The Tale Of The iOS Beta: A Week With iOS 8

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So a few weeks ago, Apple held their yearly developer conference, WWDC, and we had some coverage on Google+ and Twitter of the Keynote event. There were no device announcements, but, as developer conferences should, Apple focused more on the developers and the developer platforms. What Apple showed off in the Keynote event was the latest version of OS X, Yosemite, and all the new features of iOS 8. Shortly after the conference ended, the first beta of iOS 8 was seeded to developers, and since I have my UDID registered, I was able to install and use iOS 8 on my iPhone 5S. I decided to test iOS 8 on my iPhone over my iPad Air due to the fact that my girlfriend uses my iPad all the time for Netflix, and if, for some reason, Netflix crashed, bad things would happen. The more fun reason, was to be able to experience the beta, in and out, on a regular basis, since I’m on my phone all of the time.

Before the WWDC Keynote, my excitement was growing more and more with anticipation for the event. I had seen rumors and screenshots of the supposed Health application on the home screen, but I didn’t want to pay too much attention to them. I’ve experienced going all in on a rumor, and getting my excitement level to an unhealthy place, and then having it do nothing but blow up in my face. So I’ve tried taking a more proactive approach to rumors, and I just ignore them all, unless it’s the day before it’s scheduled to be announced/released.

iOS 8 Basics

iOS 8 Stock Wallpaper

At first glance, the only thing different about the iOS 8 beta, is the default wallpaper. Other than that, you wouldn’t be able to tell anyone was running the beta, until you scrolled over one page, and saw new the Health app, along with the Bug Reporter application. iOS 7 focused more on the aesthetics and design of iOS as a whole, moving away from the skeuomorphism, that was found in iOS 6. To some, including myself, the transition from iOS 6 to iOS 7 was somewhat of a blessing due to how boring the concept of a digital application looking it’s real life counter part. (I’m looking at you Notes.) From a first glance, iOS 8 is simply an extension of what iOS 7 brought iOS users last year, with the promise of so much more.

iOS 8 Notification Center iOS 8 Notification Center Settings

The more you dive into the nooks and crannies of iOS 8, the more you will find. Just swipe down from the Status Bar to see Notification Center and you will already notice something different. On iOS 7, there were three different sections within Notification Center: Today, All, and Missed. I refused to use Notification Center, unless I knew there were a bunch of notifications waiting, just because of how redundant it looked. In iOS 8, you are only presented with two sections: Today, and Notifications. The Today section is essentially the same as it was with iOS 7, showing your overview for the day with the date, what the whether currently is, and what the next event on your calendar is. Notifications is simply that, where all your notifications reside. This is where the fun just begins with iOS 8.

If you scroll down the Today section, there is a big “Edit” button at the bottom now, right above where iOS 8 tells you where it gets the weather and stock information from. Once you tap on that big Edit bar, you can quickly and instantly change what you want showing within the Today section, as well as being able to rearrange whatever may be in there. This where we get to the widgets portion of the iOS 8 WWDC announcement. While Craig Federighi was showing off iOS 8 in one of the many demos, there was a notification “widget” for SportCenter, and it showed the score of the SF Giants game. Being the sports fanatic that I am, and with the NFL season looming in a couple of months, just this widget alone will be huge for me. I love being able to quickly check my scores, which is why I set the SportsCenter application to just send me notifications of the scores of whatever games I choose, that way I don’t have to worry about anything loading. Of course there will be many more applications that take advantage of this addition, once iOS 8 is released, but SportsCenter is a huge one for me regardless.

Settings

If I went through every single detail about the different settings that can be changed, seen, toggled, or anything else, I would end up writing a 5000 word piece. I’m just going to focus on what I found to be the most interesting settings available within iOS 8.

iCloud Panel

iOS 8 iCloud Panel

From the first glance, everything appears to be normal, and nothing out of the ordinary. The same old Settings app from last year, with the same layout. Scroll down just a tad. Okay, a little more than that. You now have the iCloud and iTunes & App Store panels within the Settings app. If you hit the iCloud panel, you get an overview of everything that is able to be turned on and off, such as, Mail, Contacts, Calendar, Reminders, etc. What I found useful were two items. At the top of this panel your name, Apple ID, and profile picture are visible. Once you tap this, you are presented with the same heading information as what was seen before, but there are also three more panels for you to tinker with: Personal Information, Password & Security, and Payment Method.

iOS 8 iCloud Settings

The Personal Information panel shows you connected email addresses, your physical address, as well as toggles to turn on or off notifications about Apple or iTunes News and Offers. The Password & Security panel allows you to verify your birthday, change your password and security questions, change the email used for Password Recovery, and finally, Apple gives users to view whether they have Two-Step Verification turned on for their Apple ID, along with a small notation to direct you to the Apple ID page to turn this feature on. Finally, the Payment Method panel allows you to view your payment information, and change your Billing Address if you need to. You can’t necessarily add another payment method for your iOS device, but you can change the current credit/debit card if you happen to lose the card or if it expires.

iOS 8 Storage

Once you are done changing all the fun stuff about your Apple ID account, once you go back to the main iCloud panel, the next section down gives you a quick overview of how much iCloud storage remains. Tapping this section gives you an overview of the total amount of storage in your iCloud. You can also manage the storage, such as backups, documents & data, and other information if you need to free up space for whatever reason. You can also purchase more Buy More Storage from this panel, which is a nice addition, if you want to subscribe to get more iCloud storage.

Back to the main panel, we go. Scrolling down past all the toggles, you can now set the iCloud backup, iCloud Keychain, Find My iPhone, and the Share My Location to be turned off or on if you choose. In iOS 7, you would have to go to each individual settings panel with the Settings app, just to find these different settings, and sometimes it was fairly frustrating trying to remember where each setting was. Having all you account settings, accessible in once place is simply amazing, and will definitely make things easier for users once iOS 8 becomes available to the public.

Usage Settings

iOS 8 Battery Last 24 Hours iOS 8 Battery Last 7 Days

The other settings panel that I was ecstatic to have was found within the Usage panel. In previous versions of iOS, there was no way to easily find out which apps were draining your battery. In iOS 8, Apple brought something to it’s users that, admittedly, Android users have had forever. When I was on my hiatus from Apple, and was using Android for a year, I loved being able to quickly check and see which apps were draining my battery, and of course when testing a beta application on Android, the developers were usually interested in knowing if there were battery drain issues before pushing a final release. In order to view this information, once inside of the Settings application, go to General, then Usage. Once within the Usage panel, look at the top, above the toggle to show your battery percentage, and voila, Battery Usage. As with the Usage panel before, users can see how long it has been since their device was last fully charged, unless you’re like me and randomly charge your device. Looking further down this panel, there it is, the Holy Grail for battery life. The ability to see how much, in percentages, each application on your device has consumed your battery in the last 24 hours, or in the last 7 days. Since all the folks from TechDissected are mainly Android users, it’s obvious that Hangouts is the app that I use the more. (Trust me, I wish we could use iMessage.)

iOS 8 Battery Life

This leads me to the biggest disappointment of iOS 8. While have seen folks on Twitter stating that they are getting better battery life with iOS 8, but my experience is far from it. Maybe I got a bad seed, but it’s absolutely terrible. On Wednesday, June 11th, I ran a little experiment, while I was taking my mother to run some errands for the day.

I unplugged my phone from the charger at 8:35AM, when my mother and I left the house for the day.On the drive from our home to our first destination, about an hour long, my battery went from 100% to 85%. I was extremely surprised due to the fact that during this time, not many people are awake in Hangouts, let alone available to have conversations. I expected the battery to be around 90% just because it’s a beta software, and there is some battery loss to be expected. While my mother and I were at our first location, about 2 and a half hours, I spent a lot of time just sitting around and not doing anything. I brought my iPad with me, with hopes of there being Wi-Fi available, yet I was disappointed to find that there wasn’t.

After I got bored, or ran out of lives, with the games on my iPad, I resorted to going back to my iPhone for entertainment. I had only taken my phone out a few times over the course of 45 minutes after arriving, but I realized I had gone from 85% to 74%. Again, I had not been using my iPhone for communication much, due to the simple fact that it was still somewhat early. About 15 minutes after noticing my battery life dropping from 100% to 74% in the span of 2 hours, with little usage, the world awoke, and my phone was going off left and right with emails, or Hangouts messages. An hour later, after heavy usage, no gameplay, just some Twitter, Google+ (I’ll get to this in a bit), and Hangouts, my battery had plummeted to about 40%. This was just unreal to me. From 100% at 8:35AM to 40% at 12:30PM.

Needless to say I was not happy, and have not been happy with the battery life. I’ve heard suggestions to change the location settings to not always be on when using an application, but I’m just chalking this up to running the first beta of a new OS.

QuickType

iOS 8 QuickType Keyboard

Android users that read this will hem and haw about this, but for iOS users, predictive texting is something that is brand, spanking new. Having the ability to tap a word while texting, or sending an email, is something that iOS users have never had the luxury of. Until Now. I don’t know how fast most iOS users type, but I like to think that I type abnormally fast, unless I’m tired, in the middle of something else, or just slow that day. There were situations where QuickType came in handy, and there were other times where I just used QuickType because I wanted to try it out. I was pleasantly surprised about how accurate it became after the first few hours of iOS 8 being installed on my iPhone.

I flashed back to my Android days, and remember thinking how awesome it was to be able to just tap the next word that comes to mind, or have the ability to swipe my finger around the screen if I was using my phone with one hang. Now the latter isn’t available, yet, but it is coming when iOS 8 finally hits devices. The nostalgia that I felt while using QuickType, was the type of feeling that I was excited for before the WWDC event even began.

Messaging

iOS 8 Quick Reply

As for Messaging in general. Something else that Android users can brag about, is the ability to quickly reply to a text message that someone sends them, without having to stop what they are doing. In order to achieve this, if someone texts you, simply drag down on the notification, and an text box will appear, with the keyboard ascending from the depths. Type out your message, and voila, quick reply achieved. This comes in handy if you’re trying to beat that high score in Flappy Bird, (yes, I still have Flappy Bird), trying to beat Monument Valley, or if you’re in the middle of watching a YouTube video.

iOS 8 Group Message Options

In terms of those restless group chats, there are some additional features that Apple has added to make them a little bit easier to manage. If you are constantly getting pinged with notifications from your friends who are talking about what happened at the bar last night, Apple has a familiar solution. Do Not Disturb. This will turn off the notifications for whatever group chat you are a part of, but don’t want to hear the constant dinging of your iPhone going off. Now if this is one of those group conversations that you didn’t want to be a part of to begin with, Apple has given you the ability to simply leave those group messages. I’m not a part of very many, but I had one group message that I was able to “leave”, and never got another message, which WAS really convenient.

Continuity

While watching WWDC, I was excited about what Apple was bringing to iOS, with the update to iOS 8, but what excited me the most was the implementation of Continuity. The idea of being able to put my iPhone on my desk, sit at my MacBook Pro, and leave where I left off in that email, is something that is really exciting. My favorite portion of Continuity is the ability to receive AND SEND messages from the comfort of my MacBook or iPad, to even those “green bubble friends.” I don’t know exactly why I’m excited by this because, after some setup, Android users can do something similar from their computers. What they can’t do however, is place or receive phone calls from their computer and have it work as if their phone was up to their ears.

If you have iOS 8 on your iPad and/or iPhone, and have Mac OS X Yosemite, you can partake in all the fun stuff that Continuity has to offer. With all the pieces of the puzzle, Continuity allows you to not only send or receive text messages from any type of phone. You can also make and receive phone calls, and answer them from the comfort of any of your Apple devices. During the demonstration of Continuity, Craig Federighi placed a call to one of Apple’s newest executives, Dr. Dre, on the iMac running Yosemite, and everything worked perfectly. Dr. Dre answered the call, thanked all the developers for all of their hard work, and the call was over.

Something that I haven’t played around with in terms of Continuity, is the Handoff features that are included. What Handoff is designed to do, is allow users to start an email on one device, then pick up in the exact same spot on another device. Without having to retype the whole message, or try to remember where you were at in the middle of the email.

iOS 8 Crashes And Bugs

iOS 8 Keyboard Bug

Crashes are expected when running a beta, it’s a beta for a reason. Applications haven’t been updated, nor has there been enough time for developers to release updated applications for iOS 8. What I found throughout using iOS 8, was the fact that almost every Google application either crashed or had some type of bug. Hangouts was usable, but definitely affected my battery life more than it should of, in my opinion. Google+, that was the most frustrating app that I’ve used on my iPhone. The reason being, I didn’t use it. Every time I tapped the little red “G+” icon, it crashed. I would close Google+, re-open it, hit cancel on the crash report, try and access my pending notifications, and it would crash again. Hangouts would show the top three conversations, and the rest of the screen was just white. Thank goodness, Tweetbot worked, for the most part. Trying to retweet anything or copy links, or even attempting to follow someone, there was a delay between the time that you hit the button, and the popup would show up. Again, it’s a beta, so these things are expected.

What wasn’t as expected, were the system wide crashes and bugs. The more that I used QuickType, the more that it learned about the way that I type. The problem was, the little bar above the keyboard wouldn’t always appear, or would disappear, while typing. I’m not talking about the fact that you can swipe down on the keyboard to hide the suggestion bar, but I’m talking about QuickType not working at all, and just having to use the keyboard as normal. Other issues were that while perusing Safari, or trying to send a couple text messages, my iPhone would simply re-spring, and force me to start all over again.

Conclusion

Even throughout the constant crashes, iOS 8 has me excited about the platform again. There are a ton of different features that make iOS 8 one of the most jam-packed iOS releases since iOS 5. From accessing certain applications on your lock screen, to being able to quickly identify a song with the help of Siri, iOS 8 promises to be a revolutionary change to, what has become, a stale experience.  There was a reason I took a hiatus from iOS, a little over a year ago, but now I’m back, and I’m more excited than ever. With the prospect of custom keyboards, the speed of iOS 8 vs. iOS 7, and a few of the other features that haven’t been made available via the beta yet, I’m extremely excited. Have you used the iOS 8 beta? What have your experiences been? What are you excited about with the release of iOS 8? If you’re interested in trying to get iOS 8 onto your iOS devices, feel free to leave me a line in the comments below, or contact me on Twitter or Google+.

Twitter: Andrew Myrick
Google+: Andrew Myrick

 

About Author

I'm a lover of all things technology, which happens to work perfectly with the ideology behind Tech Dissected. I currently carry a Nexus 5 as well as an iPhone 5S and am contemplating ways to get my hands on a new Windows 8 phone. My life is an open book, but beware, I don't back down from a sports discussion, EVER.