I used to spend an inordinate amount of time testing and writing about any new Apple operating system. This time was only slightly different in that I didn’t spend any time writing about iOS 8, but I did spent a lot of time testing it.
I decided to take a wait and see approach to decide what really need to be said after the surge of ‘reviews’ and ‘thought’ pieces on launch day. I haven’t read them all, but I read and skimmed enough that I think there are two aspects of iOS 8 that are being overlooked: the magic and the ‘about-damned-time’. I’ll tackle each separately, but know that they are very much related.
It’s a Kind of Magic… Magic
Once you use iOS 8 for a bit you get the sense that things are different, but maybe you don’t really know why. I’ll tell you why: Apple’s spit polish to iOS 7 has really made iOS feel a like magic all over again.
Touch ID, now just works, and works exceedingly well. Whereas before many were frustrated by the quirky nature, it now has zero problems in my testing, but more than that it is easily faster than it ever was before. And since we are talking Touch ID, Apple opening up access to Touch ID for app developers is the icing on the already perfect cake.
If you use 1Password, you know what I mean. If you don’t, imagine securing each of your apps individually, but never having to type a long password to open an app — it’s remarkable.
The magic doesn’t stop there, but gets infinitely harder to vocalize. Remember when iOS Mail.app didn’t support pull-to-refresh — this made sense at the time since pull-to-refresh had just came out in Tweetie, but suddenly any app with a table view of content felt comically out dated if they didn’t use pull-to-refresh. And Apple was one of the last to add it, but now it is common and a natural part of the OS. These small tweaks, incorporating third-party developer innovations, are what Apple has lathered into iOS 8 all over the place. From multi-stage swiping in Mail.app, to showing your last few taken photos in Messages. These tiny details are the things that really make iOS feel magical for most users.
One of my personal favorite touches is the crop tool in Photos. It now has an image straightener — which is kind of a pain on a small screen normally, but Apple has done something really clever: they take a guess and try to straighten the image for you. That’s not even the magical part — the magical part is that every time I have done this iOS gets the guess spot on. I mean that is some kind of magic.
These little touches are sprinkled throughout iOS 8 and each time I encounter them I almost miss noticing them because they are the unseen details that makes iOS in general feel all the more magical. Just go try the crop tool and you’ll see what I mean.
About Damned Time
For as neat as iOS is, you are remiss if you think that everything here is ahead of the curve, as there is just too much that Apple added that really should have been there years ago. Things like Apps being able to integrate with each other and native apps (via Sharesheets) was a long time coming, or late really.
In other words there is a good bit of catch-up, but as expected it was implemented well and integrated well. Things feel natural even though you can point and say “Windows did that first”, or “Android did that first”. First doesn’t always matter, but sometimes it is painful to wait for your platform of choice to catch up — so it is nice when it finally does catch up.
In iOS 8 Apple caught up in a big way. In such a big way that we simply will not know how powerful these things are for a year or more, and by then we will be talking about iOS 9. I won’t say everything Apple did, they did better, but it is hard not to be excited about inter-app file sharing and communication, keyboards, and interactive notifications.
Lastly, I think it is funny to see users say things like “I’m waiting”, or “No thanks, not upgrading”. That’s insane: this is a free update and the bugs in it are far fewer than the bugs in iOS 7. To not update is to be stubborn for no reason, so just update and complain about iOS 8 for a year before you decide to ‘not’ update to iOS 9. ((Will iOS 10 be iOS X? Doubt it.)) Oh, and a good many of your apps will stop getting updates along the way as developers go iOS 8 only.
This is just silly, don’t be silly.