iOS 8

Apple is adding new functionality to the iPad, iPhone or iPod when it launches a software update in the coming months.

It's called iOS 8 and Apple's calling it the biggest release since the launch of its App Store back in 2008. But critics say Apple is just playing catch up with Google whose Android mobile operating systems includes many of the improvements Apple is crowing about.

Apple's new Health app, which gives a clear overview of health and fitness data, has been a mainstay of Android for a long time. Apple's version gathers information from various health apps and fitness devices, and provides an overview in one place. Each app can use specific information from other apps to provide a more comprehensive way to manage health and fitness. For example, the Nike+ apps using NikeFuel will be able to pull in other key data such as sleep and nutrition to build a user profile and improve athletic performance.

iOS 8, due for release in the American autumn, includes iCloud Photo Library which makes it easier for users to view photos and videos shot on Apple devices from any device with an internet connection. Photos are easy to find and are organised consistently across enabled devices. The Photos app can automatically straighten horizons and with smart editing tools, quickly adjust light and colour or access individual tools for deeper fine-tuning. With iCloud Photo Library, every adjustment and effect is automatically updated across devices.

iCloud Drive is like Microsoft's OneDrive service, formerly known as SkyDrive, which allows users to store and access files on any device with an internet connection. Conversations in Messages become more immersive with the ability to communicate with a swipe. Tap to Talk allows voice sharing and the same simple gesture also works for sharing videos and photos. Group messaging now gives the ability to add and remove contacts, leave a conversation and the option to not be disturbed. Users can browse through all photos and videos within a conversation and share multiple photos and videos at once. You can choose to share your current location from within Messages for an hour, a day or longer.

Apple's senior vice president of Software Engineering, Craig Federighi, said in a press release:

"iOS 8 offers simpler, faster and more intuitive ways to use your device with incredible new features . . . We're also giving developers amazing new tools to make managing your health and your home from your devices an integrated, simple and secure experience."

iOS 8 will be available this Spring as a free software update for iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s, iPod touch(r) 5th generation, iPad 2, iPad with Retina(r) display, iPad Air(tm), iPad mini(tm) and iPad mini with Retina display

Additional iOS 8 features include:

design enhancements that build off the interface of iOS 7, bringing interactive notifications, quick access to key contacts, the ability to quickly switch back and forth between the inbox and drafts in Mail, as well as intelligent suggestions; extended Spotlight capabilities that give you results beyond what's on your device, including articles from Wikipedia, findings from the news and results from places nearby; and greater continuity between iPhone, iPad and Mac, including Handoff to start an activity on one device and finish on another, along with Instant Hotspot and the ability to make and receive calls and send messages from your Mac or iPad.

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