iOS 8 release date, news and rumors
Enough have dropped for us to start to get an idea of what form iOS 8 might take, so without further ado here's what we've heard so far.
New versions of iOS tend to get announced at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) and there's been no suggestion that iOS 8 will break the trend. As yet it's not known when WWDC 2014 will take place, but it normally happens in June.
However while iOS 8 will likely be announced then it probably won't actually launch until later in the year, making its debut on the iPhone 6. Again, this is all based on Apple's past iOS launches.
What is it? The next iteration of Apple's mobile platform
When is it out? Probably sometime in September 2014
What will it cost? iOS 8 will be a free download
Apple, like Samsung, seems to be pushing the health and fitness capabilities of its products and the next step of that is likely to come with iOS 8.
According to unnamed sources who spoke to 9 to 5 Mac, iOS 8 will come with a new app dubbed Healthbook. Supposedly it will have a similar interface to Passbook, but will track steps taken, distance travelled, calories burned and weight loss.
So in other words it's doing the same job as stand alone fitness trackers like the FitBit Force, which makes sense since Apple already built an M7 motion co-processor into the iPhone 5S to track just those sorts of things, so it might as well make the most of it.
However apparently it will also go way beyond that and track hydration levels, blood pressure, heart rate, blood sugar, nutrition information and respiratory rate, taking it a step beyond existing fitness trackers. 9to5mac has even recreated some images of how the app will supposedly look.
Obviously no existing Apple hardware has the relevant sensors to track most of that stuff, but there's been talk recently that the iPhone 6 might have an array of new sensors, plus some of it may rely on Apple's unconfirmed iWatch.
Apple Maps has had a bit of a tough time so far. Its launch was as far from smooth as possible and while it's no longer putting train stations in the middle of the sea it still lags some way behind Google's offering.
That could be about to change though, as 9 to 5 Mac claims to have spoken to "sources briefed on the plans" and learned that public transport directions for trains, subways and buses will be added to Maps, initially for major US cities, with a wider roll out likely to follow.
The same sources also claim that it will be more accurate than it is now and new points of interest and labels will be added for things like stations and airports.
The appearance of the app has apparently been improved too, making streets more visible. Supposedly Apple is also working on an augmented reality feature, which will allow you to see points of interest on your camera viewfinder, though it's thought that this feature won't make it out in time for iOS 8.
Late last year Apple patented some major new ideas for Maps, which would add a whole new level of interactivity beyond even what's currently rumored.
It would allow users to tap a road for example and see information relevant to just that road, such as any junctions on it, or to tap a restaurant and get a menu.
This functionality might be some way off yet, if it emerges at all, but we live in hope that it might make an appearance in iOS 8.
Apple could hardly release a new version of iOS without updating everyone's favourite personal assistant.
According to tech site The Information, Apple wants Siri to be able to interface with third party apps. Currently it's compatible with a number of popular third party apps, but only because Apple worked directly with the developers to add the functionality.
In future any and all app developers might be able to make their apps compatible with Siri without Apple's help, which would vastly increase Siri's usefulness, allowing you for example to use third party messaging apps and calendars to send messages and set reminders.
There's also talk that Siri might be able to contextually launch specific apps in future, so for example if you start jogging it might automatically launch RunKeeper, rather than you having to ask it to.
Apple looks to be putting more weight behind iTunes Radio, if sources speaking to 9 to 5 Mac are to be believed. The sources claim that it will be given a separate app for iOS 8, as currently it's part of the Music app.
Supposedly other than becoming its own app it's going to remain exactly as it is now, which isn't so surprising as it only launched last year, but by giving iTunes Radio its own app it will be more noticeable to users and better positioned to take on other streaming services like Spotify.
Preview and Text Edit
We recently got our first glimpse of what might be iOS 8. Based on the image it unsurprisingly looks a lot like iOS 7, albeit with a few new apps on board.
There's an icon for the aforementioned Healthbook and one for Tips, which is likely a user guide, but there are also Preview and Text Edit icons.
If those names sound familiar it's because they're existing pieces of software for OS X, but now seemingly iOS is getting its own versions.
However while the Mac versions are used to edit PDF's, images and text files, the iOS versions are apparently optimized to simply let you view any such documents that you have stored in iCloud.
It's questionable how real this screenshot even is, 9to5Mac claims to have confirmed its veracity with several sources, yet it would be easy to fake, especially as the Text Edit and Preview icons are identical to their Mac counterparts.
There are whispers of various minor updates to a number of apps. According to an unnamed source the Notification Center is getting streamlined for iOS 8. The update completely removes the "Missed" tab, so everything can be found on either "Today" or "All".
The Messages app is apparently having a new option added, to allow you to automatically delete threads after a certain period of time and Voice Memos may be getting a new button arrangement.
Apple is also supposedly removing the requirement for a Lightning cord when using CarPlay, allowing it to work wirelessly instead.
Apps may also be able to better communicate thanks to a new developer API which is rumored to be in testing. Known as an "XPC" service, the API would allow apps to share data, which among other things would hopefully make it easy to keep files synced up across different apps.
Goodbye Game Center
While there are a lot of new things rumored for iOS 8 we might also be losing some things. Apple's Game Center app is rumoured to be for the chopping block according to 9to5Mac, with the functionality being moved directly into games themselves.
iOS 8: 10 things we want to see
So we're starting to get an idea of some of the major changes in store for iOS 8, still, there are many other things we'd like to see Apple change by the time iOS 8 rolls around later in 2014 - although in some cases we've got a sneaking suspicion Apple would disagree.
1. Change and hide default iOS apps
We'd love to be able to choose non-Apple alternatives for handling email, browsing and maps, but doubt it'll happen. However, Apple not providing the means to hide preinstalled apps you don't use is an irritant that goes back to the very first iPhone.
Even if there was a similar 'parental controls' trick for hiding apps to the one on the Apple TV, that'd be good enough.
2. A guest/child account
Apple's mantra is everyone should own their own device. That's lovely, but not everyone's pockets are as deep as those of Apple board members.
OS X-style user accounts are unlikely, but it can't be beyond Apple to provide a single-tap child account or a guest account that doesn't affect your settings and data, and doesn't retain settings or data of its own.
3. Better iOS app management
As of iOS 7, Apple automates app updates, but it should go further. Devs wrestle with iCloud app data, but this should be child's play to save and also (optionally) restore whenever you reinstall an app.
And the App Store itself should offer trials and paid version updates (rather than devs being forced to use IAP or 'replacement' apps as a workaround).
4. Stronger inter-app communications
One of the weakest elements of iOS is inter-app communication. If a service bumps you to another app, you're not always returned when you've finished performing an action.
Worse, when making document edits across several apps workflow can be a nightmare with document copies in various states strewn throughout individual app sandboxes. Hopefully this is set to improve if the new API for data-sharing makes it into iOS 8.
5. Better document management
Following on from the previous point, iOS should introduce at least some kind of centralised access to documents. Right now, Dropbox is a surrogate file system because iCloud is a bunch of silos.
It's absurd that you can't easily attach documents within Mail in an OS that boasts a version number of 7. The lack of collaboration opportunities within iCloud document workflow is also disappointing.
6. Group FaceTime calls
This isn't specifically tied to iOS, but Apple's mobile platform is where FaceTime began life, and although the one-to-one model is great, it's about time you could call several people at once, rather than a group having to crowd around an iPhone.
7. iOS notifications like in OS X Mavericks
In OS X Mavericks, notifications are interactive - get a message and you can deal with it there and then, rather than leaving the app you're in. This is even more important on iOS, and so we hope Apple adds similar functionality on mobile. Google does it with aplomb, so we want to see the same here.
8. More Do Not Disturb options
Do Not Disturb gained extra power in iOS 7, enabling you to silence notifications only when a device is locked. Bizarrely, it still retains only a single schedule though. Is it beyond Apple to enable you to at least set one for weekdays and a separate one for weekends?
9. Better text manipulation
Apple's text-selection, cut, copy and paste seemed elegant when it was introduced, but only compared to disastrous equivalents on competing mobile systems.
Today, it comes across as awkward, and it's a barrier to usability for far too many people. We'd like to see a rethink from Apple and more usable and intuitive ways of dealing with text.
10. Two-up apps
We love the focus iOS provides, but there are times when we'd like to work with two apps at once. Much like messing with default apps, we doubt Apple will ever go down this path, but OS X Mavericks now has a more powerful full-screen mode for multiple monitors.
So there's perhaps the slightest hope a multi-screen mode might one day arrive for the iPad or a larger iPhone, and would be one in the eye for all those Samsung owners out there.