Explore Apple’s iOS 8: 8 user-friendly features

1. In-text voice
The technology pendulum has been swinging on the side of ease and efficiency for, well … ever. This is especially true in the phone world, where there are now phone-induced thumb disorders. Whether or not Apple designers found the social commentary/implication stuff of texting-injured thumbs disturbing, and are working towards some broad, social change thing, the phone-tech-pendulum is officially swinging towards phoning again. Kind of. With iOS 8, you can send your voice in a text. Apple’s instructions: “Simply touch and hold the new microphone button to record your message. Then swipe to send it.” Apple also advises, “Simply hold your iPhone to your ear and listen like it’s a phone call.” English majors of the future will be writing grad school entrance papers about how weird and meta that all is.

2. Group message solutions
This is probably the feature iPhone users will love universally, without exception. Apple has given absolute control of group messages to users. You can now add people, kick people out, turn on the “Do not disturb” setting to catch up with the conversation later, and, finally, leave the conversation completely. Props to Apple for meeting user-demand on this one.

3. iCloud drive
Google Drive now has some stiff competition, though you’ll pay if you want more than 5GB of storage. Apple has pricing tiers set at 20, 200 and 500GB, with a 1TB option available as well. Note that Google offers 15GB of storage for free (with tiered plans available), though Apple’s version is way prettier (duh). There are pros and cons, but this will probably steal a ton of competition from Google. Good move, Apple.

4. Better notifications
All of your notifications are now interactive and multi-task capable. Say you get an email or a meeting notification while watching Alexander Payne’s newest film. You can deal with the notification without missing a scene. Third party apps will support this slick feature once those developers update (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram). All part of Apple’s user-pampering design. Nice.

5. Home button double-tap
Double-click the home button for the already familiar “multitasking interface.” There, Apple has added a handy bar at the top of the screen displaying the faces of recent contacts (assuming they all have pictures). It’s not a huge feature, but it’s one of those luxury type add-ons that Apple is really good at coming up with. It’s like the difference between cloth and leather automotive interiors.

6. … and 7. Bionic/cyborg/the-future-is-coming-and-fast-at-that apps
Apple is leaping over the line blurring technological extensions (phones) and our own, close, physical bodies. Apple’s new health apps track sleep, nutrition, vitals (needles and tubes not included) and body measurements. There is a ton of new stuff in this area, and you’ll be able to share data with your doctor. Considering how the doctoring community feels about WebMD, this may not be the most intuitive feature. That said, there is also a medical emergency card listing medications, known allergies and emergency contacts.

Will Apple health apps perform better than the competition? Too early to tell. I can guarantee they’ll be prettier, which will be enough for most users. There’s a theme for Apple …

The social commentary/implications here ask questions like, “Does the ability to check our bodies like the weather lead to sound minds or hyper-selfconscious body image/health anxiety?” Social media and looking at others all the time already cause over self-consciousness. Do we need to always watch our vitals too?

8. Developer options
The best update is one most users won’t ever see directly. Apple has put out a line of tools they’ve dubbed “kits” and a new programming language called Swift. Developers will use these to dream up new content for Apple’s health functions, your camera, photos and even home apps. Anticipate home security, smart thermostats and other devices of that ilk.

If you want to project out really far into the future, you might one day be able to use Siri to cook popcorn in the iWave Micro, while trying to mute someone’s way-too-young-to-be-playing-Call-of-Duty child coming in way too hot acoustically speaking out of your flat screen.

In any case, iOS 8 offers a great opportunity to take and eat the Apple apple this fall. Enjoy.