iOS 8 Preview: our first look at the new features and improvements in Apple's OS

We couldn't help it, guys. Driven by our excitement after the official announcement of iOS 8, we downloaded and installed the beta version of Apple's mobile operating system. And now, after playing with it for some time, we are ready to share some thoughts and observations with our readers. Join us as we take you through a sneak peek preview of iOS 8 months prior to its launch to the general public.

Lock and home screens, Spotlight Search, Siri

Fueled with anticipation, we fired up our iPhone 5s once the update process had completed. After going through the brief setup wizard, we landed on... the very same home screen we knew before updating. The lock screen, the screen transitions, the animations also appeared to have been left unchanged. On one hand, we were a bit underwhelmed by all this. We did not like that initial it-is-all-the-same feeling (and they say that first impressions matter the most). But on the other hand, a shocking surprise this was not. Apple didn't introduce any major UI design tweaks during the iOS 8 announcement, so we weren't really expecting to see anything drastically new in this respect. Nevertheless, let's not forget that we're test-driving a beta version of iOS 8, so the final release might not look exactly like this.

Spotlight Search was the first iOS 8 feature that we got to test out; it was, quite literally, available at a swipe's distance. Spotlight Search, which is still accessible from any home screen with a swipe-down gesture, can now handle queries even better, returning results from more places than ever. Search results include news, songs and movies on iTunes, nearby restaurants and places of interest, and even apps that aren't in the user's library. Of course, Spotlight Search still digs through the user's installed apps, emails, contacts, and reminders, prior to forwarding your query to Google or Wikipedia. Suggestions are refreshed with each keypress, which makes searching even more convenient. Overall, the enhanced Spotlight Search has a lot of potential and many would find it very useful. In this beta of iOS 8, unfortunately, it seems to be having troubles with bringing up suggestions from the web as we type, although we suppose that will be taken care of prior to the OS's release.

Speaking of queries, Siri has been taught a few new tricks as well. First and foremost, you can make her (or him) listen to your input with a simple voice trigger – "Hey, Siri..." followed by your question or command. Alternatively, bringing up the phone to your ear would do the same. This, however, works only after Siri has been launched with a long-press of the home button. Yelling "Hey, Siri..." while on a home screen or with the phone locked wouldn't do much. Therefore, Siri's voice command is kind of useless unless you have to ask anything in addition after your first request. On a side note, a number of Android phones already support always-on voice commands. But ultimately, does Siri's voice activation work? Yup, it does, and it is still a welcome feature even though it could have been more useful. Also, Siri has gained Shazam integration – asking "What is this song?" would make Siri "listen" to it. With popular songs, the name and title should be delivered to you within seconds. No less important is the fact that Siri now supports 22 additional dictation languages.

Messaging and QuickType

The Messages app is the one most frequently used on iOS, according to Apple, so treating it to a much-needed upgrade makes absolute sense. With iOS 8, users get to attach audio and video to their iMessages, and the shortcuts used for the purpose are very convenient. Previewing a message of this kind before sending it is super easy. Also among the highly appreciated features are the options to leave or mute a group conversation.

On a related note, the process of responding to a message has been streamlined in iOS 8. When one arrives, a pop-up is displayed at the top of the screen with a line for writing back a response. In other words, you can write back without having to close the active app. We have a feeling that heavy texters are going to love this feature. These quick replies can be even sent without going past the lock screen. 

The on-screen keyboard is a key element of the whole messaging experience, which is why its proper execution is of great importance. At a glance, the one in iOS 8 hasn't been tinkered with, but then we started typing and got introduced to QuickType. In a nutshell, it is a word-predicting and auto-completing algorithm displaying three suggestions for your next word as you type. We must admit that it works well, and it is nice that it learns from the conversation's context to provide better word suggestions. At this time, it is still early early to say whether or not QuickType is better than what keyboard app developers have to offer, but it is shaping up as a worthy rival.

Camera and photo editing

As before, the camera app can be quickly accessed via its lock screen shortcut. Once opened, it presents us with a familiar and intuitive user interface. Some things are new, however. For example, the Camera in iOS 8 has a self timer that snaps a burst of shots with a delay of 3 or 10 seconds. It can be useful in situations where you want to take a group photo with you in it – place the iPhone on a flat surface, hit the timer button,  and get into the frame with the rest of the guys. 

What we also like is the added option to control the camera's focus and exposure independently. You do this by tapping on the screen to pick a focus area, and then sliding a little icon that pops-up. The option is welcome, but its current execution isn't flawless. The icon, which you slide up or down to make the image brighter or darker respectively, should have been made a bit bigger so that it would be easier to tap. By the way, holding down your finger on the screen will lock the focus and exposure on the selected area.

Another mode that has made its way into Apple's camera app is Time-Lapse. While nothing new to see on a smartphone, this feature is used for shooting videos that "condense" a long period of time into a much shorter video.

With iOS 7, photos could be edited straight in the Photos application, but the editing options available weren't many. Yet now, the built-in image editing tools in iOS 8 adds the options to edit an image's light and color. Modifying any of the two parameters actually changes a number of values simultaneously. For example, making a photo lighter boosts its brightness and contrast while reducing the exposure and highlights. We know this may seem complicated, but it is not. In fact, Apple has made its image editing features in iOS 8 so easy that anyone can do it. The instant previews show what a photo will look before it is even modified, which is neat. Also, we're glad to see that Photos lets us rotate images freely. The auto-enhance and red-eye removal tools from before are present. 


This is a brand new app that comes along with iOS 8, enabling an iPhone to serve as a personal health monitoring device. You'll need additional peripherals for the purpose, however – peripherals that can gather that data and feed it into Health's database. The beauty of Health is that it is a centralized hub for all of the user's health stats, including anything from their activity, weight, and heart rate, to blood pressure, blood glucose, and vitamin intake. Thus, it gives a more complete picture of one's condition. Data collected by Health may be automatically sent to a doctor in case, let's say, the user takes a blood pressure reading and the values are outside of the norm. These are the possibilities that Health in iOS 8 will enable. From then on, it will be up to the developers and the makers of health monitoring devices to create innovative products and services compatible with Health.

Since we had neither the time, nor the equipment needed to give Health a try, we can't really say how good it works. It looks promising, however, with a clean interface and graphs showing progress over time. The addition of a personal Medical ID within Health is a welcome one. It is an overview of a person's medical conditions and allergies, meant to be accessed by others in cases of emergency. That's why the ID can be viewed without having to unlock the phone. 


This isn't all that iOS 8 brings to the table. There's also the implementation of widgets in the notification panel, the option to use third-party keyboards, the extensibility features letting apps share functions with other software, and the elegant Continuity tech allowing an iPhone or iPad to interact with other Apple products – all much-appreciated enhancements in iOS that, unfortunately, we can't try due to the lack of suitable apps and because of the platform's unfinalized state. In other words, the iOS 8 beta may have given us a sneak preview of what Apple has built, but many the platform's sweetest bits are yet to come. Nevertheless, we're mostly satisfied with what we've seen so far. Apple improves in key functionality areas where there was room for improvement, and many elements that worked fine in iOS 7 have not been tinkered with. 

Yet there's one thing that's hard to ignore. Visually, iOS 8 sticks to the style and design language introduced by iOS 7. It isn't bad, and we've pretty much adjusted to its appearance already, but at the same time, we feel like iOS could have been made more appealing with this upcoming release. And the customization options could have been given a boost as well. As a matter of fact, iOS 8 seems to add nothing but one more static wallpaper to pick from. 

Of course, it is still too early to draw any final conclusions about iOS 8 at this time. But if there's one thing we can say with certainty, that is that iPhones and iPads are about to get even more exciting this fall.

Note: This preview is based on iOS 8 Beta 1. Features described and pictured here might differ, visually and/or functionally, in the final iOS 8 release, which will be released "this fall".



1. chistoefur

Posts: 103; Member since: Nov 05, 2012

Even though lots of these features have been available for years in other OS's, it's still nice to see them here, and see them executed nicely. With a larger screened iPhone coming soon, it's pretty compelling now. But It's gonna take more than that to drag me away from Android.

7. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

My iPad is still running on 7.0.6 due to jailbreak. Thinking about selling it and getting a M8 on Friday. :)

8. alrightihatepickingusernames

Posts: 474; Member since: Dec 29, 2013

Apple is definitely closing the gap to the point where I'm no longer looking at iOS as an antiquated operating system that would be absurd for me to use. Android is still packing more of what I want though.

37. Marienx

Posts: 122; Member since: Aug 27, 2013

Fack Samsung and Apple. They've been having a troll marketing and trolling each other for so long they are on a race of their own. There will be a time Samsung drops Android for Tizen and will be a 3 way race between them and Google. With the new speculated Silver I believe Google would go on by itself. and lets make one thing clear... If Google never provided Apple with apps when it was released, the iPhone wouldn't be where it is now and not mentioning Samsung since it is rather too obvious.

53. Lampriya

Posts: 245; Member since: Oct 05, 2013

It's not fair to compare ios with Android. ios was born to please elite class people and Android was to attract users with their gimmicky useless features.

59. hurrycanger

Posts: 1765; Member since: Dec 01, 2013

gimmicky useless features, including those features on iOS 8 which Android has had for a while?

63. Daftama

Posts: 641; Member since: Nov 03, 2012

Hahahaha sometimes I wonder how people don't see the wrong in themselves such hypocrites... It's innovation because Apple made lol......

64. artorelis

Posts: 5; Member since: Apr 02, 2012

I agree completely. It's nice to hear all those rumours about 5.5 inch screen iPhone but they still need to do more to drag me away from from Samsung's "big boys" such as Note 3. :-)

2. Ninetysix

Posts: 2965; Member since: Oct 08, 2012

Man..what can I say. I've had these features on my Android phone for a while now. I'm so upset that Apple finally integrated them into iOS. I don't really know what I will do now to release all these anger inside of me. I guess i'm off to the gym to do some deadlifts while screaming "Android Rules!!!" in every rep.

4. alrightihatepickingusernames

Posts: 474; Member since: Dec 29, 2013

Do it, I dare you.

46. networkdood

Posts: 6330; Member since: Mar 31, 2010

dude, he is just trolling...

66. alrightihatepickingusernames

Posts: 474; Member since: Dec 29, 2013

I didn't arrive on the internet yesterday, I know. I'm just surprised you didn't recognize that I was doing the same thing.

30. superduper

Posts: 151; Member since: Oct 20, 2013

K brah.

44. gnotch

Posts: 19; Member since: Dec 31, 2013

and that will do nothing but have everyone looking at you like you're crazy.

60. AfterShock

Posts: 4147; Member since: Nov 02, 2012

This changes what exactly?

3. Gamas_K

Posts: 88; Member since: Nov 02, 2013

"Hey, siri"? Are they copying "Ok Google" and "Hi, Galaxy?

6. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

Ironic how Apple sued Samsung for Siri yet they blatantly copied Google and Samsung with the voice activated phrase.

22. darkkjedii

Posts: 31313; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

That crappy S-Voice is a blatant, and horribly implemented copy of Siri.

27. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

I said the voice activated phrase, not S-Voice itself jedii. :)

65. artorelis

Posts: 5; Member since: Apr 02, 2012

Don't use this s-voice from samsung. It's a crap. Instead of it use Google voice (Google now).

12. Sauce unregistered

Lets not forgot who copied Siri to begin with.

13. PBXtech

Posts: 1032; Member since: Oct 21, 2013

Refresh my memory, Google worked on Google Now for five years before Siri was officially released by Apple.

15. ojdidit84

Posts: 462; Member since: Jul 16, 2011

It wasn't Google, but it was definitely Samsung. The reason I stayed away from Samsung for so long is because they blatantly copied Apple since the GS1, especially with their ridiculously half-baked redundant "S" services.

21. darkkjedii

Posts: 31313; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

S-Voice bites. I don't even use it, I use google now instead.

25. PBXtech

Posts: 1032; Member since: Oct 21, 2013

For what it's worth, Siri just now got vocal on commands. How could Samsung have copied Apple with "Hi, Galaxy" if Apple wasn't doing "Hey, Siri" until iOS8?

29. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

How is S Memo a copy of Notes on any of the Apple Products? S Health?

70. ojdidit84

Posts: 462; Member since: Jul 16, 2011

My lord you people take things so much out of context. His comment was "who copied Siri to begin with" after all. I was obviously talking about s-finder/translator/voice. Things that are already provided by Google in Google Now/Translate/Search and S-Voice was a definite half-assed attempt at competing with Siri. I love my Note 3, but I uninstalled those 3 for the simple fact that they suck compared to what's already provided. S-Note/Health are fine for what they are and were created to work with features that are provided on their phones/smartwatches/S-pen, in-house developed and not attempts to copy and put out a half-assed clone to compete with Apple or Google. People need to learn to pay attn to context around here instead of just jumping because someone said something about their beloved company they hold undying allegiance to.

39. Sreddy unregistered

lol, 5 years, and apple came out before it :/ whose the lame one now im sure that apple didnt spontaenous release siri one morning, dont kid yourself my friend

41. jroc74

Posts: 6023; Member since: Dec 30, 2010

No, they spontaneously bought it tho. Google Now is more in house developed than Siri. Shows too, with Google Now almost wiping the floor with Siri for results when they both launched.. I ...hope...Siri is better now.

43. PBXtech

Posts: 1032; Member since: Oct 21, 2013

Google developed their own, Apple purchased their own. Big difference.

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