When Apple makes an announcement, it usually costs me. I tie myself in knots trying to justify purchasing whatever new technological temptress I now cannot live without. At their annual World Wide Developer Conference (World Cup for geeks), Apple surprised me by announcing their latest mobile software (iOS 8) would be available for free. When it’s released this fall, you’ll find that your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch does more, more intelligently. After using the developer beta for the past couple weeks, I found that improvements in a number of areas are especially notable. 

Health A bevy of useful apps can monitor your health, fitness and sleep. (If you’re interested in starting a belated New Year’s resolution, take a look at Nike+, Fitbit or Sleep Cycle). Until now, the problem was that they didn’t talk to each other. Apple’s latest software makes it possible to view all of your stats, from sleep cycles to spinning classes, in one place. You can also create your own electronic medical ID card. Should my life of industry, frugality and temperance ever catch up to me, paramedics will have access to my allergies, blood type and emergency contacts. However, this is just the beginning. Given Apple’s partnerships with healthcare providers, including the venerable Mayo Clinic, it’s likely that your iPhone, or perhaps a forthcoming iWatch, could help your physician make smarter diagnoses.

Notifications Developers can now share data from apps on the swipe-down Notification screen, using what Apple calls Widgets. This means that you could access a LinkedIn feed alongside your Calendar and Reminders. Apple has also allowed developers access to new sharing options, a new programming language, third-party keyboards and even the fingerprint scanner on the latest iPhone. All of this is to say that, come fall, your existing apps will be more engaging and more capable.

Messaging Text messaging benefits immensely from the new interactive notifications. Before, you had to open Messages to reply to a text. Now, you simply swipe down and type. Responses aren’t restricted to text; in addition to existing speak-to-text support, you can now send audio clips. You may find, however, that you prefer typing on the new iPhone keyboard, which includes a predictive text bar. The software learns as you write, predicting words based upon usage in conversations. Given that your iPhone will supply different vocabularies for different recipients, you shouldn’t accidently write “SOB” when writing your boss. 

These are just a few previews of a big, motley update. More goodies to be had include new accessibility options, greater continuity with your desktop (especially if you’re a Mac user) and extended cloud backup support, but I’ll leave you with my favorite sleeper feature. Apple now allows you to share apps, books, photos, movies and music with anyone you designate as a family member (up to six). But you’re protected from your children’s spendthrift ways: the cardholder is prompted to authorize or deny any purchase. Parents and non-parents alike should keep an eye out for iOS 8, available this fall, for free. 

 

Visit apple.com/ios/ios8/