Accompanying the iPhone 6 release was the latest iteration of the operating system that drives the Apple portable devices, iOS 8. The launch of iOS 8 wasn’t without some issues, and the first update released (8.0.1) managed to break cellular connectivity and had issues with the fingerprint reader. iOS update 8.0.2 quickly followed to address these huge problems, and the iOS 8.1 update most recently released adds Apple Pay, a significant advance in mobile payments.
Apple Pay allows you to use your iPhone 6 or 6 Plus for payments at participating retailers with the NFC chip included in these new phones. The new iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3 can also use Apple Pay, but as they don’t include the NFC chip, they can only use it for in-app purchases and not at retail locations. Yes, NFC has been available for a while in Android devices, but with the inclusion of this technology in the Apple ecosystem, the future for NFC payments looks much brighter. I’ll be following up with an article that details my hands-on use with Apple Pay soon.
iOS 8 also introduced the iCloud Photo Library that allows you to store all your hi-res images with Apple, allowing you to share them across all your devices. That means that you’ll need plenty of iCloud storage, which runs $1 per month for 20GB or $4 per month for 200GB. 8.1 reintroduces the Camera Roll folder, allowing you to see the local photos taken with your device. It was inexplicably removed after iOS 7, and while Apple was trying to make things all flow together, instead they managed to upset a number of customers, prompting this change back so quickly.
Continuity is another new integration for iOS 8 that streamlines your workflow between Apple devices. This works with mobile devices running iOS 8 and Macs running OS 10.10, otherwise known as Yosemite, which was recently released. Part of Continuity is Handoff, a new feature that allows you to start working on one device and finish it on another. Handoff works with Pages, Numbers, Keynote, Mail, Calendar, Maps, and other programs, and developers can include this functionality in their apps, so hopefully we’ll see more apps become compatible soon.
Once you have Handoff enabled on your phone, you can also use your Mac or iPad to answer your phone calls, provided they are on the same Wi-Fi network. While Messages has enabled iOS users to send and receive messages to other iOS users for a while now, with Continuity you can now send and receive SMS and MMS messages to other users outside the Apple ecosystem from your iPad or Mac. Not on a Wi-Fi network? Continuity allows you to easily connect to your iPhone or iPad with cellular data keep your devices connected.
One other thing about Handoff: you’ll need a newer Mac and device, as it relies on the Bluetooth 4.0 standard. All Macs after 2012 and couple from 2011 are capable, and iOS devices that have a Lightning charging port will work too.
HealthKit, another new feature of iOS 8, had some bugs with iOS 8 was released but they finally got it working with 8.1. HealthKit warrants more coverage, as it opens up your mobile device to becoming a fitness and health monitor, so check back later for more on this.
Like with all Apple devices, older ones will probably take a performance hit when you upgrade to iOS 8, but if you’re running an iPhone 5 or later, or an iPad 3 or later, you should be fine.