One of the absolute most exciting things about iOS 8 was its announced support for third-party keyboards in almost all areas of the OS. There are some limitations. Every time you reach a password field, the default Apple keyboard pops up just to make sure users enjoy maximum privacy. Voice dictation through Siri, which got a lot better and more responsive with iOS 8, is only allowed on the default keyboard as well. Then there’s the lack of any ability to split the keyboard up for quick thumb typing, as is possible with Apple’s keyboard.
However, with all that said, I think there’s a lot of room for growth, innovation, and amazing utility in the third-party keyboard space on iOS. Fleksy was one of my favourites in the first few weeks after iOS 8’s launch in September, but for the past few weeks, I’ve stopped bothering with any third party keyboards at all. Unfortunately, every single keyboard I’ve tried is just too buggy. It’s hard to say how much of that is on keyboard app developers and how much is due to bugs in iOS 8 (though I’d bet more on the latter), the fact of the matter is that keyboards tend to crash a lot on a daily basis. I can launch Safari, type in a URL, return to Messages, and have no keyboard. I can swipe down on a notification to respond to something, start to type a word, and have the keyboard literally disappear from underneath my fingertips.
Then there’s the level of inconsistency on an app-to-app basis. I might have Fleksy active in a chat with my girlfriend in Messages, but then have Apple’s keyboard show up when I respond to my sister (without even leaving the app).
All in all, it’s been a very frustrating experience trying to use third-party keyboards. I’ve spent most of my time with Fleksy, Swiftkey, and Swype, and as of a few weeks ago, I gave up trying to use them full time. Even on the latest iOS 8.1.1 beta, keyboards are still buggy and crashy on a daily basis. I’ll inevitably try Fleksy out with each of its updates and with every new iOS update, but I have to say, the reality of third-party keyboards nearly two months after the release of iOS 8 is disappointing.
Oh, and thank God for Bluetooth keyboards!
One of the best new features in iOS 8 is Extensions – which allow 3rd party apps to interact and hook into each other to a degree never seen before in iOS. This has been available in Android for years, and it’s a huge time-saver and productivity boost to now have it on iOS.
Plenty of apps have been updated to use iOS 8 extensions, but one of those that I find most useful is Pocket – the excellent ‘read it later’ app – because there are numerous things I want to save to Pocket on a daily basis. Before iOS 8 extensions you could only save things to Pocket in apps that connected to your Pocket account for authorization, and there was a very limited number of such apps.
Now sharing to Pocket is widely available in iOS 8. You can share to it directly from Safari, one of the ideal places for read it later type content.
Voice Messaging has been one of the surprise hit features of iOS 8 for me. My family — especially my dad — have really taken to sending quick little voice bytes in lieu of text messages. The iMessage app in iOS 8 makes it easy to send a quick voice message to a contact. All it takes is a quick tap-and-hold on the microphone button to start recording a voice message while chatting with someone, and letting go of the button lets me preview the message before I send it off (which is something the selfie feature in iMessages should do!).
I like the way that these voice messages can replace quick calls, especially when you go into iMessage settings and set voice messages to stick around for only two minutes after you’ve listened to them. This keeps the messages ephemeral and fun — like Snapchat users know — and prevents me from having to manage an archive of audio files. However, it’s nice to know that I can save a particularly useful or sentimental voice message by simply tapping on the small “keep” text in the main window of iMessage.
One of the things my family and I still need to get used to is that voice messages are not dictation. Voice messages free us up to use inflection while speaking, which Siri has gotten me used to ignoring while dictating. As a quick comparison, here’s what it’s like to send a voice message vs. a dictated Siri message:
“Hey dad, wanna see a movie this Monday?”
“message my dad hey dad COMMA wanna see a movie this Monday QUESTION MARK”
Could you tell which one was which? :)
That’s not a knock against the awesomeness that is Siri’s dictation capabilities (which also got better in iOS 8), but it’s been fun and natural using my Mac and iOS devices like a long range walkie-talkie. Voice messages have shaken up my messaging dynamic, and I’m really happy for this addition. I often write about features I’d dearly wish for in a future version of iOS, but this is one of those cases where a totally unexpected feature was plopped onto my lap, and I’m only realizing now how much I’m enjoying the surprise.
PhotoToaster, one of the very best photo editing apps for the iPad, was updated for iOS 8 over this past weekend. The new version of PhotoToaster is 6.6.2 and here’s what it brings:
Complete iOS 8 and iPhone 6 and 6+ support!
We made a Preview video but in 30 seconds it’s hard to show the depth of the product (Non-destructive Editing, Multi-level undo, Saved sessions, Custom presets, Lighting brushes ,Fx brushes, full size export, etc).
PhotoToaster has been among our choices for Best iPad Apps for several years, and was even the pick for the best iPad app of the year for us in 2012. It’s easy to use and full of excellent features to get the most out of your photos. Just in case you haven’t seen the app, here are some of its notable features:
– 60+ one click effects that can instantly improve or completely alter a photo
– 80+ one click settings in Lighting, Fx, Vignette, Texture and Border categories that allow more creative control
– 26 live slider controls that allow for exacting control of all image adjustments
– 45+ tasteful borders
– 20+ creative texture overlays
– Lighting Brushes for a new level of control with brush-on exposure adjustments
– FX Brush to brush in areas of color or focus
– Non-destructive editing (you’ll see why this is important when you experience it)
– Multiple undo (many apps don’t even bother with undo but we can’t help it)
– Professional level lighting adjustments to lighten shadows and recover highlights
– Separate channel processing lets you to bend colors in new and interesting ways.
– Black & white conversion controls to create the exact look you want.
– Sophisticated Noise reduction to remove unwanted grain in low light photos
– Blazing performance
– Recent edits list that maintains recently edited photos so that you may continue an edit session later
– Save your own presets (if you create a look you like, save it for future use)
– Crop, rotate, flip and straighten
– Complete EXIF support
– Export to the usual social media suspects or at full resolution to your Photo Album
– Non-square Instagram posts are automatically matted on a white background
– Send a real Postcard with Sincerely
In a nutshell, it’s guaranteed to make your incredibly handsome Labrador even handsomer.
And here’s the App Store link for PhotoToaster; it’s priced at $2.99 and is a universal app designed to run on both iPad and iPhone.
PDF Expert 5 is another of the notable iPad apps that has got an impressive update for iOS 8. In the app’s latest update to Version 5.2, it has added a Zoom Writing feature especially for the iPad that’s described like so:
This is a great tool to write with precision. Essentially, it adds the area that zooms in a part of the page and allows you to handwrite more on a single page or document margins. As you write, the zoomed box moves along the page, automatically adjusting to the pace you need to work at.
Then there are the new features that have been added for iOS 8:
– iCloud Drive Support
Safely store all your presentations, spreadsheets, PDFs, images and any other kind of documents in your PDF Expert iCloud folder. Directly access them from iCloud Drive on your iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Mac or PC.
– Open files from iCloud Drive with Document Picker (iPad)
You can get documents stored on your iCloud Drive that are not in your PDF Expert application using Document Picker. It works almost like ‘Open in…’ dialog on your Mac or PC. On the PDF Expert side bar menu tap ‘Open…’ and navigate to the needed document.
– Open files from iCloud Drive with Document Picker (iPhone)
You can get documents stored on your iCloud Drive that are not in your PDF Expert application using Document Picker. It works almost like ‘Open in…’ dialog on your Mac or PC. On the PDF Expert bottom menu tap ‘Open…’ and navigate to the needed document.
– Use other iOS apps to work with the files from PDF Expert 5
In any Document Picker enabled application you can get access to all PDF Expert files that are outside the iCloud folder. Just tap ‘Locations’ in the Document Picker window and select PDF Expert from the list.
PDF Expert has been one of the very best PDF apps for the iPad for years, and it’s good to see the developers are making sure that’s going to continue to be true in iOS 8.
As expected, there are tons of apps being updated for iOS 8 in these first few weeks after its release. One of the more notable ones that updated this week for iOS 8 is Dashlane Password Manager.
Dashlane is an excellent password manager, with a superb set of features and a handsome UI that makes them simple to use. It works beautifully across iOS, Android, Mac and Windows – so your critical, confidential data is always secure and always accessible.
This week’s update to Dashlane Version 2.8.3 brings these cool new features along with some bug fixes and improvements to stability:
– A brand new Safari extension that allows you to automatically log in to sites and fill forms using your Dashlane data in Safari
– Touch ID integration which allows you to unlock Dashlane using your fingerprint
– An easy-to-integrate app extension, so other apps can allow their users to create accounts, sign in, and fill forms in their apps using Dashlane
– A new way to manually sync your data. Simply swipe down in the Passwords view to sync.
Here’s an App Store link for Dashlane; if you’re looking for a great password manager app for your iPhone or iPad it’s well worth considering.
I’m hoping you weren’t one of the people who was affected by the brief rollout of 8.0.1 this past week, but if so, 8.0.2 should fix any cellular issues you may have experienced. I updated my iPad Air from the iOS 8 GM to 8.0.2 last night and did a few practical tests. The main thing I noticed is that third-party keyboards now seem a little more stable. Fleksy and SwiftKey used to crash in iMessage or during quick replies, but that no longer seems to happen. I still have to scroll down every single time I load up iMessage though (unless I’m using Apple’s keyboard), so there are definitely still some extension bugs abound.
I also found out one disappointing thing about the iOS 8 APIs in general: third party keyboards are not allowed on the lockscreen. I’m not really sure why. I’m guessing it’s a security feature, but it does make the experience across iOS 8 feel inconsistent, since I prefer to use Fleksy most of the time, but any quick replies from the lockscreen force me to use Apple’s QuickType keyboard. I’m fine with password fields in iOS 8 requiring the stock keyboard, but I think my third-party keyboard should show up everywhere else.
iOS 8 app extensions allow for apps to share information and for one app to interact with another without the second app having to be open. This feature makes the Share button immensely more useful and powerful.
I expect Pocket, the superb read-it-later app, will be one of the apps that gives the Share button the most use now in iOS 8 – and the app has been updated to take full advantage of the new sharing features. Here’s the short and sweet description of the Pocket update for iOS 8:
Introducing the Pocket share option! Save to Pocket from any app that supports the native iOS share menu, including Safari.
This update takes advantage of more new iOS 8 features as well:
– Share to other apps that support the new iOS sharing options
– Handoff lets you seamlessly continue reading an article where you left off between your iOS devices
– Lots of bug fixes and improvements
Pocket is one of my most shared-to apps on Android, and now it will certainly be the same on my iPad.
CloudMagic, the excellent email app for iPad and iOS, has been updated for iOS 8. Yesterday’s update to Version 5.2.8 brings full support for iOS 8 and in particular for these two useful new features:
● Interactive Notifications – Mark an email as read or delete it, as soon as you get a notification
● Attach from Storage Providers – Attach files from iCloud Drive or any other storage provider
This is the best alternative to the built-in Mail app that I’ve seen on iOS, so of course it’s good to see get an early iOS 8 update.
Just in case you haven’t looked at CloudMagic before it supports Exchange, Gmail, Google Apps, Office 365, Yahoo Mail, IMAP accounts, Hotmail and Outlook.com, and plenty more. It offers super fast search, unified Inbox, and a number of other slick features.
Here’s an App Store link for CloudMagic; it’s a free app designed for both iPad and iPhone.
Evernote has been a hugely useful app on iOS and just about any other platform for years now. With yesterday’s update for iOS 8, this excellent app just became a whole lot more useful.
The new app extensions feature in iOS 8 means that now you can pull content into Evernote from anywhere in iOS – from web clipping a page from Safari to sharing a photo or document from any app you like – and choosing which notebook to add the item to. Since Evernote excels at acting as a sort of second brain and storage vault for all sorts of information, this new capability is perfect for it.
Other cool new features in Evernote now include the option to add Evernote’s quick note bar to Notification Center and (for Evernote Premium users) the ability to use TouchID (on devices that support it) instead of a passcode.
The new sharing to Evernote throughout iOS 8 is the big killer feature here though. I know I’ll be making tons of use of that right away.
You can check out this Evernote blog post for more details on their iOS 8 update.
I’ve been running the beta on and off for a few months now, and I’ve spent the last few weeks on Beta 5 and the GM, so I feel like I’ve got a good enough handle on the OS to write a quick review for launch day. Let’s get one question out of the way right up front: should you upgrade to iOS 8 today?
Hrm, let me think about th — yes, absolutely, yes. The only warning I have is to refrain from upgrading to iCloud Drive when prompted (the dialogue shows up after you upgrade and restart). iCloud Drive will take over iCloud sync for all apps that previously used it, and OS X Mavericks won’t support iCloud Drive, so any iOS app that moves to iCloud Drive will no longer be able to sync with its Mac counterpart. OS X Yosemite will work properly with Drive, but it’s not coming out until later this year.
But let’s get back to the good stuff. I think iOS 8 is the single biggest jump forward for iOS since the introduction of multitasking in iOS 4. The operating system has opened up in so many ways this year, and it’s a godsend for power users who have been eyeing Android’s awesome share menus and custom keyboards with increasing envy.
If iOS 7’s mission statement was “Shut up, use this: it’s colourful and different and you’ll like it”, then iOS 8 says “Actually here’s that app integration and third-party keyboard support you’ve always wanted, Thomas. Would you like a massage?”.
There are going to be a lot of iOS 8 reviews out today, so I’ll cut down on as many of the repeats as possible. This is an iOS 8 review with a focus on the iPad experience. I’ll focus on the stuff I loved, the changes that feel mediocre, and then mention stuff I don’t feel like I can properly discuss yet.