What's new in the new iOS 8

What's new in the new iOS 8

Apple's latest mobile operating system was released two weeks ago, with a bumper crop of features. Here are its highlights.

Messages

This is the most popular app on iOS, so Apple says. It lets users message fellow iOS users using Wi-Fi or data, but users can switch to cellular network for SMS when data or Wi-Fi are not available, or if the recipient is not an iOS user.

The updated Messages app lets you send audio and video messages as well, without leaving the app.

Look for the Camera icon on the left of the messages bar (bottom of the screen) and the Microphone icon on the right.

When you hold down the Microphone icon, this brings up a quadrant with an arrow and an X. Record your voice message, then send it by tapping the arrow. Or tap on the X to discard the message.

For a video message, tap on the Camera icon, swipe to video mode, shoot a short video and send it.

By default, video and audio messages expire after two minutes and will not take up space on your iPhone. But you or the party you called can opt to keep the message.

Tap on Details (at the top right-hand corner in a conversation) and you can send your location to a friend.

Notification Centre Widgets

Extensibility is a major feature of iOS 8. In essence, Extensibility allows third-party extensions, thereby bringing third-party widgets, keyboards, photo filters and custom sharing to iOS 8.

In Android devices, widgets are sited on the Home screen, like any other app. So you have to swipe through pages to get to a particular widget. On the other hand, all the widgets in iOS 8 are housed in the Notification Centre.

This means that you only need to swipe down from the top of any screen to bring up the Notification Centre and access your widgets.

To add widgets to your Notification Centre, swipe down on the Notification Centre's "Today" panel to find the Edit bar. Tap on it. All apps that can be added as widgets will be listed, each next to a green dot containing a plus sign. Tap on the dot to add the app.

If you set the Yahoo Weather! app as a widget, for instance, you will be able to see the weather forecast at a glance. You can also set up reminders or lists straight from Evernote when it is set as a widget.

QuickType and third-party keyboards

With iOS 8 comes the QuickType Keyboard, Apple's free, built-in predictive keyboard, which learns your typing pattern. I found it to be really good in anticipating what I want to type.

In Messages conversations, it will prompt you according to the context. If you get a "Haha" message, QuickType will offer you "LOL" or a smiley emoticon as an option.

Alternatively, you can install third-party predictive keyboards, such as SwiftKey (free), Fleksy ($1.28) or Swype ($1.28). The downside of such keyboards is that some developers require full access to your keyboard, so whatever you type will be transmitted to them. This lets them sync your typing pattern to multiple devices.

With QuickType, the information stays on the device and no data is sent to Apple. SwiftKey is among the many developers who say that no sensitive information is transmitted.

To install a third-party keyboard that you have purchased, go to Settings > General > Keyboard > Keyboards. At Add Keyboard, you will find SwiftKey or Swype available. Tap on the item to add it as one of the keyboards you can use.

Of the three third-party keyboards I have tested so far, I found Swype to be the best. It lets you skim across the virtual keyboard instead of making you type out every word and it usually gets what you want and predicts the next one intelligently.

That said, I still prefer using the QuickType Keyboard, as I am more used to tapping.

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