A Keyboard Made of GIFs and 7 Other Reasons to Upgrade to iOS 8

Plus, A Quick How To on Preparing To Update

A year ago, the upgrade to the new version of Apple’s mobile operating system iOS7 was not well received by most users. Something between a nuisance and a nightmare for everybody who wasn’t warned how far the visual overhaul would go, this was not handled well.

Everything felt different, and nothing was fun. An overwhelming flatness and a boring interface. Now, a year later, Apple’s ready to bring back the excitement that should come standard on a $400 phone.

Out tomorrow, iOS8 brings no such confusion. In fact, those claiming that this update is “for app developers” are missing the point. Giving app developers more toys will mean the world to iOS users everywhere. This update is fun for everybody, not just the nerd set.

If you need some convincing, here are the features that will make the free upgrade worth your time. If you’re already sold, a quick brief on how to prepare is ready at the end of this post.

Friends Come First

A double-click of the home button, formerly just for multi-tasking, now presents your friends. This is more encouragement to make sure you’ve got photos embedded inside your contacts app.

This makes it all the easier to jump back and forth between plotting your agenda for tonight, and researching who’s got the best happy hours.

iMessage is Ready For Dominance

Apple’s noticed how much everybody’s been downloading Kik and WhatsApp, and has realized how important a vibrant chat app is. In response, Apple is mimicking other company’s features, in order to try and reach some feature rich zenith that encourages lockin.

The biggest feature of note they took from the competition is simplifying audio messaging. If you don’t have the money for an  ᴡᴀᴛᴄʜ for sending your heartbeat as the sext of the future, iOS8's messages app allows you to send a short snippet of your thirst.

Or, just as likely, friends beating each other in fantasy leagues are going to be sending NSFW vocal epithets to each other.

To each their own.

And hey, in those group chat text message convos, you can now take yourself out of the conversation when the talk has outlasted your attention.

A Better Photo Editor Starts with Apple

First, Apple took away the need to pair your phone with a computer, now, they’re putting all the tools you need for photo processing inside of their Photos app. This looks a lot better than the company’s failed attempt at porting their desktop software iPhoto to iOS, and is embedded inside the app you already use to browse snapshots.

Notifications, Instead of Disruptions

Apple’s been trying to roll out app notifications for a while, and they’ve never hit the nail on the head. I’ve taken notifications off of my lock screen, and new response features have made the drop-down notifications worth keeping around.

These notifications typically led people to switch to the app in question, by accident or on purpose. Now, with action buttons, you can stay reading your twitter timeline, and reply to that text message in an instant.

Share Your Stuff

iCloud has earned a pretty horrible reputation, but with family sharing of purchased content, they’re trying to buy back our good will.

Apple’s looking to limit who can join a “Family” by making all Family members pay with the same credit card.

But let’s say I’ve bought an iBook, now the whole family can read it too, now matter how slow I am to finish it.

Developer Extensions

The biggest feature of iOS8 is what you’d call an under-the-hood feature, and it’s yet another that brings Apple to parity with their competition. With the “Extensions” feature, inter-app communication is now possible, and encouraged.

Now, apps will be able to send content back and forth between each other, even if they’re not Apple’s family of apps, formerly the only ones allowed such privilege.

Keep It In Your Pocket

In combination with the soon-to-be-released Yosemite, Apple is making it easier for your devices to act in harmony, thanks to a feautre called Continuity.

From writing email, to taking phone calls, to reading the web, Apple’s claiming you’ll be able to do all of these, even more seamlessly than ever.

The most easily explained feature happens when you’re sitting at your desk. as your phone starts to ring and hum with news of a call, you’ll get a notification in the corner of your screen, showing you who’s calling, and allowing you the option of taking the call through your computer.

Sure, this requires you to be fully embedded in Apple’s ecosystem, but it could help a whole lot.

Trade the SHIFT for a Jon Hamm Button

When you first installed the emoji keyboard into your iPhone, it felt like the future had finally arrived. Before we knew it, we were speaking in 100's, prayer-hands, and of course the Heart-Eyes smiley.

The next step towards our flying car future, an iOS 8 exclusive, is a keyboard that allows you to speak in the universal language of GIFs. More specifically, Apple’s allowing users to install keyboards made by developers, and while some are excited for predictive text, it’s my belief that PopKey is going to be the best of them all.


Some people have their favorite GIFs bookmarked, some have them saved in a folder, but to have a visual index of your favorites instead of a keyboard, that’s the future.

A quick guide to getting ready for iOS8:

  1. You should probably have 1–3 GB of free space on your phone in order to to upgrade. The App will tell you how much you specifically need, but for now, check out the Usage menu (Settings App -> General -> Usage) to see how much space you have, and clear out more space.
  2. Back up your device, locally. First, connect your device to your computer. Open iTunes if it doesn’t automatically open. Click on the device name in the upper right corner of iTunes:

Make sure your backup settings look like this:

Click the SYNC button to make sure the phone backs up:

Wait for your device to finish syncing & backing up. You can tell because it’s gone from this:

to this:

Now, you’ve backed up your data in case anything bad happens.

If you’re really worried about wanting to jump back to iOS7 in case of upgrader’s remorse, MacWorld has an explanation of how to save a copy of the iOS7 software that you’d need to switch back.

As long as you’ve made a local backup, though, I think you’ll be safe. Enjoy the upgrade, and our GIF-keyboard future.

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