iOS 8: 14 Tips to Get the Most Out of It

iOS 8 features


Are you an iPhone 4S, 5, 5S, or 5C owner who isn’t planning on purchasing an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus (at least not right away)? If so, you can still feel like you have a new iPhone without spending the money on an upgrade or spending hours in line outside of your local Apple store. Apple made its iOS 8 mobile operating system available to download for free on September 17 — and the upgrade proves that despite the ceaseless talk of bigger screens and better cameras, investing in new hardware isn’t the only way to get a new iPhone. Here’s how Apple describes the software on its iOS 8 website:

“iOS 8 is the biggest iOS release ever — for developers and everyone else. But that wasn’t the goal. We simply set out to create the most natural, most useful experience — one that is pleasantly surprising at first and becomes utterly indispensable before you know it.”

If you’ve planned to update, or have already updated your iPhone, iPad, or iPod, you’re probably excited to find all of the new features that Apple’s packed into iOS 8. They include exciting new functionality, fixes to some issues and annoyances with previous versions of iOS, and some entirely new apps that you’ll be excited to try. In alphabetical order for easy browsing, here’s your guide to the key new and enhanced features of iOS 8 and how to use them.

iOS 8 AirDrop iPad



AirDrop has worked between the iPhone and iPad since iOS 7’s debut last year. That hasn’t changed with iOS 8, but in October, it will also work between iOS 8 devices and Macs running OS X Yosemite.

Here’s how: Choose the photo or document you want to send. Tap the “Share” button, and choose a nearby device to share it with. Once Yosemite is released, your Mac will show up on iOS devices’ share menus, and vice versa.

iOS 8 Handoff


Continuity and Handoff

Two features new to iOS 8, Continuity and Handoff, make the iPhone, iPad, and Mac work together more smoothly. With Continuity, available on the iPhone 5 and later or fourth-generation iPad and later, you can answer a call on your iPad or Mac (once updated to iOS 8 and Yosemite, and as long as your iPhone is on the same WiFi network). Starting in October, you’ll be able to send SMS and MMS messages from your iPad or Mac. With Handoff, if you have two iOS devices — say, an iPhone and iPad — logged in to the same iCloud account and within Bluetooth LE range, you can start working on one device and pick up where you left off on the other. The feature is available for Mail, Safari, Pages, Numbers, Keynote, Maps, Messages, Reminders, Calendar, Contacts, and any third-party app that adds the functionality.

Here’s how: Once your iOS devices are updated to iOS 8, Continuity will work seamlessly. Answering a call on the iPad will automatically place the call on speaker. You can start a call from your Mac by selecting a number in Contacts, and continue the call on your iPhone by tapping a green bar on the screen. You can configure Handoff by opening Settings, choosing “General,” and selecting “Handoff & Suggested Apps.”

iOS 8 Details


“Details,” many involving Mail

A set of miscellaneous features that Apple refers to as Details makes everyday functions with iOS 8 smarter and easier to use. Interactive notifications enable you to take action on texts, emails, calendar notifications, reminders, and messages from apps right in the notification banner without leaving what you’re doing. From any screen, pressing the Home button twice will show you the “multitasking interface,” which iOS users have become accustomed to using when they switch apps. But new with iOS 8 is a feature that shows your favorite and most recent contacts at the top of the screen. In Mail, you can swipe to delete, move, flag, or mark messages as unread. You can enable notifications for when someone replies to an important email. Mail will also recognize reservations, flight confirmations, or phone numbers and offer suggestions, and you can switch between composing an email to looking at another message in your inbox to find the information you need to write an email.

Here’s how: To take action based on a notification, swipe down from the banner. To access your favorites and recent contacts from any screen, press the Home button twice and swipe to the right to scroll through your contacts. To mark an email as unread, swipe to the right. To flag, delete, or move an email, swipe to the left. You can swipe even farther to the left to quickly delete the message. To enable notifications, tap the flag icon in the lower left corner, and tap “Notify Me.” To switch between a draft and your inbox, swipe the top bar of the “New Message” window down.

iOS 8 AirDrop



With a feature called Extensibility, iOS 8 brings new features for app developers. Essentially, Extensibility enables developers to create apps that interact with other apps. Extensibility also enables developers to add widgets to the Notification Center, and some apps with Notification Center widgets include Dropbox, Evernote, Clear, Asana, NYT Now, Runtime, and Wunderlist. With Extensibility, apps can also extend system-wide Share Sheets and enable you to upload comments, photos, videos, etc. from within an app.

Here’s how: The five default widgets are Today Summary, Calendar, Reminders, Tomorrow Summary, and Stocks, and third-party widgets are available once you’ve installed the corresponding app. You can add and remove widgets by opening the Notification Center (swipe down from the top of any screen) and tapping “Edit.” Developers will be able to add their apps’ functionality to Share Sheets so that you’ll be able share on third-party apps much more simply.

iOS 8 Family Sharing calendar


Family Sharing

Up to six people in your family can share purchases from iTunes, iBooks, and the App Store without sharing accounts. You can download each other’s music, movies, TV shows, books, and apps anytime. Parents can pay for the family’s purchases with the same credit card, and approve children’s purchases with the “Ask to Buy” feature. Family Sharing also automatically sets up a shared family photo album, where everyone can contribute photos, videos, and comments. With a shared calendar, each member of your family can add events to one calendar, and parents can set up reminders to appear on each device. You can share your location to your family and see where each member is. The Find My iPhone app enables family members to use their devices to locate one that’s lost.

Here’s how: To set up Family Sharing, open Settings, tap iCloud, and then choose “Set Up Family Sharing.”

iOS 8 Health app for iPhone 6



The new Health app, just for iPhone, relies on Apple’s HealthKit framework, one of iOS 8’s most discussed features (and one that’s currently delayed by a bug). While HealthKit will enable health and fitness apps to communicate with each other when it is finally able to launch — hopefully by the end of the month — Health is where you’ll go to configure the apps and devices that collect your Health Data; everything from body measurements to fitness metrics to nutrition information and sleep analysis. Health will eventually aggregate all of your health information to provide you with an overall picture of your health. Also in Health, you can create a Medical ID to display important health information in the case of an emergency. Your Medical ID can be accessed from the emergency dialer without unlocking your phone.

Here’s how: Right now, there’s a limited amount of functionality to Health. You can enter your body measurements, nutrition data, or other information by tapping choices in the Health Data tab. If you have a new iPhone 6, its motion coprocessors will be able to collect information on your activity, including the staircases that you climb. You can also set up your Medical ID by tapping the “Medical ID” button, and choosing “Create Medical ID.” Select “Show When Locked” to make sure that the information can be accessed in an emergency, and add pertinent information on your health, medical conditions, allergies, and medications.

iOS 8 iCloud Drive


iCloud Drive

With iCloud Drive, you can access documents, spreadsheets, presentations, PDFs, and images in iCloud and access them from your iPhone, iPad, iPod, Mac, or PC. You can drag documents into the iCloud folder on your Mac or PC, or create a new document in an iCloud-enabled app on an iOS device. With iCloud Drive, you can also work on the same file across multiple apps.

Here’s how: Since iCloud Drive works only with iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, upgrading to iCloud Drive will prevent you from syncing it between devices running iOS 8 and OS X Mavericks. Apps which are dependent on iCloud will also not be able to sync between iOS and Mac if you update to iCloud Drive right away. If you don’t need to sync files or apps between a Mac and your iOS 8 device(s), you can set up iCloud Drive on your iOS device by launching Settings, tapping “iCloud,” and turning iCloud Drive on. From there, you can also edit iCloud settings for your apps, or purchase more storage.

iOS 8 Instant Hotspot


Instant Hotspot

If you’re out of range of a WiFi network, you can connect your Mac or iPad to your iPhone’s personal hotspot. The devices will disconnect automatically when you’re not using them to save battery life.

Here’s how: With the Instant Hotspot feature, you’ll see the name of your iPhone on your Mac or iPad’s list of WiFi networks (under Settings on the iPad or in the WiFi menu on the Mac). Simply select the iPhone and your Mac or iPad will connect. Of course, be careful to make sure your mobile provider won’t slap you with extra data fees for WiFi Hotspot service.

iOS 8 Messaging



The enhanced Messages app in iOS 8 enables you to add sound to your conversations or quickly take and send a photo or a video. You can start and control group conversations by adding and removing participants, or turn on Do Not Disturb to mute notifications for the conversation. You can also share your location in the middle of a conversation for an hour, a day, or indefinitely. You can also browse all of the attachments within a thread, send multiple photos and videos simultaneously, or reply to incoming messages without having to open the Messages app.

Here’s how: To record a song, a message, or any sound to add to a conversation, touch and hold the microphone button. Swipe up to send it, or left to delete. To listen to a message, raise your iPhone to your ear, like you would for a phone call, or tap the Play button. To share your location, mute notifications for a conversation, or browse attachments, tap “Details” in the message thread. To send multiple attachments, tap the camera icon and choose images to send. To reply to a message without opening the Messages app, swipe down on the notification.

iOS 8 Photos app



The new Photos app makes it easier to edit, find, and share the photos and videos that you take on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod. You can search your photos by the date the photo was taken, location, or album name. When you tap on the search icon, you’ll also get “smart suggestions,” and you can see what photos were taken near your current location or at the same time the preceding year. You can also edit images right in the Photos app by adjusting light or color, using a variety of individual tools for more precise editing, or adding filters. The camera also has a new mode to create Time-Lapse videos, and a new timer function.

Here’s how: To search your photos, tap “All Photos,” and then the search icon. To edit an image, tap the “Edit” button, and choose the crop, filters, or adjustments icons. To take a Time-Lapse video, swipe to select the mode and hit the record button. To access the timer, tap the timer icon at the top of the camera screen, and choose between a three-second or ten-second delay.

iOS 8 QuickType keyboard


QuickType Keyboard and Third-Party Keyboards

Apple refers to the enhanced iOS 8 keyboard as its “smartest keyboard ever,” and the new keyboard offers suggestions for your next word or phrase in Messages and Mail. The keyboard learns from your writing style in each app, and can account for the more casual style that you use in Messages and the formal language you use in Mail. It can even adjust its suggestions based on the person with whom you’re communicating. It can also offer suggestions based on a question that someone has asked you, and the predictive text engine is optimized for a variety of languages and the way they’re spoken in various parts of the world. Third-party keyboard apps are also available for iOS for the first time, and users will be able to choose their favorite input method and layouts system-wide.

Here’s how: To use the new QuickType keyboard, compose a message in Mail or Messages and tap words or phrases that you want to use. To hide the QuickType bar, swipe it downward. To find third-party keyboards, check out the “Utilities” category in the App Store. There’s currently a banner promoting Extensions, and tapping that shows you some of the keyboards available, including the SwiftKey Keyboard, Fleksy Keyboard, Swype, TextExpander, Minuum, and others.

iOS 8 Safari iPad



The Tab view you’re used to on your iPhone is now available on the iPad. You can use it to see all of the pages that are open across your devices, Mac or iOS, with tabs from the same website grouped together. A new sidebar also reveals your bookmarks, Reading List, and Shared Links. You can add a site’s RSS feed to your Shared Links. On the iPhone, you can also switch to the desktop version of a site when you’d prefer not to use the mobile version. You can also enable a new Quick Website Search feature. When you type “Craigslist guitar” into Safari, Safari will ask if you’d like to search Craigslist for a guitar.

Here’s how: To open the Tab view, click the tab icon in the upper right corner of Safari. To open the new sidebar, click the book icon on the left side of the address bar, and click an icon to access your history, reading list, or shared links. To add an RSS feed to your Shared Links, navigate to the site, open Shared Links, and tap “Add Current Site.” To access the desktop version of a website, tap the address bar and swipe down. From there, you can tap “Request Desktop Site” to switch. To enable the Quick Website Search, launch settings, choose “Safari,” and turn the feature on.

iOS 8 Siri



With iOS 8, Siri can answer your questions without you touching the device (but only when your iPhone or iPad is charging via a regular power outlet or even in the car). You could use the feature to ask for driving directions without touching your iPhone, for example. Apple has also partnered with Shazam to enable Siri to recognize songs andpurchase those songs on iTunes. She also dictates talk-to-text as you speak, so that you can see when she’s misinterpreted a word.

Here’s how: You can wake up Siri with the “Hey, Siri” command when your device is plugged in. Enable the feature in Settings, under “General” and then “Siri.” To get Siri to analyze and recognize a song, you don’t even have to ask, “What is this song?” Instead, you can just press the home button, and she’ll start listening after a few seconds. You can purchase songs and other iTunes content right from the results that Siri displays.

iOS 8 Spotlight Search


Spotlight Search

With iOS 8, Spotlight Search has been revamped to search not only your iPhone, but also show suggestions from the web, iTunes, the App Store, movie showtimes, and nearby locations. Spotlight Search can also return Wikipedia articles, news stories, and suggested websites, and it also works in Safari, where its results appear alongside Top Hits and search suggestions.

Here’s how: To access Spotlight Search, swipe downward on the Home screen and type what you’re looking for.

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