It’s been a while since iOS 8 has been introduced to the world so I thought it was time to look back at how impactful one of Apple’s bigger mobile OS releases really was. At the time it was touted as groundbreaking and (as many other Apple things are described) “magical”. While it did offer quite a few new features, like so many other things in the world sometimes promise and reality are starkly different.
The biggest story over the past few months has been the buggy nature of iOS 8. There have been numerous stories about its issues, in particular network problems. From my limited perspective it was much ado about nothing, as my iPhone 6 hasn’t had any more network issues than I’ve experienced with prior iPhones (and those few instances were solved by a reboot). For the most part it has run smoothly, with the biggest problem being crashes from non-iOS 8 optimized apps.
As for the laundry list touted by Apple at the press conference, there’s good and meh:
Photos: I don’t take a great deal of photos with my iPhone, so the changes didn’t impact me in any noticeable way. The image quality has improved dramatically, but I take that as more a product of improved hardware than software. Photo stream has been a welcome addition, and I’ve used it for both personal and professional purposes (being able to take a photo on my iPhone and then use it in iWork on my Macbook without importing it is great). My photo editing is typically limited to cropping, so the improvements there are wasted on me. Overall rating: nice, but no biggie.
Messages: BIG improvement. Being able to send (and receive) SMS to anyone from any device has been a huge boon for my work communication. I do wish they would swap out the voice message button for a voice dictation one; if I want to speak to someone I’ll call, but I use voice dictation in text daily. Overall rating: A welcome improvement.
Design: I realize they needed to refresh the look of iOS, and I don’t mind the flat look but theres no lasting impression. iOS 8 is a pretty OS, but a lot of the graphical flash (like the parallax “floating” icons on the home screen) quickly lose their shine and become overlooked. Overall rating: meh.
Keyboard: A nice improvement on a couple fronts. The predictive type is markedly better, and I use it often to complete longer words. Autocorrect can still be hilariously wrong at times (especially if you’re using dictation), but the incremental changes have added up to a much better experience that can be easy to overlook. I still use the stock keyboard, but the ability to install third party keyboards was long overdue. If I were going to install a third party one it would likely be Swype, as pecking away at the keyboard can be trying with overly large fingers. Overall rating: Thumbs up.
Family Sharing: A really welcome addition, but one I can’t really review as I haven’t had a chance to use it. Would like to see them expand it further, and I hope this would open the door to a guest or multiple user accounts on an iOS device as competing operating systems currently offer. Overall rating: TBD.
iCloud Drive: I use Apple’s cloud storage for iWork documents and Photostream, but that’s about it. For the limited use I have I have no complaints; it’s worked as designed and has been a nice addition. They’d need to improve the free storage levels to be a serious competitor to Google and Dropbox, but for many users the limited free storage might work fine. Overall rating: nice, but not groundbreaking.
Health: A great idea, but as of right now it’s just potential. I had limited experience with it while testing a Garmiin Vivosmart but wasn’t too impressed; the data didn’t mean much without something to compare it to or deeper interpretation. Should health care providers embrace Health Kit it could be huge. Many patients I see on a daily basis need regular monitoring, and an electronic “coach” might be of significant value in steering them to better health choices and improved communication with their doctors and other health care providers. Overall rating: to be determined, but it could be a game changer.
Handoff: I don’t really use it beyond Messages, so I can’t pass judgement. I thought it was a great idea when I watched the Keynote, but in use it hasn’t provided any real value. I do use Safari Cloud tabs to pick up on web pages on a different screen, and the cloud keychain has been a very welcome addition, but I just don’t use my iOS devices for productivity as I did in the past- those tasks are done on my Macbook now. If I did use my iPad at work this new feature might be more useful to me. Overall rating: Nice, but again no game changer.
Spotlight: I use it quite a bit on my Macs, but on my iOS devices it acts solely as a way of launching apps I don’t want to be bothered searching for (now just what folder did I leave the Notes app in?). Again, to some it might be an invaluable addition but for my daily use it’s an afterthought. Overall rating: nice, but no biggie.
So there you have it. Much like my overall Apple experience, there are numerous nice features, but not too many mind blowing ones. Thankfully, those small features add up to an overall superior end experience that you may not be able to isolate a single reason why it’s better, but would be missed immediately if you lost it. Much like the MagSafe power cable or multitouch controls on the Mac, many of these highly-touted new features aren’t as “magical” as the hyperbole paints them as being, but in the end they keep me as a customer.