With every iteration of iOS, Apple is inspired by (borrows) innovative ideas from competitors/jailbreakers to make the iOS experience better. iOS 8 is  no different….and that’s a good thing. It’s to the point where the only jailbreak app I’ll really miss is f.lux. iOS 8 is no different and here’s my early thoughts. Oh, I’m running this on my iPhone 5 – I’m guessing if it works for me, it’ll work on the 5c and 5s with no problem. I wouldn’t recommend running it on anything older though (just a hunch)

Installation

There’s the standard Over The Air (OTA) method that most people will use. You may need to have significant space free (I’ve seen elsewhere that some people needed over 5gb free!) on your device for this method. You’ll get the space back once the install is complete though. Another way to do it is to update via iTunes. This is a handy method if you don’t have enough free space and also a quick way to back up your device if you’re not using iCloud.

 

Notifications

Finally, Apple has heard our complaints and improved the features of the notification system.

They’ve added some new gestures that allow you to respond in various ways to incoming messages. Previously, you could only swipe to open a message, but now, you can swipe up to dismiss, pull down to reply, etc. This interactive notification system will be utilized by other apps (including 3rd party), not just iMessage. Now I might have a reason to turn Facebook and Twitter banner alerts back on….

 

Messaging – Now Improved with the Almighty “Details” Button

No idea if iMessage actually WORKS better, but there are some HUGE UX improvements (keep in mind most of these ONLY work for iMessage conversations, not SMS for example):

 

Group Messages

Labeling! Yep, now you can label your group messages! Just click on the “Details” button and if you’re in a thread with multiple people there’ll be an option to add a label at the very top. You can also add people to an existing group conversation here. Even more awesome, you can elect to LEAVE a group conversation now.

Audio Messages

Oh wow, now you can send audio messages from within iMessage. Apple’s finally caught up to WeChat from two years ago….yawn….

Location Sharing

You can share your location for different lengths of time with individuals AND groups now. Pretty useful if you’re on a trip or going to a large event. Again, just click on the “Details” button and you’re given various options. I’ll skip the discussion of privacy ramifications for now….

Mute!

Hallelujah! Apple has finally added a mute/Do Not Disturb mode for messages.

Photo Attachments

One big improvement here….Attachments! Now when you want to find a photo that you’ve previously sent you don’t have to dig through the entire thread. Click on the “Details” button (told you it was awesome) and at the bottom of the screen, you’ll see ALL the photos that were attached to various messages. VERY cool.

Supposedly you can attach comments to photos you send as well as expiration time periods, but I didn’t see that option. The latter would be awesome (not for that, get your mind out of the gutter) for the times when I send a picture to ask a question (I often ask my wife which product she wants me to pick up at the grocery store as an example). I don’t really need to see that photo ever again after say 30 minutes. [UPDATE] I haven’t been able to send any photos at all, so not sure what’s going on with that….

Time Stamp

Bizarrely, you could never see time stamps before, but now you can check to see when a message was sent or received. Just pull (anywhere in the thread) to the left and the time stamps will appear.

Message History

You now have the option to auto-expire your messages. The default is to keep forever, but you can set to one month or a year. Handy to save on space if you’ve got a 16gb model. Audio and video messages are set to autodelete after 2 minutes, but you can change those defaults as well.

Miscellaneous UX Enhancements

Shortcuts

Fairly minor, but kind of cool. Double-click on the Home button, and your most recent contacts show up on top of the screen. You can call or message them by clicking on their icons.

Battery Usage by Application

Now you can easily identify your battery hogs! This information is available in the Settings\General\Usage\Battery Usage page.

Siri

Couple of improvements to Siri: Hands-free “Hey Siri” mode is now an option when your device is plugged in to power. I’m assuming this means that the microphone is always on for this to work. Also, as previously announced, Shazam is now integrated into Siri so you can ask Siri “What song is this?” Or, you could just fire up Shazam or SoundHound and have those apps do the same thing….

Keyboard Improvements

There’s a new feature called QuickType that will contextually (attempt to) predict what word you’re going to use next. They show up in little boxes above the keyboard. With my limited testing, the new feature works pretty well and might spell the end of those played out autocorrect memes. You’re supposed to be able to load 3rd party keyboards too, but I haven’t had a chance to try that yet.

Mail

I wasn’t going to talk about Mail because I don’t typically use it (I’m using Mailbox right now) but they made a couple of improvements, one of which is kind of cool. The first is that they added more shortcut options when you swipe to the left. That feature has been in a dozen other mail apps for a long time. They have added a new notification option that lets you know when someone responds to an email thread…that’s kind of cool. Probably not enough to get me to switch back but, kind of cool.

Sharing Is Caring

This one is pretty big. You can share all your app purchases with family members, even if they have their own AppleID accounts.

Untested Features

Handoff / Continuity – Not available until October and even then not sure if my aged MacBook Pro meets the hardware requirements (I know for sure it doesn’t support Handoff)

Apple Pay – Well, obviously, it will only work with the 6 series

HomeKit and Health App – Both of these features have very specific hardware accessory requirements. I’ve got the new Health app on my phone….but with no fitness tracker, this one’s pretty useless right now.

iCloud Drive – Not going to switch until OSX Yosemite is officially released as iCloud Drive and the existing iCloud service aren’t compatible.

Conclusions

I didn’t have a chance to test everything unfortunately, but so far it’s a great improvement over iOS 7, with a lot of really cool new features. Not a lot that is major, you understand, but really solid updates. I have no issues running the new OS so far on my iPhone 5 so I’d recommend it provisionally – I can’t wait to see if anything is massively broken in the next few weeks.