iOS 8 release date, how to download and 11 BEST features

Published 
22 Sep 2014
New Messages on iOS 8

Everything you need to know about iOS 8, including all the new features and how to install it on your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch

iOS 8 is available to download now and comes pre-installed the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus launch. It can be downloaded for iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s as well as iPad 2, iPad with Retina Display, iPad Air, iPad Mini, iPad Mini with Retina Display and the fifth generation iPod Touch. 

You might need to do a little work to get your device ready, but you can read our guide on how to prepare your iPhone or iPad for iOS 8 in preparation. In the meantime, here's everything we know about the company's latest OS. You can also read our iOS 8 vs iOS 7 guide to see what's different between the current and new operating systems.

How to update

You can download iOS 8 directly from your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad. Simply open the Settings app, then tap on the "General" tab on the left of the screen. Now tap "Software update" on the right side of the screen to force your device to look for an update. If it's available, it will ask you whether to start downloading. The update is around 1GB in size so make sure you're connected to a Wi-Fi network rather than 3G or 4G, and plug in your device so it's fully charged. Once the file is downloaded, it will install and upgrade your device to iOS 8.

iOS 8 - best new features

Apple Pay

The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus will be the first Apple devices to have NFC built in, specifically for the purposes of contactless payment. The NFC chip is built across the top of the phone and will store your payment information securely via encryption. Adding credit cards is simple. You can use the card already associated with your iTunes account, or simply take a picture of it with the iPhone 6's camera in Safari. When you get to the checkout stage on a store, you can tap the on-screen button to activate the feature, automatically getting the iPhone to enter your credit card details for you.

These details aren't stored on the phone either. Instead of handing over your card's number to the cashier, Apple Pay will use a one-time payment number and a dynamic security code. This means you won't have to cancel your card if your iPhone gets lost. The cashier doesn't see your security code either, but you'll still be able to suspend all payments from your phone using the Find My iPhone service.

"Apple doesn't know what you bought, where you bought it, and how much you bought it for," said Eddy Cue at Apple's official iPhone 6 launch.

Apple also confirmed that Apple Pay will work online as well. Specific shopping apps will integrate the service directly into its UI, offering a one-touch check out option. The Apple Pay service will start in the US with Amex, Mastercard and Visa and Apple says it's currently working with Citi, Bank of America, Capital One, Wells Fargo, Chase and American Express. We still don't know if and when Apple Pay will be coming to the UK and which banks will support it, but Apple said it was "working hard" to bring the service to more countries. We'll bring the latest news as it breaks.  

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.

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.

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, called QuickType. 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". An update in iOS 8 beta 5 sees QuickType toggling accessed by swiping up on the keyboard. Pressing and holding on the emoji icon will also being up an option to turn predictive on or off.

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.

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 image files online - the old version only kept photos for 30 days with a maximum limit of 1,000 images. 

A new option, as of the most recent beta, in the iCloud Photo Library lets you choose between storing 'device optimised versions' or the original images. The 'Download and Keep Originals' option will store the full-sized original image, rather than smaller files designed for iOS. The larger files will obviously take up more space. 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.

With new space requirements comes new iCloud tariffs. As currently, users automatically get 5GB of free storage for each iCloud account, as they do now. For more storage, 79p per month will buy you 20GB of storage. If that's not enough, you can get 200GB of storage for just £2.99 each month. There will also be a 500GB deal for £6.99 per month and a 1TB plan for £14.99 per month, although the latter actually costs more per gigabyte than either the 200GB or 500GB plans.

Wi-Fi Calling

Instead of having to make phone calls over 3G or LTE, iOS 8 has a Wi-Fi Calling feature, allowing you to send voice over a wireless network. As well as improving call quality, by using a generally faster and less-laggy connection, it also means that you'll be able to get phone service anywhere your phone connects to a Wi-Fi network. This could be at home, on holiday or even on the Tube using its Wi-Fi network. Note that this technology is different to the existing call apps on O2 and Three, as the ability is built into the handset and is completely seamless. So, jump on the tube and your phone will just switch from mobile to Wi-Fi seamlessly, continuing to work in exactly the same way without requiring you to make a settings change or launch an app.

Support for Wi-Fi calling also requires your nework operator to support the technology. Currently only EE in the UK has said that it will support the technology, although we expect other networks to announce similar services in the future.

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.

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.

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.

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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Disqus - noscript

Please please apple give us the option to either install your apps that come with the installation ie I don't want games centre or the new health stuff etc. so let us pick what we want on our iPad iPhones

So to be released on the 17th... how is that two weeks away?

I just want the ability to delete documents and data from apps without deleting...like I used to have two versions ago.

Sorry guys but you made a mistake with the wifi calling. I'm on the 3 network and I have been using this feature for the last few weeks and it works perfectly !!

Battery Doctor should help you with that.

No, you made the mistake of not actually reading the whole paragraph.
Both O2 and Three have WiFi calling apps that require the app to be running to work. There are also issues with having two sets of messages etc. The new Apple/EE solution is completely native. it's built into the native dialler. Totally transparent to the end user. Read it again.

How long will it take iPhone 4s to update iOS 8?

From previous experience, anywhere from 5-15 minutes. But you can't get the update until 10 am PT or 1 pm ET.

It was 2 hours for me.

I have the iPhone 5 and don't have wifi calling at all. I'm livid. And since I live in Mexico and have Tmobile, the wifi calling was pretty important to me.

My Daughter downloaded the upgrade today, she is now quite hysterical! Her phone cannot be used and there is a black screen stating that the temperature is too high and must cool before use. She went to the local verizon store, they were most unhelpful and told her she needed to buy a new phone! Help! Any suggestions?

Why cant' I download it? my Iphone4 keeps saying ios7 is the current software?

iOS 8 isn't compatible with iPhone 4 however it is with every other gen (incl 4s)

i just download iOS 8 and install..Right now i cant use my whats-app also cant get the whats-app back up also...Please help me

I thought they were bringing back the full size pictures with incoming calls!!

Hi which iPhone she's using? If she's using iPhone 4 it's not compact able
With the new IOS 8. You could jailbreak and install 3rd party apps
Can help you? Or do you put your daughters iPhone in DFU mode?

I have the 5s and upgraded to the 8os...I am having trouble with my calendar to sync with my other devices...it's working on all the others but my iPhone...any ideas? I've tried everything....

Have iPad2 and just upgraded to IOS8 and can't upload my photos on my iPad to Facebook. Can anyone please advise?

Hi am I missing something here. Isn't wifi calling the same as have a Skype app which has been around for years. Except for the fact it's built into iPhone or am I being thick?

Have you tried uploading the latest facebook app update that's compatible with iOS 8? Also just log onto the full site on ipad or computer this should be ok. Hope it helps cheers

Probably because they don't want you to have it as they've pretty much copied it like they have with Skype etc allegedly. Have you tried going into App Store and downloading again?

I was just wondering why the iPhone 4 is not included in the ios8 update, while the 4s is? There wasn't much difference between the two models.

Just re-setup photos for your contacts, it should help.