iOS 8 UK release date, features and how to install beta

9 Jul 2014
Apple iOS 8

Updated apps, a new Notification Centre, Continuity with OSX and much more as Apple announces iOS 8 for iPhone and iPad

Apple has announced iOS 8 at WWDC, with a new Health app, connectivity with OSX, iCloud Drive, improved Spotlight and a plethora of other changes and improvements. The release date for iOS 8 will be sometime this fall/Autumn, with Apple confirming the operating system will be available for iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s, iPod touch 5th generation, iPad 2, iPad with Retina display, iPad Air, iPad mini and iPad mini with Retina display. While you're waiting for the software to come out, we'll run you through all of the operating system's latest features. We'll also show you how to get the beta version right now, if you simply can't wait for the final release.

How to upgrade to iOS 8

iOS 8 is available right now on Apple's iOS Developer Program. A subcription costs $99 a year (£58) but there's no need to pay that much to get your hands on iOS 8. Each developer account gets 100 registrations for iOS 8, so a lot of people have some going spare.

The easiest way to start using iOS 8 right now is to use the popular IMZDL website, which sells iOS 8 licenses for $8 (£4.70). In order to purchase you will need to know your devices UDID, a unique code that identifies your phone.

To find the UDID connect your iOS device to your computer via USB, open iTunes, go to the device page (iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch) and click on the serial number to get the UDID. Once you've got the UDID follow the steps to register for and download iOS 8. It is important to back up your iOS device before you download iOS 8 to protect your data.

Apple is already on the third version of the iOS 8 beta, having released the second iOS 8 beta in mid-June. The third version deals mostly with bug fixes and tweaks, which is to be expected for beta software. New features in the third beta of iOS 8 include Find my iPhone, an iOS 8 version of Find My Friends, a new Apple TV beta and an update to Apple's Swift programming language.

The third beta of iOS 8 also includes new options in iCloud Drive, Handoff, QuickType and cosmetic changes to other Apple apps.

If you don't want to make the upgrade now right now here's a run-down of what's new in iOS 8.

iOS 8 health app

iOS 8 Health app

Apple's Health app collects together health and fitness data collected by other iOS 8 apps and brings everything together in one place. Heart rate, calories burned, blood sugar, cholesterol, sleep patterns and more can all be measured and recorded on an iPhone through apps such as Nike+. The Health app also lets you create an emergency health card that's available from the lock screen, detailing blood type, allergies and other important information.

Apple hopes that Health and the underlying HealthKit developer software will allow hospitals and medical professionals to receive health and fitness data, allowing medical information to be more easily tracked and monitored.

iOS 8 third-party keyboards

New iOS 8 keyboard

One of the most-wanted features being added to iOS 8, you can now install third-party keyboards on your iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. That means apps such as Swype and Swiftkey will soon be available for iOS 8.

Apple has also worked to improve the default iOS 8 keyboard with a new predictive text system. The technology suggests what word you're likely to type next based on past conversations. It also takes into account how you write to different people – so iOS 8 will understand that when talking to your boss you use formal language but when talking to your friend you use informal language. Apple said the predictive text technology would allow people to compose messages and emails "with a few taps".

iOS 8 design tweaks

New design features in iOS 8

iOS 8 doesn't look drastically different to iOS 7, but it still has lots of less noticeable changes. Double-tapping the home button will now bring up a list of people you often contact, as well as recently opened apps.

Notifications are now interactive, so tapping on a message will let you reply without opening the app while tapping on a calendar invitation will let you decline or accept. Third-party apps such as Facebook can also use interactive notifications to let you comment or like things without opening Facebook.

Mail is now more intelligent and able to recognise addresses, phone numbers, diary invites and more and suggest that you add them to contacts and calendars. New swipe gestures also make it quicker to delete, flag or mark messages as read.

In Safari, the tab page from iPHone now appears on iPad, with a new sidebar sliding out to show bookmarks, Reading List and shared links.

Connect iOS 8 to OSX with Continuity

Answer calls in OSX Yosemite with iOS 8

iOS 8 and OSX Yosemite can communicate in a number of ways. Handoff means you can start writing an email on your iPhone or iPad and finish it off on a Mac and vice-versa. You can also open a webpage on your Mac and you can continue viewing it on your iPhone. The Apple devices will need to be signed into the same iCloud account for Continuity to work.

Handoff works with apps such as Mail, Safari, Pages, Numbers, Keynote, Maps, Messages, Reminders, Calendar and Contacts. Developers can build the feature into their apps as well.

As well as apps, Continuity also turns your Mac into an iPhone. When your iPhone rings and it is in another room or buried at the bottom of a bag your Mac or iPad will start ringing as well. The call answering feature requires your iPhone on iOS 8 to be connected to the same Wi-Fi network as your Mac.

Incoming calls on Mac and iPad shows the caller name, number and profile picture. Calls can be answered, turning your iPad or Mac into a giant hands-free phone. You can also make calls from your Mac or iPad in the same way. SMS and MMS text messages will also appear on iPad and Mac, along with standard Messages conversations.

iOS 8 iCloud

Photos in iOS 8

A new Photos app and iCloud Photo Library mean you should never have to delete a photo again – so long as you're happy to pay Apple to store them for you. Once enabled on your iPhone and or iPad, iCloud Photo Library automatically stores all your RAW image files online. You can then view them on your iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch or the web.

Smaller versions of files sized specifically for each device are stored locally. The first 5GB of iCloud storage is free, with more storage starting at $0.99 per month.

Any edits made to photos on one device are synced across all devices, while it is also easier to search for specific photos and albums. New editing tools to crop and straighten photos have also been added along with options for adjusting brightness, contract and exposure. iOS 8 also sees a number of new Apple filters for photos with a new time-lapse video function also available.

iOS 8 new Messages app

Messages in iOS 8

Updates to Messages include options to quickly send voice snippets and videos at the touch of a button. Group conversations can now be renamed with clear options to add and drop people into conversations.

A new Do Not Disturb button lets you mute a conversation and read through it later. Your location can be shared with other people in a conversation for just one hour, until the end of the day or indefinitely, making it easier to find friends when arranging to meet up.

Attachments in conversations can now be viewed with one tap and you can also now send multiple photos and videos at once.

iOS 8 Family Sharing

Family Sharing in iOS 8

Up to six people can share purchases from iTunes, iBooks and the App Store without having to share the same account. Family Sharing also allows parents to pay for and approve purchases by children from their own device. The feature also makes sharing photos, a family calendar and other information easier.

Once setup, Family Sharing grants access to music, movies, TV shows, books and apps, without needing to share the same Apple ID or passwords. Collecting and sharing photos together into shared albums is also possible, while Family Sharing can share the location of family members so you can see where they are.

iOS 8 iCloud Drive

iCloud Drive in iOS 8

The new iCloud Drive finally brings comprehensive cloud storage features to iOS 8 and OSX Yosemite. You can store just about anything in iCloud Drive, providing you have sufficient space. Drag and drop what you want to store into the folder from a Mac running OSX Yosemite or even a PC running Windows 8.

Edits made to documents are synced across devices, so if you make changes to a Pages document on your Mac, those changes will also appear on your iPad and iPhone.

iOS 8 improved search with Spotlight

Spotlight in iOS 8

Taking its cue from Windows 8, Apple has made a number of improvements to Spotlight in iOS 8. Search results in Spotlight now include Wikipedia articles, maps, news, nearby places, iTunes Store, App Store and iBook Store results, suggested websites and even movie showtimes.

Results are also altered depending on context and location to give more accurate and relevant suggestions. Spotlight now also works in Safari, with results appearing alongside search suggestions.

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