iOS 8 features and updates

Update: iOS 8.3 is available to download now.

The latest version of iOS 8 brings a number of changes, not least of which is a more diverse array of emoji. There are 300 new characters, including more countries’ flags and the “thumbsup” symbol in various skin colors.

The iPhone keyboard got a larger space bar, squeezing in on the “.” button’s prime real estate. CarPlay was given a boost thanks to the addition of wireless iPhone support. Finally, Siri learned more languages, as did the dictation tool, while Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and orientation/rotation all got a kick in the pants.

Here’s an explainer of all iOS 8 features.

The previous incremental iOS 8.1.3 patch brought with it new features that fix iOS 8 and round out that flat iOS 7 design, even if you haven’t upgraded toiPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus yet.

As we mentioned in our full iOS 8 review, instead of a dramatic redesign, this year’s mobile operating system update ties everything together with the overarching theme of “convergence.”

In October, iOS 8.1 released with features like tighter Mac OS X Yosemiteintegration while further loosening the restrictions on Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint sensor for the same-day Apple Pay launch.

New software kits also bring once fragmented health gadgets together, something that this year’s “one more thing” surprise, the Apple Watch, will take advantage of in April.


Cut to the chase
What is it? The next iteration of Apple’s mobile platform
When is it out? Download iOS 8.1.3 today
What does it cost? iOS 8 is free download


When it comes to iOS 8.1.3 and iOS 8 compatibility, Apple requires an iPhone 4Sor newer and iPad 2 or newer to update to the latest software. Only the iPhone 4 is cut from the list.

Both the iPads mini and iPad mini 2 tablets and the forever alone iPod touch 5th generation also work with the new iOS, just like they did with iOS 7. No one besides 2010’s iPhone 4 gets left behind.

iOS 8 release compatibility

iOS 8 works on almost as many devices as iOS 7

That’s not to say that every device worked flawlessly from the beginning. iOS 8 had been running slowly on the iPhone 4S and iPad 2 given the older hardware specs.

These older devices should be running more smoothly as of December’s iOS 8.1.1. Release notes detail a minor update, but one that give these two older devices a much-needed performance bump.

iOS 8.1.3 updates fixes problems

iOS 8.1, and now more precisely iOS 8.1.3, fixes some of those nasty WiFi and battery drain problems that resulted in a lot of negative “feedback” for Apple.

It also introduces Apple Pay to iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus owners. Now you can link up for credit or debit card to Apple’s digital wallet if your bank is one of the 500 that support the NFC-like feature.

There are still plenty of iPhone users complaining about connectivity issues on Apple’s support forum, but a more WiFi and Bluetooth-focused patch come with iOS 8.2 eventually.

iOS 8 1 update

iOS 8.1 update brings Apple Pay and, better yet, WiFi fixes

OS X Yosemite gets the most out of iOS 8.1 thanks to the new Continuity feature. Mac computers can now send and receive phone calls, texts and AirDrops from Apple mobile devices.

This is a major upgrade over iOS 8.0.2 and iOS 8.0.1. Yes, they populated the App Store with fitness and nutrition apps that tie into Apple’s Health app, but it was of no use if they broke your phone.

Touch ID for all

Apple’s fingerprint scanner has been limited to bypassing the lockscreen and buying iTunes Store content, but iOS 8 changes all of that as app developers get access to the five-digit login tool.

All sorts of apps can use the biometric scanning home button instead of pesky passwords. It only applies to the Touch ID-enabled iPhone 5S, iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. But the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 are rumored to include the sensor.

iOS 8 Touch ID update

Forgetting your password may be a thing of the past

At WWDC, personal financial management illustrated how third-party Touch ID use will expand beyond its iOS 7 lockscreen and iTunes confines. 1Password uses the same home button authentication the easier password management.

PayPal sent its developers to Apple’s Touch ID session at the conference, meaning all of your eBay and e-commerce transactions may be complete with the touch of the home button when upgrading to iOS 8.

While PayPal doesn’t think highly of Apple Pay, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus digital wallet idea is likely to be ready for iOS 8.1 in October in the US and in2015 in the UK.

In due time, “Forget password” will become a thing of the past, replaced by the pores in your fingertips. It should act as a much more unique method of protecting your valuable data.

This Touch ID convenience is on top of the fact that iOS 8 Apple Pay system ofscanning credit cards via an iPhone or iPad camera and automatically filling in the details to make shopping easier.

Of course, Apple went out of its way to say that even though you trust many app developers with your bank account data, they won’t have access to your biometric information. It’s locked away in the A7 and new A8 processor.

iOS 8 camera time-lapse mode

Believe it or not, the iPhone is consistently the most used camera in the world. It’s in so many hands and so easy to use. In iOS 8, the camera app is going to get even better.

Apple added a time-lapse camera mode to iOS 8 beta 1 in order to help users capture extended moments and automatically speed up the video with a higher frame rate. It’s a stripped-down rival to Hyperlapse.

Condensing everything road trips to candles burning down to their wick to just a few seconds in demoed in the YouTube video above.

iOS 8’s time-lapse mode is basically the opposite of the slow motion video recording option at 120 frames per second that Apple added to iOS 7 last year and Slow Mo 240fps in iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

SMS and phone calls on Mac

iMessages has been a wonderful cross-compatible tool for chatting on iOS devices and Macs – at least until you try to leave your iPhone behind for an Android.

iOS 8 iMessages for iPad and Mac

iOS 8 SMS messages will finally appear on your iPad and Mac computer

Apple deserters, however, may be lured back to iOS 8 with SMS and voice callsbeing folded into iPads and Macs, just like blue iMessages currently pop up on Apple tablets and computers.

It’s a pain to have to fetch your phone for a single SMS from an Android user, especially when you’re sitting in front of a 13-inch MacBook Air screen and full keyboard capable of handling simple texts and phone calls.

iOS 8 phone calls on tablet and Mac

Incoming phone calls can be answered on the tablet or computer too

Of course, enabling text messages and phone calls to a Mac requires upgrading OS X Yosemite, but that’s a piece of cake since it’ll be free today and iOS 8.1 come out on Monday.

Handoff and WiFi hotspot

iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite are going to be joined at the hip with the Handoff feature that lets you pick up where you left off between devices.

Starting a project or email on an iPad or iPhone will let you finish the task on a Mac with no annoying overlap. There’s no need to reopen windows or rewrite text on the computer. And it goes the other way, too, from a Mac to a an iOS 8 device.

iOS 8 handoff feature

Finish that email on the computer or on the road seamlessly

What if you don’t have access to the internet on your computer or iPad to get the job done? That’s where the Instant HotSpot feature will come into play, easing the messy personal hotspot setup of iOS 7.

The one problem with this joint iOS 8-Yosemite feature is that it may require you to own a fairly new Mac. Handoff has been tipped to be not be compatible with Apple computers that pre-date Bluetooth 4.0.


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