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Interface and Functionality

iOS 8 might not see a huge overhaul with is visuals, but it has surely been outfitted with several new notable features that really balances out its functionality to almost the same level as Android – though, it’s still simple and easy to operate at its core.

Besides a few hardware upgrades, last year’s iPhone was most noteworthy for Apple’s decision to finally update the iOS experience. Going with a flatter design philosophy, iOS 7 undoubtedly sprinkled a refreshing change of scenery to the otherwise antiquated visuals and functionality of the platform. With this year’s offering, though, iOS 8 moves in a forward direction by throwing in several enhancements to the experience – making it a more capable and complete platform in the process.

Well, the one area we don’t see any major design alterations is in the interface. In fact, you’ll barely notice some of the minor changes, but they do exist! Getting to the iOS 8 homescreen, all of the familiarities are still present, like its grid-like layout, folder organization, and bottom launcher. With the unveiling of the updated software, Apple throws in a handful of new background wallpapers – though, we’re a bit disappointed that they didn’t include any new dynamic ones.

So the visuals are pretty much unchanged with this latest iteration of iOS, but it sees yet another degree of updates to its functionality. Without further ado, let’s jump in and talk about all of the new stuff with iOS 8!

Notification Center


Notifications came in a big way with the introduction of iOS 7, one that finally aggregated all notifications in one centralized, easy-to-access location – similar to Android’s execution to be exact. This time around, pulling down from the top edge of the screen in iOS 8 takes us to the redesigned Notification Center, which is now less cluttered as it contains only two tabs instead of three. By default, the Today tab is displayed first, presenting us with an at-a-glance view of our daily agenda, and the other tab lists our notifications.

Another welcomed change is the added support of third-party widgets in the Notification Center. Most people familiar with iOS 7 already know of the widgets from Apple’s portfolio of apps, such as Stocks, but now the Notification Center is more crowded than ever before with these third-party widgets. Sure, we appreciate the quick access to them, however, the single column view makes everything seem too cramped to access and use effectively.

On a bright note, we do love how the notifications tab is now more concise – whereas before, it seemed as though we were bombarded by a dizzying amount of notifications. Unfortunately, iOS 8 doesn’t bring forth the much-wanted option of “clearing all” of our notifications with one action, so we’re still forced to clear out groups individually. It’s a laborious process to say the least.

Actionable notifications


Making for an easier interaction, iOS 8 features actionable notifications – notifications that you can interact with to a new degree. For example, when a new text message arrives, you can instantly type a quick response without having to close your current app or go past the lock screen. And while they aren't anything groundbreaking, actionable notifications make iOS 8 much more enjoyable to use. We did notice that not all messaging apps take advantage of these notifications yet, but software updates should take care of the issue.

Spotlight Search


Enhancing what it populates beyond the local stuff in the phone, like our contacts or apps, Spotlight Search has been improved with iOS 8 to offer recommendations/suggestions from a bevy of places. We already know how useful it is for searching local content, but Apple has extended its searching scope to sniffing out songs/albums on iTunes, various web sites, and Wikipedia results. We dig the added functionality, seeing that eliminates our need to launch the web browser.

Siri


Speaking of queries and searching, 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. There's a catch, however. The said voice command works only when the iOS device is plugged into a charger or after Siri has been already launched.

Yelling "Hey, Siri..." while on a home screen or with the phone locked wouldn't do anything. That's a limitation we weren't expecting given the fact that a number of Android phones already support always-on voice commands. Nevertheless, it is better to have the "Hey, Siri" trigger working as described than to not have the feature at all.

Always the one to become smarter and wiser with each major software upgrade, iOS 8’s introduction yields Shazam integration as well with Siri. Naturally, it comes in handy when we’re stumped with some kind of song playing in the car. Besides that, Siri continues to populate relevant responses and searches – while also amusing us with some of her/his witty remarks.

Multitasking


And before we move further, we have to mention the improved multitasking menu. Double-pressing the home button in iOS 8 displays not only your recent apps, but also your recent and frequently accessed contacts – another simple, yet brilliant addition to the platform. Tapping on a contact lets you quickly call them or send them a message.

However, when we think about multitasking, the core element at play here remains unchanged. Specifically, the whole process is still very much task switching, as opposed to true multitasking – like how two apps can run simultaneously on-screen with some of the customized Android experiences out there. In addition, it continues to lack a way to quickly “close out” all opened apps in one action.

Health app


Health has become a hot topic of late, evident by the numerous healthy-fitness apps out there in circulation. Samsung seemingly popularized the notion of integrating health into its TouchWiz interface, S Health to be exact, but Apple’s offering in its own home brewed Health app is a lot more comprehensive – insanely more to say the least!

Now, in order to fully utilize the Health app, you’ll need to have additional peripherals for the app to gather its data from. Unlike other fitness apps, like Fitbit, which gets its data from using the iPhone’s built-in, various sensors, the Health app actually requires a peripheral to completely function properly. Although technically, it is possible to add the data type and values manually.

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 iOS 8 enables. From here onward, it is be up to the developers and the makers of health monitoring devices to create innovative products and services compatible with Health.

Messaging


Superficially, you might not realize it because the messaging experience is the typical one we’ve seen countless times with previous iPhones, but iOS 8 has an unexpected trump card under its sleeve – support for third-party keyboards! No long must we stick to using Apple’s generic keyboard, which is still quite versatile, but it’s nice to have options now. For example, fan favorites like SwiftKey are available for download – giving us that swiping movement for inputting text.

Typing on the iPhone 6’s spacious 4.7-inch screen is still pretty easy on the fingers, since we’re not stretching a whole lot trying to reach certain sections of the stock keyboard – one that’s responsive and continues to offer pretty good auto-correct. If you opt to stick with Apple’s keyboard, then you ought to know that it’s been enhanced with the addition of QuickType, which is Apple's word prediction solution. We must admit that it works well, and it is nice that it learns from the conversation's context to provide better word suggestions. For example, it will set higher suggestion priority to words already used in the thread, and if it detects an incoming question, it will suggest suitable responses.

Other new elements thrown into the messaging experience include new ways to attach photos, videos, and even sounds, by merely pressing and holding the respective icons in the messaging app. It’s simple and different from the usual selection process we’re familiar, so we totally like this new approach.

Jumping to the Mail app, the visuals remain untouched from before, but Apple optimizes the way we can quickly deal with a new message in our inbox. Using the same left/right swiping gestures in our inbox, we can mark a message as read/unread by swiping left. Alternatively, we can swipe all the way right to delete it. However, slightly swiping to the left on a message presents us with three options – flag, archive, and more. Going with the latter option, it gives us another menu to do even more functions.

Processor and Memory

Never the one to disappoint, the specs sheet of the iPhone 6 might not look menacing, but it’s certainly one of the speediest phones around.

In today’s smartphone market, we have devices powered by quad-core and octa-core chips, which easily come in at clocked speeds over the 2GHz mark, but if there’s something that Apple has taught us, it’s that numerical figures have no bearing with the iPhone’s performance. And to that avail, don’t let the iPhone 6’s dual-core 1.4GHz Apple A8 processor coupled with 1GB of RAM and the PowerVR GX6650 GPU fool you – oh, and it’s based on 64-bit architecture yet again.

To tell you the truth, the iPhone has always been a snappy thing with its performance – and it’s certainly true here yet again with the iPhone 6. Sure, the simple stuff are all handled effortlessly with that buttery smooth response, but it’s also a solid performer when it comes to playing today’s graphics intensive mobile games. The numbers might not be fancy on paper in the face of those other processors, however, it’s a testament in once again telling us phones don’t need the beefiest specs to operate smoothly or effectively.

Complementing the A8 chip is the new M8 motion coprocessor, which helps to alleviate the A8 processing duties by efficiently gathering data from the iPhone 6’s various sensors and its new barometer. Think of it as more of being related to fitness apps, as it can distinguish various types of motions – like the difference between taking steps, or cycling on a bike.

Hardly a shocker, the base option of the iPhone 6 comes with 16GB of storage. In today’s ever increasing competitive atmosphere, it’s a tally that we feel to be insufficient, especially when most of today’s flagships offer a spacious 32GB. Speaking of 32GB, the option for that has been eliminated, replaced instead with 64GB – while the third option boasts a gluttonous 128GB of space. Pricing, of course, remains true to the iPhone’s roots, where they’re priced respectively on-contract for $200, $300, and $400.

Sunspider Lower is better
Apple iPhone 6 353.4
Apple iPhone 5s 415.7
Samsung Galaxy S5 777.3
HTC One (M8) 693.1
Sony Xperia Z2 925.4
Sony Xperia Z3 863.7
LG G3 947.2
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact 906.6
GFXBench T-Rex HD on-screen Higher is better
Apple iPhone 6 48.9
Apple iPhone 5s 35
Samsung Galaxy S5 27.8
HTC One (M8) 28.3
Sony Xperia Z2 29.1
Sony Xperia Z3 29.3
LG G3 20.7
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact 41.5
GFXBench Manhattan 3.1 on-screen Higher is better
Apple iPhone 6 25.8
Samsung Galaxy S5 11.7
HTC One (M8) 11
Sony Xperia Z2 12.4
Sony Xperia Z3 12.5
LG G3 7.5
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact 25.8
Basemark OS II Higher is better
Apple iPhone 6 1239
Samsung Galaxy S5 1054
HTC One (M8) 1071
Sony Xperia Z2 1207
Sony Xperia Z3 1099
LG G3 951
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact 1126

Internet and Connectivity

The added screen real-estate benefits the web browsing experience, which is also supplemented by its new VoLTE connection.

One to always tinker and make improvements, the notable part about the iPhone 6’s web browsing experience is that it supports more LTE bands than any other smartphone – leaving fewer variations of the phone needed to be compatible to work with the various networks littered throughout the world. Speed is not an issue here, as complex pages load in a snappy manner over LTE. In addition, the experience is surprisingly top-notch, thanks to its quick page rendering and buttery smooth kinetic scrolling. Honestly, we’ve never complained about the iPhone’s performance in this department, so the same applies here.

Available in both CDMA and GSM flavors, where it’s available for the four major domestic carriers in the US, the iPhone 6 also includes VoLTE – voice over LTE, to grant us wideband high-quality calls. In essence, not only is the call quality enhanced by this, but it also permits us simultaneous voice and data connections.

Most of the traditional connectivity features continue to be in tow here with the iPhone 6, such as aGPS with Glonass and Bluetooth 4.0 LE, but Apple has outfitted its beauty with a new 802.11 ac connection, which offers up to 3x faster Wi-Fi speeds than 802.11n. Another new addition to the family is NFC, a feature that’s been something we’ve all longed for. Well people, it’s finally here, but its true worth will be felt once Apple Pay becomes available in the near future. One thing missing, though, is an IR blaster for remote controlling – a feature that we’ve come to find on many high-end devices nowadays.

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