Opinions

[REVIEW] A Quick Hands-On Look At The iOS 8: Bigger But Buggy

As Apple fans wait in anticipation for the launch of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, the new iOS 8 has been released and is now available to download now for Apple users. And of course like any other loyal Apple fan, I fought against my senses to stay awake until the wee hours of the morning to wait for the update notification from Apple.

Despite the initial notification from the download that it would take 118 hours to update the software, to my relief the update was downloaded and installed in each of my Apple device in less than 20 minutes. Post the standard setup routine, iOS 8 fired up. As has been pointed out before, it’s not too visually different from the iOS 7 with many improvements under the hood.

Here are the top 6 features that I’ve used since this morning and some bugs that were experienced along the way.

1. Handoff

Image Credit: Apple Insider

The Handoff feature was touted as one of the appealing factors in iOS 8. It seems to work well between my iPhone and iPad. I was able to answer a couple of calls and send a text message. There was supposed to be a small icon on the bottom left of the lock screen that you swipe up and get into the app that was active on the other device. Safari, email and message were a hit and miss. The icon was not shown all the time. I’m not sure if this is a bug or if the icon only appears at certain specific screens.

2. Spotlight

The search bar in iOS 8 was seemingly a more powerful one than the previous releases. It was to show suggestions, automatic Wikipedia entries, apps from the App Store, etc. I checked the Spotlight suggestions option in the Settings menu and I ran a search for “Clash of Clans” and “Game of Thrones”; however, the search didn’t return anything. Turns out that when I enabled the Spotlight suggestions and Bing search suggestions and exited the settings, the option disables itself automatically. Weird! This is something that Apple should address quickly if it is a bug.

3. 3rd Party Keyboards

Now, this is a feature that really excited me. I got into the App Store immediately, did a search for Swype and installed it. The app is priced at $1.28 in Singapore and places an app icon on the phone, unlike Android where it buries itself in the system. To enable the keyboard, you go to Settings->General->Keyboard->Keyboards->Add New Keyboard. And you’re all set to Swype away! You tap on the small world icon in the standard Apple keyboard and you will see the Swype option. It works quite well, but there is a stutter when it loads, albeit it’s just for a few micro seconds.

4. Widgets

Widgets are placed into the notifications bar which you pull down from the top of the screen. As you scroll to the bottom of the notifications bar, there is an Edit button, which takes you into the widgets screen. There are not a lot of them available now – I was able to add PCalc (free), Weather (free), and The Huffington Post (free). The PCalc is pretty neat in that you do your calculations in the notification area itself. I’d like to see many of the apps quickly optimized to make use of this feature. I bet it won’t be long before others jump aboard.

Widgets

5. Email And Messages

The messages app now makes it simpler to form groups, set a topic, send pictures, videos and audio with a single swipe. I’ve yet to try out the muting function for group chats. The email app has improved functionality – a swipe to the left gives you options for More, Flag & Trash, a long swipe sends it to the Trash. A swipe in the opposite direction gives an option to mark it as unread and a long swipe actually completes the option. A nifty feature is when you compose a new email, you now have the option to pull the whole compose screen down for you to access any part of the email app, copy paste information and swipe back up into the compose message. This is a pretty neat feature that eliminates the issue of saving a draft and then copying stuff over. That was tedious!

6. Health

Image credit: BGR
Image Credit: BGR

This is one of the corner stones of iOS 8. I haven’t had the time to play around with it, but I did set up the emergency card that is accessible from the emergency area in the lock screen. You do have the option of disabling it if you do not want it to be available on the lock screen.

However, Forbes and other news sources report that Apple’s Healthkit, the iOS infrastructure that allows third party apps to sync with the Health App has been buggy, and all third party apps have been pulled from the iTunes store. Guess I’ll have to wait a bit to see how Health really works.

A few more observations from this morning:

  • Whatsapp does not have chat backup supported on iOS 8 at the moment
  • The new wallpapers are fantastic – there are between 10-15 new ones. I did not see any new ringtones.
  • The Music app crashed a few times before it stabilized. The playlists in the Music app do not show the album art from the first song in your playlist.
  • Touch Id seems snappier
  • New option to view battery usage by applications including Home & Lock Screen. This is a godsend, as battery seems to be draining a little faster than usual. Or maybe it’s because I haven’t been able to keep my hands off my phone since the upgrade.
  • When connected to another Apple device, if you double press the home button, there is a strange screen to the left of the home screen, which said “Connecting”. I waited a while for something to happen, but nothing did. Thoughts?
  • Apps generally work fine. The Comfort taxi app has a bug – I tried to enter my destination using the “Free Text” option and then the button that lets me submit the booking sunk below the visible screen and I wasn’t able to pull it back up. I eventually had to call Comfort for a taxi this morning.
  • And last but the most personally gratifying feature – Full Screen calling is back!
Image credit: TechSupportPK
Image Credit: TechSupportPK

So that’s my initial experience with iOS 8 thus far. Overall still a little buggy, but then again that wasn’t unexpected. The feeling that the new iOS 8 features does bear a resemblance to the Android is undeniable, such as the widgets and the third-party keyboard apps. But the new tweaks were fun to explore, and it definitely feels like I have barely scratched the surface of what iOS 8 is capable of. Thankfully, the overall appearance of iOS 8 still retains the sleek look of iOS 7 that we’ve all come to love.

Stay tuned for more!

 

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