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