Apple laid the groundwork for the future of its iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch operating system last year with iOS 7, and now the company is building on that foundation with the launch of iOS 8. Instead of shocking us with a new look that shuns the old skeuomorphic feel — that happened last year — Apple is giving us tighter integration between our mobile gear and our Macs, and making features we're already familiar with more useful.
iOS 8 is out with new features, and more to come
There's plenty to get excited about in iOS 8 for both end users and developers, and a lot to be frustrated about, too. Notification Center is far more useful now, the Camera app is now even better, and we can use third-party keyboards. On the other hand, HealthKit and HomeKit are pretty anemic today, iCloud Drive is hobbled until OS X Yosemite comes out, and some cross-device sharing features aren't ready yet.
If I had to choose one word to describe the overall theme for iOS 8, that would be "convergence." It's about giving us easier access to our content and personal lives, and making our iPhones, iPads, and Macs work together more effectively. Apple is trying to break down the digital wall that traps what we're doing to just our iPhone or Mac, and that has the potential to free us from having to decide which device to use for any given task.
All of those great features and promises, however, come with a healthy dose of "not until October." Is there enough today to justify making the jump to iOS 8, or should you follow Apple's lead and wait until October, too? Read on to find out if iOS 8 is ready to meet your needs today.
Compatibility: Does Your iPhone Make the Cut?
Apple is pretty good at supporting older devices when new operating systems are released, but that doesn't mean every iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch made will work with iOS 8. That said, iOS 8 is supported on a surprisingly long list of Apple gear as long as you're willing to put up with a few limitations.
iPhone support goes back as far as the iPhone 4s, although you need at least an iPhone 5 to take advantage of Continuity features. The iPad 2 or newer, as well as the iPad mini and Retina Display iPad mini are supported, but you need at least a fourth generation model iPad to get in on the Continuity action. Unless you own a fifth generation iPod touch, you can't even install iOS 8.
When Apple releases Apple Pay in October, only the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus will be supported for that feature. That means you can't try out mobile payments unless you have the latest generation iPhone models.
The iPhone 4 was cut from this update's compatibility list. That will no doubt upset people who are still rocking the four year old model, but Apple can't support every device forever, and there are plenty of Android-based smartphones that lose support after a year or so — or never get any updates at all.
If iOS 8 is compatible with your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, it'll show up as an over the air software update. You can check by tapping Settings, choosing General, then selecting Software Update. You'll see which version of iOS is installed, and if the updater is available, you'll see an option to install it, too.
Assuming your iOS devices are compatible with iOS 8, the price is right. It's available for free as an over the air update, or through the Update option in iTunes.
Next: Control Center, Notification Center, and Extensions
Page 2 - Control Center, Notification Center, and Extensions
iOS 8 Control Center: Your One-Tap Settings
Control Center is the collection of settings you access by swiping up from the bottom of your screen. It includes controls for music playback, turning on or off WiFi and Bluetooth, AirDrop settings, AirPlay, and more.
iOS 8's Control Center looks nearly identical to the iOS 7 version
If you're familiar with Control Center from iOS 7, you know exactly what to expect in iOS 8. The two are pretty much the same, although I did find one mildly annoying difference: While you can still turn on the flashlight from Control Center, you can't turn it off by tapping the camera icon on the lock screen.
The real changes are hiding in Notification Center. Apple started by combining the All and Missed tabs into a new Notifications tab, which is nice because I don't know many people who used the Missed tab at all.
When you scroll to the bottom of your Notifications list you'll see an Edit button, and that opens up one of iOS 8's great features: third-party widget support. Any app that includes a Notification Center widget will show up here, but will be disabled by default.
I'm betting Apple debated whether or not widgets should be active by default, and I'm glad they opted not to take that route. With widgets disabled, Notification Center shows its default view, and that's going to be just fine for a lot of people. For those of us that want more, we can tap the edit button and enable the widgets we want.
What are widgets, you ask? They're like little plug-ins that add extra functionality to Notification Center. They can show your OmniFocus tasks, for example, or maybe a mini calculator from PCalc. I'm excited to see the clever widget ideas developers come up with because they'll no doubt make our iPhones even more useful.
iOS 8 Extensions: Apple Finally Opens the Door for Developers
Of all the new features in iOS 8, Extensions has the potential to have the greatest impact. Extensions tear down the walls between apps so they can share features or content, they're the magic that lets developers build Notification Center widgets, they open up access to cloud services, and they let developers create alternate keyboards.
The number of Extensions-savvy apps I had access to while working on my review were limited, but that didn't stop me from being very impressed. Without widgets, my iOS devices running iOS 7 suddenly felt hobbled and locked down in a near-draconian way. In iOS 8, I suddenly had access to information and actions I had only dreamed of before.
Apps add widgets to Notification Center, and you choose which to activate
With OmniFocus, for example, I can see my tasks for today in Notification Center and tag them as completed without needing to jump into the app, and 1Password lets me use my fingerprint with Touch ID to enter my login credentials in Safari and other apps. It's as if my iPhone has been released from chains and set free to run through a world filled with apps that can play together.
Extensions open up Notification Center to widgets, like this one for OmniFocus
Compared to the options Android smartphone users have had for some time, the iPhone on-screen keyboard has felt fairly limited. That's all changed with iOS 8 thanks to Extensions. Developers can now write apps that offer alternative keyboards, and several are already available. Flesky, TextExpander, Swype, and SwiftKey all have custom keyboards available, and more are on the way.
Third-party keyboards are available in every app that offers text input, and they make for a great way to more efficiently type. That translates to fewer typing errors (hopefully) and more time focusing on what you want to say instead of what words seem to randomly appear independently of what you type.
Using alternate keyboards worked without any surprises, and jumping between multiple keyboards is pretty easy if you remember to tap and hold the globe button next to the space bar.
Enabling third-party keyboards isn't exactly intuitive, but there is some logic to the process. You'll have to pay a visit to Settings > General > Keyboard > Keyboards, and then choose Add New Keyboard. This is the same process you use to add other system-provided keyboards such as Emoji or alternate languages.
Apple added predictive typing support to its own on-screen keyboard
Apple's default on-screen keyboard got an update of its own that, again, will look familiar to most Android device users. iOS 8 now includes predictive typing in addition to autocorrect, and the new predictive feature works surprisingly well.
Word suggestions based on what you type appear in a bar just above the keyboard. Tap a word to insert it in your text, and keep typing. It feels very Android and is a perfect example of how competing operating systems borrow from each other all the time.
Next: Siri, Continuity, and AirDrop
Page 3 - Siri, Continuity, and AirDrop
iOS 8 Siri: Your Pocket-Size Assistant gets Smarter
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Siri is better in iOS 8, but still hasn't turned my iPad into Knowledge Navigator. Apple's voice command system adds in some new tricks, which is great, but still hasn't reached the point where it can handle anything I ask of it.
Siri can now identify songs it hears thanks to Shazam integration, although sometimes I had to ask about the song before Siri would do its magic. What should happen is that simply activating Siri will trigger song identification, and sometimes Siri responded by telling me I wasn't listening to music. That's most likely a bug, although there is a chance Siri simply doesn't like my taste in music.
Siri lets you ask questions and issue commands by saying, "Hey, Siri"
Siri now has a hands-free activation mode that works when your iOS device is plugged into a power source. Just say, "Hey, Siri," and then rattle off your command or question. Siri handled all my requests without any problem and I'm already thinking this may be a feature I rely on regularly when I'm using my iPad at my desk.
We aren't, however, at a point yet where I can say, "Hey Siri, I want to take my nieces to see a movie tomorrow night," and get any kind of useful response. What I'd like is for Siri to check for age appropriate movies playing tomorrow evening at nearby theaters, and then offer to order the appropriate number of tickets for me after I confirm which show we'll go see. Instead, Siri tells me it can't find any movies called "My Nieces."
Maybe next year, which is also something I say every time a new version of iOS rolls out.
The downside to saying "Hey, Siri," is that there isn't any discrimination to limit the voices that Siri will respond to. You can, for instance, play a video or podcast where someone says "Hey, Siri," and watch your iPhone jump into action. At this point, it's totally appropriate for me to apologize to everyone who has listened to a podcast where I barked that out.
iOS 8 Continuity: iPhone, iPad, and Mac Sharing Just got Easier
One of the compelling features in iOS 8 is Continuity, although it's touted as part of OS X Yosemite. It promises to be the conduit that truly brings everything together so no matter what we're working on, it's always available across all of our devices, be it our Macs, iPhones, or iPads. The good news is that Continuity has the potential to make it much easier to get things done without having to stop and think about which device is available. The bad news is that it's pretty hobbled until October when OS X Yosemite ships for the Mac.
Handoff will let you start a task on one device, then jump to another to complete it. Whatever you were working on is automatically waiting for you seamlessly and transparently. It just happens.
Apple's example involves starting an email on one device and finishing it on another. I can see where that would be handy if you create an email on your iPhone only to realize the attachment it needs is on your Mac. Just switch over to your Mac and carry on.
Unfortunately, this feature is disabled while we wait for OS X Yosemite to ship. For now, it looks like that's happening some time in October. We'll follow up when Continuity is enabled and let you know how it holds up.
Unified messaging groups together all of your iMessage chats and standard SMS chats in a single interface. If that sounds familier, it's because your various conversations were already grouped together on your iPhone or iPad in iOS 7. The difference now is that all of those chats will appear grouped on your Mac, too, and any SMS chats you start there will show up on your iOS devices.
That's great because seeing all of your text conversations together, everywhere, is so much easier than having to remember if you started an iMessage chat or old school SMS chat with someone. This is another promised feature that won't be delivered until October.
Remote calling from your iPad or Mac via your iPhone is available now, and it works surprisingly well — at least on supported iPads. That includes the fourth generation iPad, iPad Air, iPad mini, and Retina Display iPad mini.
I was able to place and receive calls from my iPad without any issues at all, and it was pretty cool knowing I could carry on conversations from whatever iOS device happened to be in my hand. Holding up an iPad mini to my head also gave me a great sense of what it would be like to use an iPhone 6 Plus, or to use so many of the gigantiphone Android smartphones Samsung makes.
Answer an iPhone call on your iPad? Yep, you can do that now
Your iPhone and iPad or Mac need to be on the same WiFi network to take advantage of remote calling and answering. That's a limitation in one sense because you can't really take advantage of the feature when you're walking down the street, but it does free you to leave your iPhone charging in one part of the house or office while handling your calls from another device.
I see remote calling and answering being really useful once OS X Yosemite ships and you can use the feature from your Mac. Turning my Mac into a remote interface for my iPhone will be really useful, especially since so many of my desk-bound calls require both my hands so I can type.
Please, please use this feature appropriately. I don't want to see people hanging out in coffee shops holding iPads to their ear as if they're phones. If I see you doing this, I will write about you.
Continuity's Instant Hotspot feature lets you use your iPhone's wireless data service from your Mac. This is another feature that's waiting on OS X Yosemite, so you won't be able to play with it right away.
Yes, you can already use your iPhone as a hotspot, but Instant Hotspot makes setup and connection much easier. Your iPhone shows up as a WiFi hotspot automatically on your Mac, and your iPhone knows to drop the connection and save battery life when you're done using its data service. You'll need a hotspot data plan for your iPhone, so this isn't a way to work around paying more money to your cell service provider.
iOS 8 AirDrop: Sometimes-Easy File Sharing
AirDrop isn't new to iOS 8, but the fact that it's finally truly useful is. In iOS 7, it was useful for sending documents back and forth between iPhones and iPads via the Share option in apps, but sharing between Macs and iOS devices felt a little clunky.
With iOS 8 on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, and Yosemite on your Mac, AirDrop target devices all appear the same. That means every device — whether it's a Mac, iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch — will appear in AirDrop as long as they're all on the same network. Just select where you want to send your document or photo without worrying about configuring any network settings.
AIrDrop trouble: My iPad mini sees my iPhone 5s, but my iPhone doesn't see my iPad mini
When AirDrop worked for me it was great. I could send files back and forth between my Apple gear without the headache of jumping between file sharing apps, no problem. When it didn't work, however, it was like playing a game of digital whack-a-mole where I didn't know which devices would appear where or when. Even worse, that's how AirDrop worked for me most of the time.
I watched devices seemingly come and go at random, and I never could figure out why my iPad mini could see my iPhone 5s — and successfully send files to it — yet my iPhone 5s didn't see my iPad mini. I can forgive OS X Yosemite for failing to play well with my iPhone and iPad because it is still a beta operating system, but two devices running the GM of iOS 8 not seeing each other? That's an annoying problem.
Next: Messages, Mail, and Safari
Page 4 - Messages, Mail, and Safari
iOS 8 Messages: SMS Sharing, Easy Selfies, and More
Messages still handles your iMessage and SMS chats, and you still see color coded text bubbles to let you know which type of conversation you're in (blue means iMessage, green means SMS). What's new this time around is that you can record audio and send it as a message from within the app.
Recording worked well and the audio quality was fine. What I found is that the interface was simple, yet easy to misunderstand: Tapping the microphone button lets you dictate, just as it does in iOS 7, but you need to tap and hold to record. When you finish recording, you can play back your audio or tap the up arrow button to send as part of your chat.
It doesn't matter if your intended recipient is running iOS 8 or not, they'll see the audio file as part of the chat just like they see photos and videos inline.
Messages makes it easy to take and send selfies
It's cool that Apple set up the recording feature so you can use it regardless of who is receiving the message. It saves you from needing to know which smartphones your friends use, and if they have an iPhone, which version of iOS they're running.
The Camera button in Messages lets you snap pics or choose images from your photo library just like it did in iOS 7, but press and hold and you'll get a couple new options that make it easy to shoot selfies. A swipe up snaps a photo, and a swipe right captures video. Once you lift your finger or slide off of the photo or video button, your selfie is on its way, no confirmation or warning.
It's cool how easy it is to shoot selfies, but it's also almost too easy. I'm already imagining scenarios involving alcohol and and a momentary lapse of judgement resulting in embarrasing or unexpected photos flying through Messages. Be careful with that, people.
iOS 8 Mail: It's All in the Gestures
The iPhone and iPad Mail app got a little love in iOS 8 thanks to new gestures and sorting options, along with the ability to quickly move draft messages out of the way. The mobile Mail app finally feels more like it's big brother on the Mac.
Mail's right-to-left swipe gesture for messages shows the Flag, More and Trash buttons, and a right-to-left gesture that crosses the screen completely deletes messages without any extra taps. Swiping left-to-right from the center of a message shows Mark as Read, which is handy if you want to tag a message as read without opening it.
Mail adds new gestures for quickly flagging, deleting, or marking messages as read
Swiping left-to-right from the edge of the screen still takes you back one level, just as it did in iOS 7.
Mail's refined gestures make it easier to triage messages, but what I found to be even more useful were the new Mailbox options, especially Today. To find the new Mailbox options, you'll need to tap the Edit button in the Mailboxes list, and then enable the views you want to see.
I turned on Today so I have a quick place to look for all of the messages that came in during the last 24 hours. I set up a similar Smart Mailbox on my Mac years ago and have always wanted to have something similar on my iPhone and iPad. Now I do.
You can also can also enable Thread Notifications so you see alerts when new messages from ongoing conversations arrive. You choose which conversations get alerts, so you won't be bombarded with notifications for email threads that don't hold any interest for you.
Apple already showed off Mail's new Draft message feature that lets you move an email in progress to the bottom of the screen so you can read or compose other messages. Just drag a message to the bottom of your screen, and it stays there while you work with other messages. It seems like a fairly simple thing, but turned out to be surprisingly useful for me.
iOS 8 Mobile Safari: Private Browsing, Private Searching
Mobile Safari got a few enhancements that make should make Web surfing a little easier. Start typing a URL, for example, and Safari will suggest websites, and it can offer contextual suggestions, too. Entering a movie name will show related information, and your browser history and bookmarks help refine suggestion results.
The app also learns based on your browser activity and will pre-load sites based on what you type in the URL/search field. Assuming Safari guessed right, you'll see a boost in browser performance because the site you want to see is already cached when you finish typing its URL.
Mobile Safari's new Private Browsing mode
Private browsing is more flexible because it creates a separate set of tabs for you to work with. Your tabs from normal browsing slide out of the way when you're in Private mode and Safari's interface colors go dark so you have a clear visual cue to let you know when the mode is enabled. Switching back to regular mode jumps you back to your normal light grey tabs.
Mobile Safari also added DuckDuckGo as an alternative to Google and Bing for Internet searches. DuckDuckGo may not be as popular as Google, but it does have the advantage of offering Web searches without any tracking. Your search activity isn't being logged by DuckDuckGo, and your browsing habits aren't being sold to advertisers.
Next: Health, HealthKit, and HomeKit
Page 5 - Health, HealthKit, and HomeKit
iOS 8 Health and HealthKit: Your New Fitness Manager
Of all the features in iOS 8, the one that seems the most exciting to me is the HealthKit and Health app combo. HealthKit is Apple's new platform third-party apps and accessories can use to collect health and fitness information and feed it into your iPhone. Once there, the Health app gives you a single place where you can view and manage your data.
I love the idea of seeing my Fitbit One fitness tracker data, along with my Withings smart scale, Nike+, and data from several other devices grouped together in a single interface. That's the promise of Health.
The reality is that it feels like Passbook did when it was first introduced: A feature that's obtuse and almost completely unsupported. The only data I could tie into Health was from Nike+, which is limited to my daily step count. I couldn't find any other apps or devices that fed information in, and until those come, HealthKit and Health are little more than a pretty orange graph showing how far I walked today.
The Health app groups fitness data from multiple sources
I get far more information about how active — or inactive — I am in the Fitbit app, and I can tie in data from other devices. Right now, the Fitbit app is far more like the idea of Health than Apple's own Health app.
I spent hours searching for apps that offered Health support and came up dry, and discovering that Nike+ data was available in the app was something I discovered quite by accident. After tapping Health Data, I looked through the various categories and found Nike+ data was waiting in both Steps and Walking + Running Distance. I tapped Show on Dashboard for both, and could then see the data the two had been collecting.
The Health Data section also includes a Flights Climbed category, which should start showing data once I have my iPhone 6 in hand later this week. The new iPhone models include a relative barometric sensor that can tell when you're climbing stairs, so I'll be looking forward to seeing just how accurate that data is.
Just like Passbook, I think Health will overcome the initial lack of support from developers and device makers. Once those come I'll take another look at Health and I hope to be pleasantly surprised.
Unfortunately, that won't happen right away because Apple found a bug in HealthKit as iOS 8 rolled out and pulled apps that supported the feature from the App Store. Apple didn't elaborate on what the problem was, but did say it planned on having a fix in place by the end of September.
iOS 8 HomeKit: The Promise of Unified Home Management
HomeKit is iOS 8's unified system for managing and controlling home automation devices. Unlike HealthKit, HomeKit doesn't have a Highlander app to control your smart home gear, and that will likely lead to some confusion on the part of users.
Instead, HomeKit is the glue between various apps so you can create groups of rooms called Zones filled with any combination of HomeKit-compatible devices. Those devices are on the way, or at least promised to be coming. Several companies, such as iHome, Cree, Philips, Honeywell, and Withings have committed to support HomeKit, and other companies have signed on, too.
HomeKit looks promising because the idea of a unified system for controlling smart home devices is very appealing. Currently, devices from different manufacturers have to be controlled independently and that translates to a major pain in the backside.
Until manufacturers follow through and start delivering HomeKit-compatible gear we won't know how well — or poorly — the system is.
Next: Camera and Photos
Page 6 - Camera and Photos
iOS 8 Camera: Your New Favorite Camera App
The Camera app received a very welcome update in iOS 8. I've been using my iPhone as my primary camera for years, but for the first time I feel like it's a true camera instead of a smartphone with a photo capture app.
While the Camera app has always been very capable, the features it offers have been somewhat limited. Now, however, that's changed and I may not need to turn to third-party camera apps to get the control over my shots I've always wanted.
iOS 8's new Camera app
The Camera app offers both focus and exposure controls, where previously those were linked together. You can set where the camera focuses by tapping on your iPhone's screen, just as you could in iOS 7, but instead of basing the exposure on the new focus point, you can slide your finger up or down to change the exposure.
A single tap still sets the exposure based on the focus point, but having that extra control is a very welcome addition. I often felt I was hobbled in how I use my iPhone's camera because my focus point isn't always appropriate for my exposure setting, and now, just like a stand-alone digital camera, I can change both independently.
I found the new focus and exposure controls to be surprisingly simple and intuitive; after a quick tap to focus, a one-finger slide up made my image brighter, and a slide down made it darker. The gesture was amazingly responsive because I saw my exposure changing in real time, and if I needed to start over a quick tap to refocus reset my exposure settings.
Time Lapse photography has been available via third-party apps, but now it's baked into iOS 8's Camera app. The Time Lapse option is tucked away with the Photo, Square Photo, and Video options and it creates videos by stringing together photos it captures.
Making Time Lapse videos involves little more than choosing the option in the Camera app and tapping the shutter button. Your iPhone will keep recording until you tap the shutter button again, or your run out of storage space.
I love how simple the Time Lapse feature is, and at the same time I find it really frustrating. You have no control over the image capture speed, and Apple hasn't said anything about the capture rate other than it's "dynamic," which could mean it's constantly changing — or not.
That said, I've been able to capture some cool videos and I have a feeling this'll be a handy feature for school science projects.
The Camera app now sports a self timer, which means you can finally be in your own photos without taking selfies or handing off your iPhone to friendly strangers. You can choose between a three second and ten second delay, which is a bit limiting, but far better than the on-or-off setting we get with Time Lapse.
The Panorama photo feature isn't limited to the iPhone any more. Now iPad users can snap panorama shots, too, and capturing those wide shots seems to work a little faster compared to iOS 7.
Thanks to the improvements Apple brought to the Camera app my iPhone just became the single best pocket camera around.
iOS 8 Photos: More than a Shoebox for Pictures
The Photos app offers easier image searching and sorting compared to iOS 7, and that's handy for people who keep lots of pics on their iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. You can search by location, date, or album name and while that may not seem like anything big based on the organization features in iOS 7's Photos app, it makes a huge difference.
Instead of sifting through photos based on date and location, the new search feature shows a list that groups photos for you in useful ways. A search for "Estes," for example, gave me three sets of photos grouped by proximity to the town of Estes Park, images from around Trail Ridge Road (a popular route in Rocky Mountain National Park near the town), and the county where Estes Park is located. I was presented with just over 80 photos, but they were sorted into groups that were much easier to manage.
Searching based on date proved to be more useful than I expected, too. A quick search for "August" gave me all of the photos I took during the month regardless of year. Imagine finding all of the photos you snapped of trees changing color, or the pics from your annual beach trip, at once. I wish I could search based on season, too, so I could quickly find all of my winter pics.
I also expect the Nearby search will come in handy at family events where I want to show off photos I took around the same area regardless of date.
Deleting photos isn't as much of a commitment as it previously was because Photos now includes a recently deleted folder. Images you dump into the trash stay there for 30 days before they're gone for good, which means you have plenty of time to change your mind or to restore images you deleted by accident.
You can search your photos based on location or time and see categorized results
You can force images to delete right away if you want, and each photo shows a counter letting you know how much longer it'll be available before it's gone for good.
Image editing got a nice kick in the pants in iOS 8. The Photos app includes several fast and easy Smart Adjustments for color, light, and black and white settings; just slide through each to pick exactly what you want. If you want more control, the new Photos app gives you that, too.
Each settings option includes a nondescript three stacked lines badge that reveals its fine-tune controls. Light includes exposure, highlights, shadows, brightness, contract, and black point controls; Color offers saturation, contrast, and cast controls; and Black & White includes intensity, neutrals, tone, and grain settings.
Photos' new settings aren't as inclusive and powerful as, say, SnapSeed, but they're flexible and offer enough to help most people turn OK shots into something special. For many of my iPhone and iPad image adjustments I probably won't look beyond the Photos app unless I want to create special effects that come with full-on image editors.
Apple is opening up its apps, at least to a point, with iOS 8. For Photos, that means you can use filters from other image editors as if they were part of Apple's own app, although there are some limitations.
Developers need to add support for Photos to their own apps so their filters will be available, but features outside of filter sharing won't be available. For specialized features, you'll still have to pay a visit to the developer's app.
The upside to giving Photos access to image filters from other developers is that you can use a single app for most all of your photo editing. The downside is that you don't have access to filters third-party developers don't want you to see, so they can limit just how much you can do to your pics before having to leave Photos for another app.
Next: iCloud Drive
Page 7 - iCloud Drive
iOS 8 iCloud Drive: The Perils of Staggered OS Releases
Another piece in Apple's big convergence pie is iCloud Drive, a big upgrade for the company's online storage and data syncing service. iCloud Drive is more like Dropbox than iCloud in that it gives you Finder-like control over your documents, complete with folder-level organization.
That's a big change from the iCloud of yesterday where everything when into a sort of digital black box. You didn't have any control over where files were stored, organizing documents wasn't an option, and you had to use whatever app was used to create a file to see it again.
With iCloud Drive, you are finally the master of your own content. That said, don't use it. Don't even think about enabling it — at least not yet.
Skip iCloud Drive for now. You need iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite on all your Apple gear
iCloud Drive is a one-way path. Once you enable it on one device, you need to enable it on all of your devices. If you activate iCloud Drive on your iPhone, for example, now you need to enable it on your iPad, iPod touch, and your Mac. You can't go back, and once activated, your files that were previously available can only be seen through iCloud Drive.
That's pretty ominous, but it gets worse: iCloud Drive requires iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite. While iOS 8 is available now, OS X Yosemite isn't, and probably won't be until some time in October. Enabling iCloud Drive now means you lose access to your synced content on your Mac until Yosemite is available.
Giving us iCloud Drive now feels like a pretty irresponsible act on Apple's part. I'm certain there will be people who install iOS 8, tap the button to enable iCloud Drive without reading the warning that comes along with it, and then flip out when syncing breaks, and they can't get at their files from their Mac.
iCloud Drive shows a lot of promise, but not today, and not until OS X Yosemite is available, too.
Next: The Bottom Line
Page 8 - The Bottom Line
The Bottom Line: Is iOS 8 Right for You?
Apple promised a lot for iOS 8 when it was first shown off at the company's Worldwide Developer Conference earlier this year, and it delivered — to a point. Some features aren't there yet or are hobbled, like Apple Pay, unified SMS messaging, iCloud Drive, Handoff, Health, and HomeKit.
From an end user perspective, it feels like Apple released a partially finished operating system because the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus launch is only a couple days away. That's a deadline Apple couldn't work around, so some features just had to wait. They're coming, but not for a few more weeks.
From a developer perspective, however, iOS 8 is like an all expenses paid trip to Disneyland. For the first time, Apple is really letting developers get their hands under the hood, although in a limited way. It's like Apple turned the iOS app sandbox into a Habitrail.
That extra access to iOS 8's underpinnings means developers are free to bring us features that tie apps together in truly productive ways. As more apps come out that leverage the parts of iOS 8 Apple opened up to developers the potential for our mobile lives to become more productive goes up, and we'll likely see some surprisingly cool uses for Notification Center and sharing hit the App Store before long.
iOS 8 is a nice upgrade now and will be an awesome upgrade as Apple adds in features that aren't there yet, and developers find new ways to put those features to work for us.
It's unfortunate Apple couldn't release iOS 8 with all its promised features today, but it's reassuring to know that the rest will be here soon. When they are here, and OS X Yosemite is released, Apple will have a powerhouse combination on its hands.
As long as you don't mind the limitations iOS 8 has today, make the jump. It has plenty to offer end users, and the under-the-hood gifts it gives developers means we all come out winners with this upgrade.