More iOS 8 Features

iOS 8, announced by Apple at WWDC yesterday, will feature major improvements to Messages and inter-app communication, a new Health app and predictive keyboard, and changes to several system apps and features.

Among big additions and redesigns, however, there are always smaller features and hidden tweaks that the company only briefly mentioned during the keynote or described with a short paragraph on their preview website. In this post, I collected 15 other iOS 8 features that are worth noting and waiting for.

Emergency card. In the Medical ID section of the Health app, you’ll be able to set up personal information for medical conditions, allergies/reactions, and other medical notes to be displayed in an Emergency card available on the Lock screen. In some cases (such as severe allergies and reactions), immediate access to this information can be a lifesaver.

iBooks will be pre-installed. Gone are the days when you needed to open the App Store to download iBooks like any other third-party app. In iOS 8, Apple’s eBook and PDF reader will be pre-installed and ready to sync your items over iCloud. It’s unclear whether making iBooks a system app will also result in slower, less frequent updates (right now, Apple is free to update iBooks on the App Store without issuing a full iOS update), but bundling the app with iOS should certainly help more users get accustomed to its capabilities.

Automatic night mode in iBooks. A popular feature in read-later apps like Instapaper, iBooks for iOS 8 will offer an automatic night mode to facilitate reading in low-light. Apple hasn’t shared further details on the feature, but it will likely be based on the user’s time zone and switch the iBooks app to a dark design after a specific time of the day.

Pano photos on iPad. If you don’t mind taking pictures with your iPad, you’ll be glad to know that iOS 8 will bring panoramic mode – previously exclusive to the iPhone – to the larger screen.

Battery usage by app. One of my iOS 8 wishes, battery consumption details for individual apps will be available in iOS 8’s Battery Usage screen in the Settings, which will show a proportion of battery used by each app when a device isn’t charging. These statistics will be useful to understand which apps are consuming your device’s battery life, allowing you to take action if necessary (either by deleting an app or figuring out why it’s consuming so much battery).

DuckDuckGo search option built-in. If you don’t want to use Google or Bing and prefer a search engine that doesn’t track you, iOS 8’s Safari will come with a DuckDuckGo option in the Settings. DuckDuckGo has recently undergone a major redesign that added cleaner layouts for mobile searches and more flexibility with smart results and recognized queries, which will certainly come in handy with quick searches on iOS.

Here’s how Apple describes DuckDuckGo (from the Yosemite page, as the engine will also be added to OS X):

Safari now gives you more control over your privacy on the web. You can open one Safari window in Private Browsing mode — which doesn’t save your browsing history — while keeping others in regular browsing mode. So while you do your online banking privately in one window, your browsing history is still being saved while you surf in another. You can also now search the web using DuckDuckGo, a search engine that doesn’t track you.

And from the DuckDuckGo blog:

DuckDuckGo is thrilled to be included in Safari and it’s great that Apple is making it easy for people to access our anonymous search option. This makes DuckDuckGo the first privacy-focused search engine to be added to one of the top four browsers and is a huge milestone for both us and privacy supporters.

For more on the new DuckDuckGo, check out our overview.

Travel time notifications. Travel time was previously exclusive to OS X Mavericks, and it’ll come to iOS 8 through (optional) notifications that’ll suggest you the best time to leave for your next calendar event. It’s not clear whether iOS 8 users will also be able to turn on travel time and get inline Maps previews when creating new events in Calendar, but notifications are a good start.

A “Tips” app. We don’t know much about this, except for a brief mention on Apple’s slide for additional iOS 8 features. Considering the popularity of “Getting Started” guides on the App Store and the fact that OS X comes with a built-in electronic manual, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Apple offering an app with a collection of tips and videos to learn the basics of iOS as well as its more advanced features.

Camera timer. Need to take timed shots with the Camera app? iOS 8 will feature a timer icon in the camera view, so you’ll always be able to take the perfect group photo with your friends – or perhaps time a selfie just right.

Shazam in Siri. Apple’s assistant didn’t get much stage time yesterday, but it’ll receive a big addition for music lovers thanks to Shazam integration. Simply long-press the Home button to bring up Siri as usual, don’t speak, and let Siri listen to music that’s playing on a speaker. Siri will understand that you’re waiting for song recognition, and it’ll return the top Shazam result with artist and song name as well as a button to buy the song on the iTunes Store. Shazam integration inside Siri will be a terrific addition to iOS as it’ll allow for faster song-tagging and users won’t be forced to find the Shazam app, launch it, and tap the music ID button.

Purchase iTunes content with Siri. And speaking of the iTunes Store, iOS 8 will let you purchase iTunes content that has been presented by Siri. Again, more details aren’t available right now, but it’s safe to assume that the system will be integrated with the existing Touch ID authorization for purchases.

Private Browsing per tab. iOS 7 made Safari’s Private Browsing mode easier to activate, but it’s an all-or-nothing deal: you can either keep all your current tabs when switching back and forth between normal and private browsing, or you can close all of them. In iOS 8, Private Browsing will be updated with granular controls, so you’ll be able to keep separate sets of private and normal tabs without having to decide what to do with all of your current tabs. It’s a small change, but a welcome one.

RSS in Safari. When Apple unceremoniously cut native RSS support from Mountain Lion’s Safari, many wondered whether the company was done with RSS or if the standard could eventually return in some other form. The RSS comeback will happen with iOS 8, albeit with no user-facing “RSS” nature: Safari will be able to subscribe to individual sites in Shared Links by using RSS feeds under the hood, but users won’t have to deal with traditional RSS aspects like feed URLs. Instead, Safari will abstract subscription management from sites to make reading new articles as simple as possible. While power users will still prefer dedicated RSS services and clients, the inclusion of site subscriptions in Safari will offer a good basic solution for users who just want to see what’s new on their favorite blogs.

Rich text editing in Notes. In iOS 7, Apple’s Notes app could only edit plain text content with no formatting options; in iOS 8, you’ll be able to add bold, italic, and underlined fonts to style your notes like you want to – and you’ll also be able to insert images like you can on OS X.

Streaming voice recognition in Siri. In my iOS 8 wish list, I also noted how Siri’s input mechanism was inferior to Google and Microsoft’s voice-based solutions, which display transcribed text as you speak and dictate commands. In iOS 8, Apple is going to improve Siri with streaming voice recognition – essentially, the ability to see recognized words appear on screen as you talk to Siri. The feature is long overdue, and it will allow users to easily see if Siri interpreted their commands correctly, providing corrections without having to wait for results to return from Siri’s network connection.