While the latest iPhones do not come out until Friday, one can get their hands on the latest version of iOS now.

Though iOS 7 was primarily a visual change, iOS 8 adds a variety of features improving on parts of the OS from messages to the keyboard.

Improved messages and group texts

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Anyone who’s been included in a group chat has wanted to get out of it, or at least stop getting notifications from the chat every three seconds. iOS 8 includes the ability of being able to add and remove people from group chats, including oneself. If one wants to monitor the group text but does not want to be subjected to the constant stream of notifications, one can mute the group text and not receive push notifications from it. In addition to these features, users can send voice messages directly through the messages app and share their location for a set period of time.

New keyboard(s)

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No matter what task is being completed on the iPhone, the keyboard is usually a crucial part. Apple has added a QuickType feature to iOS 8 that detects the words that one would be most likely to type next based on the context of the sentence and receiving person. Users will be able to tap on the suggested words directly above the keyboard to type the entire word in one tap instead of having to type it letter by letter. Also, Apple is opening the keyboard to third party developers allowing for keyboards that have been available on Android, like Swype and new ones like PopKey, which allows users to access GIFs directly through their keyboard.

Interactive notifications

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Notifications have been an intrusive experience on iOS until now. In the latest version of the OS, one can reply directly to text message from the notification, in addition to emails and Facebook posts. Interactive notifications work everywhere– in apps, the home screen and the lock screen. Interactive notifications will save users time and make the overall experience of iOS more convenient and intuitive.

Mac sync

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If you don’t have a Mac you can skip over this or read about all the new reasons why you should get a Mac. Phone calls to one’s iPhone will now appear on one’s Mac and will even be able to be answered from it too. Text messages will now be able to be sent to the Mac from the iPhone, something previously reserved for iMessage. The other main feature of the improved continuity between devices is called handoff, which lets apps resume on either device where they left off on the other. Essentially, if a certain tab is open on the iPhone’s Safari, it will be open on the Mac’s Safari when it is used. The same applies for Mail, Pages, Numbers, Maps and Messages among other native and third party apps.

Favorite contacts in app switcher

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While saying the iPhone is mainly a phone would be limiting; labeling it a communication device would be accurate. Now, one’s favorite contacts appear in the app switcher above the previews of each app. From here, one can tap on the contact to call, text or FaceTime them. This quick access to one’s most accessed contacts is a subtle improvement, but likely to be extremely time saving.

Overall, iOS 8 offers these simple, yet impactful features among others like the health app, improved photos app, expanded search feature and additions to iCloud. While iOS 7 looked 100 percent new, iOS 8 will make using your device feel 100 percent new.

By Thomas McDonald

Web Editor in Chief

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