September 22, 2014
Apple released iOS 8 -- the newest version of the iPhone (and iPad) operating system last week, and many people rushed to install it. And, based on feedback in message boards and forums, some have been disappointed by the lack of innovation. iOS 8 looks very similar to iOS 7, and it's not immediately apparent where all the new features are. Fear not; there really are some compelling reasons to upgrade your OS even if you're not getting a new iPhone 6. Here's a roundup of the most compelling features you will want to check out after letting your phone update to the new operating system:
Multitasking email. One of the most frustrating things about using the iPhone for email has been the "modal" nature of email screens.
Once you open a new or existing email, you had to close it to get to another other messages. No longer.
Now email messages are windows, and you can have as many of them open at once as you like.
Just swipe down to minimize a message to get back to your inbox, where you can open more. Open messages wait for you at the bottom of the screen, and you can flip among them like Safari browser tabs.
Third party keyboards. At long last, Apple has released its grip on the iPhone keyboard, so you can install replacements offered by third parties.
There are excellent reasons to want to do this: As Android has shown, there's a big market for alternative keyboards that are tuned to the way different people like to enter text.
One of the hottest Android keyboards, Swype, for example, is now available for iOS for $1. To use an alternative keyboard, you go to Settings, General, Keyboard, Keyboards and choose Add New Keyboard.
From the keyboard, you can now switch to the new keyboard (or back again) from the globe icon in the lower left. One big caveat: You can't use the microphone to convert speech to text while using an alternative keyboard. Apple requires you to switch back to its keyboard for that.
Interactive notifications. The Notifications Center -- the place that tells you about new messages and alerts -- is now interactive. You can slide items to the left to act on them without going to the specific app they came from. Depending upon the kind of notification, you can generally reply to it (like a text message), delete, snooze (like a timer or alarm), or dismiss it.
Siri now works hands-off. Here's a feature you're unlikely to ever discover on your own, because it's turned off by default and no one seems to be talking much about it. If your phone is plugged in (ie, charging), just say "Hey Siri," and Siri will wake up to deal with your question.
Some Android phones have had this feature for a while, and it can be genuinely useful (not to mention entertaining).
To turn it on, go to Settings, General, Siri and enable Allow "Hey Siri." Be sure not to wait too long before asking your question, or Siri will time out and simply greet you.
Touch ID is open to third parties. This feature has a lot of long term potential, but for the moment it's still just a lot of potential.
Instead of limiting Touch ID to unlocking the phone and making iTunes purchases, now apps can take advantage as well, As of press time, the list of compatible apps is quite short (apps include Evernote, E*TRADE, Mint, LastPass, and a few others. But over time, you should be able to avoid entering passwords on the majority of apps and services on your iPhone.
Monitor your battery. Where is your juice going? Apple now lets you see which apps are using the most battery life.
Go to Settings, General, Usage, Battery Usage, and you can see a list of apps and how much of your battery life each has consumed. Even better, some apps will report why they're using that much energy, such as low signal or the fact that they're continuing to run in the background.