iOS 8 will be a 'giant' release: How will it change my iPhone or iPad?

Apple's iOS 8 announced during Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) keynote in San Francisco, is almost here, but with Apple calling it a "giant" release what can we expect from the new mobile operating system?

So what changes can you expect? And what features will make it better than iOS 7? These are the ones that should change how you use your phone if you upgrade later today. 

Notifications Centre

Notifications Centre has been refined, with more interaction. You don't have to leave apps to check out your notifications, for example. Just pull down the list and you can use it while the app remains in the background.

Notifications on the home screen also have options for what you want to do with them. Swipe across and you can accept or delete them from the home screen itself.

There will also be widgets available in the Notifications Centre. Details, such as weather, calendars, eBay and more can be seen in Notifications without having to open a separate app.

Contacts

Now when you double tap the home button, as well as open apps appearing in a line, you get a bar at the top with all of the contacts you have been in touch with recently. Tap on their face (in a round circle) and you can FaceTime, phone or contact them directly.

Mail

Mail has also been refined and enhanced. As well as more intuitive gesture controls on mail messages, to let you tag and dismiss them more simply than ever before, you can also perform functions such as multitask within the app. You can swipe down a draft, for example, and continue reading or copying text from another email. Then swipe the draft back up again.

Spotlight

Spotlight will make suggestions based on your location or personal choices from all manner of different connected services. It will tell you events that are on at local theatres or cinemas, or suggest apps you might like or songs from iTunes. It is basically the iPhone or iPad's search feature, but is far more content rich with the results.

QuickType and third-party keyboards

QuickType is basically SwiftKey for iOS. It allows you to type more quickly with intelligent suggestions of words appearing as you enter keys. It also learns your language patterns as you use it more and it will be available in all manner of languages.

SwiftKey will be happy through, because if you don't fancy the QuickType keyboard, third-party keyboards will also be available in iOS 8. You will be able to choose the on-screen keyboard you prefer.

Group Messaging

New features for Group Messaging have been added. You can leave a thread rather than continue to receive messages you don't want. If you started the thread you can add or remove people. And you can share your location on the thread.

iMessage

iMessage has been tweaked to include voice and video messages. A tap-to-talk button means that you can leave a video of yourself for the recipient to pick up later. And it appears in the regular iMessage feed as if it were a picture message.

iCloud Drive

READ: iCloud Drive takes on Dropbox, OneDrive and other cloud services for OS X Yosemite users

Apple has added iCloud Drive support so you can share and edit documents stored on the cloud on any iOS device as well as Macs and, even, Windows PCs.

HealthKit

READ: Apple Health and HealthKit for iOS 8 has your wellness at heart

Apple's HealthKit app service for iOS 8 users will integrate with other apps, including Nike, to obtain fitness information. It will also contact health services, such as the Mayo clinic in the US, to ensure that your health patterns are monitored by your phone and it will even contact health care for you if needed. We're not sure whether this will come to the UK as it will need a different partner and the health care system works differently here.

Family sharing

READ: Apple Family Sharing new to iOS 8: Access purchases and share content among the whole family

The Family Share feature allows families of up to six people to share calendars and, perhaps more interestingly, app and media purchases. The entire family can purchase and share applications from the one account. And although children will be able to buy things using their parents' credit or bank card, they will still need permission as any access to the account will pop up on the main iOS 8 device, even if the child is using a different one.

Photos

The Photos application has been enhanced with new editing controls, but the main difference is that it syncs across devices through iCloud. Any changes made on one device, for example, will appear on the other instantly (as long as it's connected). It will even work with the Mac version of the software, although that update won't appear until early next year.

It is also planned for Windows integration and sync too.

Siri

Much like Google's "OK Google" phrase response, you can now spark up Siri by just saying "Hey, Siri". In addition, it has Shazam song recognition built into it, so no more having to load the dedicated Shazam app if you need to check on a song quickly.

You will also be able to purchase iTunes content through Siri by voice alone, it has streaming voice recognition and there will be 22 new languages added for dictation.

App Store

Developers get some features that will help their applications be seen. Videos will be able to be placed in app holding pages to demo the app in motion.

Users will also gain an explore tab, see trending searches for apps and there will be continuously scrolling search results, rather than limit the number of apps that appear on that page. The changes are designed to help iOS 8 users to find apps more easily.

And Editor's Choice logo will also appear on top apps and there will be app bundles on offer in the store.

HomeKit

READ: HomeKit makes iPhone 5S the only fingerprint-reading key ever needed

Apple has been working with leaders in home automation to integrate wireless controls for their devices into iOS 8.

It is planned that Apple-certified locks, lights, cameras, doors, thermostats, plugs and switches, from brands such as Philips, Netatmo, Withings, Honeywell and many more, will be able to be controlled directly from the iPhone or iPad. All using the same protocols.

TouchID

The fingerprint sensor and TouchID software will be opened up to the development community to utilise too. Expect companies such as PayPal to add integration to their iOS applications for fingerprint confirmation for payments, etc.

Handoff

READ: OS X Yosemite makes your Mac and iPhone best friends, adds caller ID, calling from Mac, and more

Handoff, the feature announced for OS X Yosemite for Mac, will naturally need to be hard baked into iOS 8. It will allow the computer, either desktop or MacBook, to use the phone for voice calls and text messages without even needing it in sight.

Other features

READ: iOS 8 will have a load more features Apple hasn't detailed yet, here they are

Apple also showed a screen containing a load of other, some minor, some major features that will also be included with iOS 8.

Those other features include:

  • Braille Keyboard for direct 6 dot Braille input.
  • Private browsing per tab in Safari.
  • Instant burst camera mode.
  • Wi-Fi calling support.
  • iBooks built into iOS 8.
  • Separate focus and exposure in Camera.
  • Flyover city tours.
  • Panoramic photos on iPad.
  • DuckDuckGo support in Safari.
  • In Case of Emergency Card.
  • Battery usage by app.
  • Travel time notifications.
  • Rich text editing in Notes.
  • Touch ID to exit Guided Access.
  • Tips app.
  • Speak screen support.
  • FaceTime call waiting.
  • Camera timer.

As expected, iOS 8 will be available to consumers in "the fall". iPhone 6 anyone? Developers can get their hands on the beta version now.