10 Coolest Features Of iOS 8 For Developers

8 Is Great

The next version of Apple's mobile operating system -- iOS 8 -- will offer functionality well beyond the health, home automation, and other kitschy baubles that have grabbed most of the headlines since its unveiling in early June. And while multiplane focus is pretty snazzy, Apple's mostly playing catch-up with that and other new camera features. Indeed, some of Cupertino's pending properties appear to be taken from Android to-do lists of yore. Here's a rundown of some of the better things that Apple's has on tap, particularly in terms of iOS 8 for developers.

Synchronicity with Yosemite

The integration between iOS 8 and Mac OS X Yosemite will reach new heights. According to Apple, documents will easily exchange between platforms, a new "handoff" feature will allow seamless browsing and file editing between devices, and notifications and text (and yes, even SMS) messages will be synchronized. And on Macs and iPads on the same Wi-Fi network as an iPhone running iOS 8, users will even be able to answer incoming calls, transfer calls and even remotely control one from the other. Further, iPhone's hotspot will be easier to activate and connection will be automatic.

Notifications That React

The ability to respond to a notification has been part of Android since version 4.1 circa 2011. Now Apple is following suit, giving apps the ability to start a new task by tapping on a notification message. For example, tapping on a new email alert might bring up the mail client and open a reply. The time-saving and productivity gains for this are obvious.

Soft Keyboards

Apple has finally removed its restrictions on third-party soft keyboards, which have been available for Android practically from the start. Now developers are free to build their own or employ products such as SwiftKey or Swipe in their solutions. Apple also has improved its contextual suggestion algorithm to provide more helpful and meaningful input that adapts based on whether a user is using email or SMS.


Among the most significant features in iOS 8 will be Extensions. This will permit developers to build custom connections between their own apps and those of others; in essence, to "extend" features to other apps. A user might, for example, call upon the photo editing capabilities of one app to modify a photo without leaving the image gallery, and then share it on Flikr, Pinterest, Tumblr or a site of their choice (instead of Apple's). The tool also would allow Safari to "import" functionality from other apps, such as to define a term or translate to another language. Incidentally, it's the implementation of Extensions that permits the use of third-party soft keyboards.

Closer to the Metal

There will be Metal, a new graphics rendering framework worthy of the 64-bit A7 SoC that's found inside the iPad Air, iPhone 5s and Retina iPad Mini. According to Apple's Metal technical documents, it provides a framework for managing, committing and executing graphics operations as well as those for computing. This gives developers direct control over the asynchronous behavior of the GPU, and lets them use multithreading more efficiently, to create parallel command buffers and to free up the application processor for other work.

Enhanced Messages

Apple's Messages app now permits voice embedded of voice and video. It also now supports groups, with the ability to quickly add members from a contact list, send only to some in a group, drop yourself at any time and enable "do not disturb" for reading later. A single tap can show all media in a thread, multiple images or videos can be sent at once, messages containing media can be set to self-destruct, and the current location can be added to messages always or for a set period of time.

Enterprise Enhancements

There's more for enterprise IT departments in iOS 8 than any prior version, most notably for security and device management. Downloads and execution of apps can now be controlled directly on enterprise domains using Safari. A new networking framework permits IT and third parties to create content filtering tools; IT departments can impose access rules for iCloud-based apps and documents. Apple also now offers MDM tools to provide visibility and control of devices on the network. Admins can set device names, invoke single sign-on, poll backup status, and prevent accidental erasure and user-based management overrides.


When Extensions are in the "Today" view or lock screen, they're called Widgets. These little devils provide peeks into app data that's timely, such as a stock price, traffic alert or eBay bid. Widgets don't accept keyboard input; they're intended to allow uses to perform quick, one-click tasks such as marking a task complete or accepting a calendar invite. The Notification Center in iOS 8 now supports Widgets.

Muting Conversations

This seems like a no-brainer, but until now there has been no way to opt out of an iMessage conversation without everyone seeing that you've gone. But iOS 8 will have the ability to "mute" a conversation just as in a telephone conference call. Messages will still appear, but alerts about them will not.

Wi-Fi Calling

Wi-Fi calling has been part of Android's world for more than a year now, and Apple is finally getting on board. But there are pitfalls. Firstly, calls over Wi-Fi might not be free. Check with your carrier and your plan; outgoing calls might rack up minutes. Also, not all SIM cards support Wi-Fi calling. And in our experience, Wi-Fi calls are a bit more laggy than those over cell networks, which are laggy enough.

The Bottom Line

Apple has made the iOS 8 beta available to anyone who wishes begin working with it, and has published on its iOS 8 developer site documentation for its 4,000 new APIs. That's also where you'll find Swift , Apple's latest programming language that's faster and safer to use than Objective-C. Swift code can work right alongside Apple's stalwart language, and provides a bridge to a world that the company envisions is populated with Apple devices all working seamlessly with each other and in whatever infrastructure happens to be available.