Heading to the beach? Make sure your Apple systems are fully updated! You never know when you’ll need to use a new iOS feature. Apple’s World Wide Developer’s Conference kicked off on June 2, and with it a plethora of updates and upgrades to Apple’s software lineup were announced. Both OS X and iOS are receiving major updates, bringing them closer together and expanding on what they can do significantly.
iOS 8 will retain the visual styling of 7, but under the hood, quite a bit has changed. Apple is introducing HealthKit—software that can unify the data it receives from all sorts of health-and exercise-monitoring devices. Everything from blood pressure to the amount of steps you’ve walked that day can be compiled into charts and statistics that give you an overall idea of your health. Mayo Clinic has already jumped on board with HealthKit, and will be rolling out an app to integrate the data and use it to proactively manage a patient’s healthcare.
Another new addition to iOS 8 is HomeKit. HomeKit is essentially a common language that can be used by all sorts of forthcoming home devices. The list of partners in this venture is already quite long, and includes everything from locks to lights to plugs. These devices can be grouped into “scenes,” which can be activated or deactivated through simple voice commands to Siri. Simply saying “Get ready for bed!” could turn off lights, lock doors, and even make sure your garage door is closed.
Other iOS changes include a smarter notification center, which will allow users to respond to text messages without opening the Messages app, and the notification center will now allow for widgets, displaying everything from stock prices to sports scores. The keyboard will have a row of word predictions above it, and communication between apps makes it very likely that third-party keyboards may become available. The App Store will be upgraded, allowing for video previews and app demos. Finally, Apple is expanding iCloud to accept all file types and more devices, making it much more usable as a cloud storage solution.
The next revision of OS X, named Yosemite, will also be available in the fall. Yosemite will feature a long-overdue visual update, with flattened visual elements and font changes that tie it to the visual style of iOS more closely. Yosemite, like iOS, will feature a heavily upgraded notification center, with an integrated visual calendar widget, as well as support for many more widgets. Safari is receiving a fairly major overhaul, streamlining it visually while adding more power and simplicity under the hood. Mail and Messages are slated for upgrades as well, and the Spotlight search feature that is integral to OS X is being completely revamped, making it more powerful than ever. Finally, the iCloud overhaul will apply to OS X as well.
Perhaps most notable in Yosemite is its deep integration with iOS. Apple recently unveiled Handoff, a feature of OS X that will allow projects you are working on in programs to be effortlessly “handed off” to your iPad or iPhone. With a simple swipe up on your iPad, you can seamlessly transition from your computer to your mobile device and keep working on a presentation or chart. The capabilities of your iPhone will be heavily integrated as well—notifications of who is calling you can be set to appear on your Mac, and you can even answer and send calls directly from your computer.
In addition to the consumer-related upgrades, Apple has unveiled a new programming language, called Swift, and a new way to render graphics, Metal. Both of these are expected to make app creation in both iOS and OS X considerably easier.