Cutting through the hype: The 5 best new features in iOS 8

iOS 8 is packed full of great new features, but these are the 5 hottest ones

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Best iOS 8 Features

Apple blew developers away when it unveiled iOS 8 on Monday during its annual WWDC 2014 keynote presentation. Did the company’s announcements blow iPhone and iPad users away as well? That remains to be seen, but there’s no question that Apple added some much-needed and much-appreciated new functionality to its popular mobile platform.

Last year’s big iOS 7 release was all about renovation, so we were looking for some serious innovation from Apple this year. From a developer perspective, we definitely got it.

From an end-user’s perspective though, iOS 8 brings a whole host of new functionality that already exists on other platforms. In some cases, Apple’s solutions bring existing functionality to iOS and add features. In some instances, Apple might still be missing some key features.

As far as innovation goes, however, we’re not sure iPhone, iPad and iPod touch owners will see this as a hugely innovative release.

The overwhelming majority of iOS device users will be blown away when iOS 8 is released this fall. They don’t care what features Apple stole from Android and they don’t care that some new feature already existed in Windows Phone.

All they care about is that iOS will be better than ever before.

That said, there are tons of terrific new iOS 8 features that Apple introduced on Monday, and even more hidden features that Apple didn’t even address during its WWDC 2014 keynote.

Wondering which new things you should be most excited for? We cut through the hype and picked iOS 8′s five best new features:

QuickType / Third-party Keyboard Support

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Text input gets two major improvements in iOS 8.

First, Apple is finally improving its auto-correct technology — and it only took seven years!

Apple’s new QuickType feature adds word prediction above the keyboard (don’t worry iPhone users, it’ll look much nicer on the larger iPhone screens coming this fall). The keyboard also now learns the language you use in different apps and when messaging different contacts, and it adjusts its predictions based on past messages.

In addition, Apple devices will now support third-party keyboards beginning with iOS 8.

Have you been wishing you could use Swipe in all of your iOS apps? Well, starting this fall, you can!

Actionable Notifications

Android devices have had this feature for some time, and now iOS 8 finally brings actionable notifications to the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.

Simply put, actionable notifications allow users to perform tasks by interacting with a notification pop-up.

So, for example, instead of having to open the Messages app to reply to a new SMS, users can simply pull down on the notification at the top of the screen (or swipe on the lock screen) and type out a reply right there.

As another example, users can accept or decline a calendar invite without opening the Calendar app.

Third-party apps can also utilize actionable notifications, so the possibilities are endless.

New Messaging Features

I don’t know about you, but one of my absolute favorite new features in iOS 8 is the ability to leave group message threads.

FINALLY…

There are also many more new messaging features in iOS 8, of course, including an awesome voice chat feature that lets users send voice messages back and forth right from within the app. Or, even better, users can play voice messages right from the lock screen simply by lifting the iPhone to their ear, and they can reply by voice with the same lift gesture.

Users can also mute notifications for a specific messaging thread, and sharing photos is far easier in iOS 8.

Continuity

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Apple’s Continuity solution and associated Handoff feature are huge news for people with multiple Apple devices.

In a nutshell, Continuity opens an active connection between devices. So, if you’re working on your Mac and you get a new SMS, a notification will appear on your Mac’s screen. You can even reply to the SMS right from your Mac.

You can also make and answer phone calls on your Mac while connected to your iOS device, and Apple’s Handoff feature lets you quickly share data between the two devices.

For example, if you’re typing an email on your Mac and you have to get up to leave, a simple click will move the draft over to your iPhone so you can finish and send the message.

Widgets

Widgets… have… arrived… on… iOS.

Sort of.

Apple finally added real widget support in iOS 8, but unfortunately not to home screens. Instead, users will be able to add widgets to the Notification Center.

This is a decent compromise for Apple. It allows the company to support iOS widgets without worrying about clutter and battery drain.

It’s certainly not the widget support many power users were hoping for though, and there’s no telling when home screen widgets might finally make it to iOS.

From earlier: Check out this list of more than 30 awesome hidden features in iOS 8

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