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Apple announced the latest version of its popular mobile operating system today, and users of the iPhone and iPad are going to receive a host of new updates.

i0s8newUsers will be able to respond to notifications when they arrive, so it’s possible to accept a meeting invitation or respond to a text message without having to switch to a new app. iOS 8 also does away with the confusing “missed” tab in Notification Center.

In addition, Apple now gives users access to the contacts they interact with most, so users can double-tap on their iOS device’s home button, and instantly send them a text message or make a phone call.

audiomessageThe update brings a new context-sensitive QuickType keyboard, which suggests words to users as they type, so it’s easy to quickly dash off an email. The system is aware of how users speak with different contacts, so it will suggest words based on how formal or informal it thinks someone’s relationship is. All of that work gets done on a user’s device, so users will be able to keep their conversation style private.

The Messages app got a number of new features, including the ability to add or remove people from a group conversation. Users can also switch on a “Do Not Disturb” feature, to mute notifications from a noisy thread. The update also brings support for in-line audio and video messaging, along with audio messages recorded while the phone is locked.

iOS 8 also brings iCloud Drive functionality to the iPhone and iPad, so apps can access all of the files users save to iCloud, including files saved by other apps, something iCloud wasn’t able to offer before. Users who are tied in to other cloud storage solutions can also get access to their files from an iCloud panel in apps that feature it.

As expected, Apple announced a new set of HealthKit tools that allow developers to share health data from their apps into a Health app on the iPhone and iPad. Users will be able to pull information from their health and wellness apps into the Health app, and share that information with doctors at participating medical institution.

Apple-centric families will find a lot to like in the new Family Sharing feature. Families of up to 6 people who all share a credit card will be able to easily share digital media like iBooks, music and movies among themselves. It’s also possible to share information between family members, like calendars, reminders and contacts.

Parents interested in keeping a handle on their kids’ purchases can require them to request approval to buy a new app before they’ll be able to run up a hefty bill. It’s a clear response to the settlement Apple made with the FTC earlier this year after kids spent lots of money on in-app purchases without their parents’ knowledge or consent.

People who use their iPhone or iPad as their primary camera will now be able to store all their photos in iCloud, even those that don’t fit on their device. The photos do take up space in a user’s iCloud account, so people with lots of pictures may have to pay up if they want Apple to host their whole image library.

Users will be able to start talking to Siri right off the bat, by saying “Hey Siri” when their iOS device is plugged in. The virtual assistant now includes song recognition using Shazam’s media recognition technology, and streaming transcription of what it’s hearing.


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