are currently circulating on the interwebs. Regardless, you can check it out below.

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You can check what version of iOS you’re running by following this guide.

Also be sure to check out our guide on prepping your phone for iOS 8.

iOS 8 Notifications

“With iOS 8 we’ve refined notification center — but I love our interactive notifications,” said Craig Federighi, demonstrating that Apple’s notification center has expanded in its feature set. You can now reply to messages and like Facebook posts directly from the notification and it will even work in the lockscreen.

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Within the mail application, Apple has added a drop down menu which you can use to add events quickly to your calendar. The Task Switcher has been enhanced with quick access to your contacts.

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The keyboard has been improved with QuickType, which features predictive suggestions as you type and predict your next word based on your habits.

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Apple recognised that iMessage is its most used app and has added some features to group messaging (which features locations) – you can now name a conversation thread or remove a person from it. Tap to Talk allows you to record audio or video to send to people in the conversation.

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Touch ID & Mobile Payments

This is the BIG one – money wise. TouchID is now open to developers meaning every retailer under the sun can begin accepting payments via iPhone and iPads, meaning come-autumn you’ll be able to use your iPhone to make payments for goods and services online and in-store using Apple Pay. The only catch –– for now –– is that the service is only available in the US. 

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Apple Pay supports credit and debit cards from the three major payment networks, American Express, MasterCard and Visa, issued by the most popular banks including Bank of America, Capital One Bank, Chase, Citi and Wells Fargo, representing 83 per cent of credit card purchase volume in the US. In addition to the 258 Apple retail stores in the US, some of the nation’s leading retailers that will support Apple Pay include Bloomingdale’s, Disney Store and Walt Disney World Resort, Duane Reade, Macy’s, McDonald’s, Sephora, Staples, Subway, Walgreens and Whole Foods Market. Apple Watch will also work at the over 220,000 merchant locations across the US that have contactless payment enabled. Apple Pay is also able to make purchases through apps in the App Store.

“Security and privacy is at the core of Apple Pay. When you’re using Apple Pay in a store, restaurant or other merchant, cashiers will no longer see your name, credit card number or security code, helping to reduce the potential for fraud,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services. “Apple doesn’t collect your purchase history, so we don’t know what you bought, where you bought it or how much you paid for it. And if your iPhone is lost or stolen, you can use Find My iPhone to quickly suspend payments from that device.”

Camera

Apple got plenty of praise for its imaging work aboard the iPhone 5s, and with the advent of iOS 8 – as well as the iPhone 6 – things look to be once again shifting up a gear. And not just in terms of megapixels, either.

iOS 8 brings with it a new Time Lapse feature that will allow users to capture scenes over a given period of time – say, the passing of the stars over your home. We don’t know the exact deal with this feature as yet, but reports suggest Time Lapse footage will be stored inside its own bespoke folder. 

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As well as new features, Apple has opened up plenty of APIs inside iOS 8 – FINALLY!!! – and that means you’ll likely be able to pull in filters and effects from third-party applications for use on your captured images and video. 

Maps: New Stuff On The Way

Apple doesn’t usually mess things up. The company is known for its attention to detail and meticulous testing of products and services prior to launch. There have been a few clangers over the years, however: MobileMe, Ping and Maps spring to mind. The former two are now dead and buried. Maps is still alive and kicking and about to receive some pretty hefty updates inside iOS 8.

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One such feature, uncovered by 9to5Mac, will help users find their cars – handy if you’ve ever used an airport car park, gone away for a week and then returned only to find yourself completely at a loss as to where you parked your wheels. 

Another feature inside iOS 8’s Maps is improved places of interest, or POIs – basically the ability to see cool stuff around you. The new Maps will apparently feature a whole load of “new points of interests and new labels to make places such as airports, parks, train stations, bus stops, highways, and freeways easier to find,” according to the report. 

Users will also be able to use Maps to plan journeys on public transport, which sort of sounds a bit like CitiMapper, and a bit like Google Maps. Clearly, Apple is stealing – or borrowing – from the best in order to get its Maps solution up to scratch. So why didn’t the company talk about any of this at WWDC 2014? Surely plenty of people would have been interested in hearing about improvements to Maps? Right? 

Another cool feature is to do with how Maps integrates with other, core phone apps. The new feature was discovered by an Apple Insider reader and is essentially a means of adding stuff from Maps – a restaurant, for instance – inside iOS 8’s Recents tab inside the Phone app.

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“As seen in the image set above,” reports Apple Insider, “we were able to find a nearby restaurant called Rattle ‘N’ Hum in New York using Maps’ Hybrid view, search text box and Spotlight in Safari. Clicking on the provided number automatically transported the bar’s information to our iPhone’s Recents list, including Yelp score, webpage and physical address with map.” 

The feature – at least at the time of writing – is, however, limited to Maps; Siri and Safari support has not yet been implemented inside any of the iOS 8 betas thus far. Fingers crossed we’ll see Apple add in support for other core apps at launch.  

iCloud Drive

Earlier at WWDC Apple detailed iCloud Drive, an improved iCloud with a DropBox like approach. Unsurprisingly, iCloud Drive is integrated into iOS 8, and the platform features a contextual menu which can be accessed throughout the OS.

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Apple revealed CloudKit for developers enabling iCloud integration with third party apps. It’s also likely that iCloud’s default 5GB of free storage will be raised by the time iOS 8 officially launched That’s because 5GB of cloud storage is kinda measly space nowadays, with Google and Microsoft offering much, much more. Also, heavyweight Dropbox just massively dropped the prices of their paid cloud storage plans. And after the Fappening event which say celebrity photos leaked from iCloud accounts, Apple needs to do something to get iCloud back into the public’s good graces.

Healthkit

As predicted, Apple revealed a health application dubbed Healthkit. The Health app is a sort of dashboard for health and fitness apps and accessories that communicate with each other via Apple’s new HealthKit framework.

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Apple kicked off its health and fitness thing last year with the launch of the iPhone 5s and its built in M7 coprocessor – an “always on” companion chip designed to log, record and track activity. The M7 was opened to developers and since launch we’ve seen a whole host of fitness applications leverage the chip.

But the M7 was just the tip of the iceberg – it laid the foundation and got users used to having their activity tracked by their iPhone. With the advent of iOS 8, we’re about to see the rollout of Apple’s masterplan for how health and fitness will be tracked, monitored and, most importantly, analyzed using the company’s iPhone handsets.

Apple’s HealthKit makes sense of all the data and pushes it into an iOS application called Health. Like Passbook, Health is a card-based native application that displays pertinent information about certain metrics (calories burned) and activity (how many steps you’ve taken).

Apple’s HealthKit API essentially uses Units and Quantities to monitor activity, body metrics and things like your age, weight and location. It can also do things like Blood pressure and count steps or distance covered during a run or bike ride. HealthKit is open to developers to use inside their own applications, too, so expect to see A LOT of apps launched in its wake.

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Apple confirmed Nike would be producing one of the first devices that truly takes advantage of HealthKit. Likely a FuelBand or sorts, the Nike wearable will be just one of an entire myriad of wearable devices that’ll be released following the launch of Apple’s iPhone 6 later this year. 

And then of course there’s Apple’s iWatch…

HomeKit

Like HealthKit, HomeKit is another major framework available to developers in iOS 8. It allows manufacturers of smart home appliances to write software that will allow their devices to interact with each other and form their own ecosystem that you can control from your iPhone or iPad.

But unlike the Health app–or any other app you use to currently control devices on your iPhone–HomeKit doesn’t have an app. Instead you’ll interact with your HomeKit devices via Siri. You’ll simply speak a command to Siri like “Turn off the lights in the kitchen” and the lights in the kitchen will go off.

Sharing

Craig Federighi explained Apple’s new sharing features, saying, “Once you’ve set up your family as a unit, you automatically share photos, calendars, reminders, or find my friends.”

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“In the home we’re used to sharing physical media, but increasingly our media is in our devices. Now you can get at not just your purchases, but the purchases of everyone in your family.” It works with up to six family members…on one credit card. Sounds risky, but it means parents get a prompt to approve new purchases.

Photo sharing has also been enhanced:

“Now we’re bringing together photos with iCloud — every photo you take available on all your devices.”

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But it’s not just sharing either, Apple is enabling extensive photo editing tools which work across devices. Copies of your photos are stored in the cloud, so even if  you edit one with the built in tools the original will remain. You can do this on iPad or iPhone and it uses your iCloud account, meaning you’ve got 5GB free but more storage space will cost a subscription fee.

Siri

Siri has been tweaked so that you don’t need to touch the phone, just start talking and it’ll respond. It also now features integrated Shazam song recognition and you can prompt it to purchase iTunes content.

Another cool hint was Apple’s revelation that Siri tools will allow developers to integrate the assistant with their apps. Apple gave an example where you might be able to say “get ready for bed” and an app synced to your house lights and doors might turn all the lights off and lock the house.

Apps & Widgets

Following Apple’s main announcement of iOS 8, Craig Federighi went on to talk about the improvements for devs. One or two gems for the consumer came out of this talk, however.

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First of all, Apple has developed what it calls “Extensibility”, a development tool which allows apps to extend their services to other apps. Developers can create app extensions which live in “app sandboxes” where apps can interact. Primarily this will allow more sharing extensions, so you could, for example, use Pinterest from inside Apple’s Photos application.

The other big change is the introduction of Widgets. Apparently these have been in development since iOS 2! Widgets are added to the notification centre and Safari. Apple is also enabling third-party keyboards just like Android – Swype on iOS!

And now, thanks to Phillips, we have a pretty good idea about what “widgets” will look like inside iOS 8. In a tweet, posted over the weekend, Phillips debuted a widget for its Hue service, which you can see in all its glory below.

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As you can see the widget sits in the notifications center. From here, the widget – thanks to Extensibility – can communicate with the app and pull real-time data into the notification center without you ever opening the Hue application itself.

This is just one example of what can be done with widgets in iOS 8. Philips didn’t say much about functionality in the tweet, although it’ll be very interesting to see how other manufacturers, Sonos, for instance, leverage the new capabilities. 

Apple also explained its new “Metal” developer API, a set of tools designed to unlock the power of the A7 chip for games developers. It will essentially take gaming on iOS to the next level with incredible physics and graphics.

Quick Access Contacts 

Apple revamped multitasking in iOS 7, adding in a new carousal view which you access by double tapping the home button to bring up all your open apps. And inside iOS 8 there’s another useful addition to the hub: recent contacts (they’re stationed directly above your already-open applications, as you can see below). 

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Better Spotlight

Wikipedia, the Apple App Store and iTunes have all been included inside iOS 8’s universal search function, Spotlight. The search function is accessed in exactly the same way it was before (drag down on the homescreen) but is now exactly pretty useful when looking for new albums, content and applications – or when you’re at the pub quiz.t

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There’s a load of other features coming in iOS 8 which Apple just didn’t have the time to explain whilst the keynote was going on. At the moment there’s not that much known about some of these features but most are self explanatory.

You’ll finally be getting battery usage per-app stats just like Android, it helps you to know which apps use up the most power and therefore you can take steps to save some much needed battery life.

iBooks is becoming fully integrated with a brand new auto night mode whilst Safari will also get a Private Browsing option for each individual tab.

A Tips app is also incoming which we assume means tips and tricks on how to use your iOS device a little better. There’s also Wi-Fi calling support meaning you won’t need to eat up all that data just to do some internet calls.

Some other niche features include a Braille keyboard – and we really don’t know how it will work at this point – and an In Case of Emergency Card built into the contacts app. There’s even more to come but Apple hasn’t fully detailed it all yet, we expect we will have to wait until the actual release to learn everything.

Location Data Request To Make A Comeback

A long, long time ago, way back in iOS 6, users had to give permission for Apple’s operating system to use their location data. That was dropped in both iOS 7 and 7.1 but it looks like it’s soon to make a welcome return in the next update.

Each individual app will now ask for permission to use location data. It all follows on from a number of apps being caught using the gathered information, the guilty parties included Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and even Foursquare.

A MacRumors reader discovered the new notification and supplied a screenshot for the site which you can see below.

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With iOS 8 though it’ll be a load easier to change your preferences per an app, so if you still don’t trust Facebook you can revoke its access whilst you still allow another app to use your location data.

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