Top useful features of Apple's new iOS 8

Sunday , June 08, 2014 - 12:00 AM


Apple last week held its annual conference WWDC and unveiled what we can expect from iOS 8 and related services when they launch later this year. While there were countless new items, here are some of the most useful ones, which could help you decide on a new phone come fall.

Family Sharing

Family Sharing is big news for family members with Apple devices. The new feature lets up to six members of a household share purchases from iTunes, iBooks, and App Store without sharing accounts. For instance, if Mom buys a book, it's immediately accessible Dad and the kids. Each can read the book at their own pace and the device will store the reader's place.

Family Sharing also provides important safeguards to prevent kids from charging items without their parents' knowledge. One credit card can be used for the entire family, so a child must request to buy any app from the cardholder. An alert is sent to the parent who can review the app and decide to approve or decline the purchase.

No Tracking Search Engine

And here's one that didn't make the stage at WWDC, but is a worthy privacy measure. Apple will include DuckDuckGo search engine as an add-on to Safari. One tap to activate DuckDuckGo lets you search the Internet without being tracked. In fact, none of your personal information is stored or sold to marketers when using DuckDuckGo.

Better and Cheaper Cloud Storage

Apple introduced iCloud Photo Library as a new feature, but it's more accurate to call it improved. All photos and videos will be stored in iCloud Photo Library, once iCloud is activated on each device. Currently, your photos are stored in iCloud, but, syncing the service between your iPhone and computer has meant connecting your phone to your computer. No more — Apple said once users turn on iCloud on each device, photos and videos will be automatically accessible in the library.

Apple has also made finding a photo easier. Currently, there is no search function in iPhoto, which means you're in for a lot of scrolling if your photo wasn't taken in the last month or so. You will be able to search your library by date or time the photo was taken, by location and by album name.

Related to iCloud Photo Library, is Apple's new iCloud Drive, similar to Dropbox, Microsoft's One Drive and Google Drive. Here, you'll be able to store copies of documents and other files to access from your Mac computer, iPhone, iPad or PC.

This service is unlikely to attract those who already use cloud storage, but Mac users could find an integrated cloud storage service attractive. iCloud Drive offers only 5GB of free storage (including iCloud Photo Library), but purchasing additional storage is cheap: $ .99 a month for 20GB (currently, you'll pay $20 a year for 15GB, including the free 5GB) and $2.99 a month for 200GB. For comparison, Google Drive offers 15GB for free, Dropbox only 2GB and Microsoft sits in the middle at 7GB. if you're an active user, you will have to buy more storage at some point unless you are diligent about deleting old files, so comparing the prices for larger amounts of storage is important. Apple, Google and Microsoft are in the same ballpark, but Dropbox costs up to five times as much as the others.

WiFi Calling Support

iOS 8 will allow you to make telephone calls over a WiFi network. If you're traveling outside of the country, WiFi calling can be a huge cost-saver. Further, using WiFi instead of cellular means less drain on your phone's battery. You've been able to do this through third party apps such as Viber, but call quality has been spotty. I'm hoping with built-in software that supports WiFi calls, they will become a real alternative to using a cellular network. But here's the catch: WiFi calls will only be available to those using a service provider that enables the feature. For now, only T-Mobile in the U.S. and Rogers Wireless in Canada have pledged support.

The new iPhone 6 will likely be released in September, but it's not the only new phone on the horizon. Amazon will announce its first smartphone in Seattle on June 18 — rumored to have a 3D interface controlled by head movements — and Blackberry is expected to launch its new phone with an old-style physical keyboard.

Leslie Meredith has been writing about and reviewing personal technology for the past six years. She has designed and manages several international websites. As a mom of four, value, usefulness and online safety take priority. Have a question? Email Leslie at

Sign up for e-mail news updates.