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iOS 8 Beta 5 Review: A Look At Apple’s Next BIG Update

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Apple will announce its Q4 line of products on September 9 at
an event in California, and most are expecting to see
two new iPhones, the official debut of the
iWatch, and potentially a new
iPad Air model complete with TouchID. iOS 8 will be
the glue that ties everything together, running across all of
Apple’s products new and old. To date there have been several
beta versions of the software released to developers ahead of
the update’s official rollout which is set to begin around the
September 16.

But because it’s Apple, we’ve only seen a slice of iOS 8’s true
potential, with nearly all the headline-grabbing features being
kept under cover ahead of the official, gold standard release.
Still, iOS 8 beta 5 does tell us plenty about what we can
expect from the next BIG update from Apple, and below we’ve
covered off all the major changes inside Apple’s last beta
before iOS 8 hits gold. 

Performance

One thing that is clear from beta 5 is that iOS 8 feels more
polished now than ever. It has a level of snappiness and speed
that the previous betas couldn’t match. Animations are more
fluid and faster than ever and apps launch lightning quick.
Matter of fact, playing with iOS 8 beta 5 on the latest
generation iPod touch I have yet to see a single crash or
stutter.

But besides speed improvements iOS 8 beta 5 also sees a number
of continued refinements to various elements of the OS, which
are detailed for your viewing pleasure below: 

Health app gets improvements 

According to the release notes of iOS 8 beta 5 the Health app
has now gained the ability to track spirometry. Just what is
spirometry? We
had no clue either so we looked it up on Wikipedia and found
it’s a general medical test that measures lung function by
measuring inhalation and exhalation. 

As of now the iPhone features no breathing apparatus and its
not likely the iPhone 6 will, so the ability to track
spirometry is probably for the benefit of third-party
accessories like the
BACtrack and could also be used to advance an iPhone push
into the medical devices field.

 

In addition to spirometry the Health app has gained new
stickman icons, added new options for the medical ID card to
“Show When Logged” – or display the ID card on the lock
screen – and new privacy settings. Users can now also export
their Health data. 

iCloud tweaks 

iCloud is getting a major overhaul in iOS 8 with iCloud Drive
and Apple continues to tweak the look of it in this latest
beta.

This time it’s iCloud’s icons. The service has gotten new icons
for iCloud Drive, Backup, iCloud Family Sharing, and
Keychain. 

Keyboard gets new option

In iOS 8 beta 5 the Keyboard has gained a new predictive text
option.

When tapping the Global keyboard key you can now not only
switch between keyboards, but toggle predictive text on or off.

Continuity text messages get new name 

A big feature of iOS 8 is Continuity. Part of that involves the
ability to send plain old text messages (the green word
balloons) to the Mac.

In beta 5 that feature has a new name, now called “SMS Relay”
and iOS now asks you for permission when a Mac requests to use
your phone number to reply to these text messages. [image from
@appleboy]

Spotlight is freaking fast

Remember how I said iOS 8 beta 5 is faster than ever? That’s
nowhere more apparent than in Spotlight. Now swiping down from
any home screen to bring up iOS 8’s search agent is very, very
speedy. It makes using the search feature much nicer.

Wi-Fi Calling gets menu bar labelling

Wi-Fi Calling is a feature in iOS 8 that will allow users to
make calls over Wi-Fi, thus not eating into your precious
minutes. Right now I don’t know of a single carrier in the UK
that will take part in Wi-Fi Calling, and in the US there is
only one: T-Mobile.

In iOS 8 beta 5 Wi-Fi Calling is now labelled in the menu bar
at the top of the screen. As you can see from this screenshot
it actually looks pretty crowded up there now. I hope Apple
chooses to take out the textual label and instead create a
simple Wi-Fi Calling icon. 

Photos app gets much needed iCloud sync options 

In iOS 8 Apple gives users more control over what photos are
synced to iCloud. You can now choose to “Optimize iPhone
Storage” by telling iCloud to only download and sync
iPhone-optimized (i.e.: smaller file size) images on your
iPhone to save space on it. Or you can choose “Download and
Keep Originals” to fill up your iPhone with full-resolution
photos taken on all your other iCloud synced devices. 

Other new stuff

There plenty of other minor tweaks we’ve found including
Brightness settings: they’ve been removed from the Wallpaper
pane and are now located in the Display & Brightness
section of the Settings app. “Home Data” has been renamed to
“HomeKit” in Settings > Privacy.

There’s also a new sound notification after a voice message is
sent in the Messages app. When restoring an iOS device the
iTunes icon is now the new red icon from OS X Yosemite. And,
finally, the Photos app now displays the location of the photo
you are viewing in its label above the photo. 

Another potentially useful feature of iOS 5 beta 5 is to do
with iTunes Season Pass. Previously, when new content was
available you’d get an email from Apple telling you so. Inside
iOS 8 beta 5, however, an alert – “An episode is available from
your Season Pass of [show title]” – is sent straight to your
Notifications centre.

Season Pass, in case you were wondering, is Apple’s
pseudo-Netflix style approach to VOD inside iTunes, whereby a
user group-buys an entire series, say, Sons of Anarchy, and is
then free to watch them on designated Apple devices (iPhone,
iPad, MacBook, Apple TV). And when a new episode becomes
available, you’ll now be updated inside Notifications rather
than your email. 

On the next page you’ll find our iOS 8 Beta 4 Review