What’s New In iOS 8.4?

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For a person who prides themselves on always staying with the cutting edge of technology, there are few days more exciting than when a major operating system update is released for your device. Oftentimes it brings with it so many new features that it can feel like you’ve gotten an entirely new phone without spending even a dime of your hard-earned money. That is certainly the approach that tech giant Apple seems to be taking with the release of iOS 8.4, the first major operating system update for iPhone and iPad devices since iOS 8.0 in September of 2014. iOS 8.4 brings with it a surprisingly large amount of new functionality that has millions of people around the world rushing to download and install as quickly as possible.

Apple Music

Perhaps the most important new feature that iOS 8.4 brings to the table takes the form of Apple Music, the tech giant’s answer to popular subscription streaming music services like Spotify and Pandora. Anyone who has ever used a subscription service will find Apple Music delightfully familiar: in exchange for a small monthly fee, you get access to every last song in the iTunes Music Store at your beck and call.

When a user launches Apple Music for the first time, they are asked to identify certain genres, artists and even albums that they like. This information is then fed into an algorithm that is used to suggest customized playlists and full albums on a regular basis. The major benefit of Apple Music is that it becomes more intuitive as time goes on. When a user “loves” a certain artist or album, for example, that is taken into account when future suggestions are made.

Playlists and albums identified via Apple Music can also be saved to be played offline, which is a feature that many other streaming services lack. Those offline items will then be accessible on any iOS or OS X device that the user has for the duration of either their free three month trial or their Apple Music account.

Content Relocation

One of the changes that iOS 8.4 brings to the table that is causing a fair amount of controversy for both users and developers, however, has come in the form of content re-location. Perhaps the biggest shift is the fact that audio books and other types of audio-based content are no longer found within the “Music” app, as has been the case for much of iOS’s existence. Instead, these items are now found within the “iBooks” app, which has shifted from an optional download to a pre-installed item in the last few years. All print and audio books are now accessible in this location.

CarPlay Functionality Expands

Apple has placed significant emphasis on the CarPlay functionality of iOS for the last several iterations, which is a trend that continues to expand with iOS 8.4. The newest version of Apple’s mobile operating system has introduced an “Audiobooks for CarPlay” app, for example, giving drivers a new, dedicated interface to use when playing their audiobooks while driving in a car. CarPlay in general is designed to allow users to control more of iOS’s many functions using Siri voice commands as opposed to the touch of their fingers, attempting to keep their hands on the wheel of their car at all times.

In that regard, a “Audiobooks for CarPlay” dedicated app does make a fair amount of sense – especially considering that the “Music” app is no longer the home to this type of content, nor is this content likely to return there at any point in the future.

Stephen L

What App Testers Need To Know About iOS 8.2

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Give a warm welcome to iOS 8.2. Apple’s most anticipated operating system update since iOS 8 burst onto the scene in September 2014 fixes mistakes and sets the stage for the not-too-distant future.

The release solves a plethora of issues that plagued previous iOS 8 versions and provides support for Apple’s upcoming device, the highly anticipated Apple Watch. iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch can download and install iOS 8.2 for free and enjoy more optimized apps and bug fixes, as well as expanded app compatibility. Users who plan to purchase an Apple Watch (which hits stores on April 24) will definitely want this update.

New Features For A New Device

While the bug fixes are a breath of fresh air for many jaunted users, iOS 8.2’s trumpeted feature is support for the Apple Watch. Upon installing the update, users can sync their iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch to the Apple Watch. They can then customize their settings in the Watch app and track workout data with the Activity app.

Owners of an iPhone 4S or older who plan to buy an Apple Watch will be out of luck, as the Watch only supports iPhones of version 5 and later.

In short: if you want an Apple Watch, you have to get iOS 8.2. Unfortunately that doesn’t extend to iPhone 4S owners as the Apple Watch only works with the iPhone 5 and newer.

HealthKit Gets A Makeover

Also noteworthy are the massive improvements to Apple HealthKit. iOS 8.2 revamps the user interface and allows users to choose between imperial and metric units to measure height, weight, distance, body temperature, blood sugar, and more.

The update also expands HealthKit’s compatibility with third party apps, which offer users deeper insight into their exercise performance and physical data. New privacy controls allow users to disable tracking distance, steps, and stairs climbed.

Bug Fixes Galore

The true selling point of iOS 8.2 lies in its repair work. Since the release of iOS 8, users have flooded message boards with various issues ranging from app crashes to Bluetooth issues to the infamous time zone bug. iOS 8.2 brings a wave of fixes to these and other problems, especially for users on older devices.

  • HealthKit Bug – Users can now add a medical identification photo without issues and experience fewer crashes and slowdowns when importing or managing large quantities of data. Additional fixes include proper display of vitamin and mineral measurement units.
  • Time Zone Bug – Termed the ‘GMT Bug,’ this widespread problem switched users’ Calendar appointments to GMT time, wreaking havoc on scheduling and time management. The bug has plagued users since iOS 8’s initial release and is one of the top issues on Apple’s support threads. With iOS 8.2, users can breathe a sigh of relief that this long-standing issue is no more.
  • Silent Bluetooth Calls – Yet another prominent issue present since iOS 8’s inception, this bug prevented callers from hearing audio until the recipient answered. iOS 8.2 casts this problem into the trash.
  • Miscellaneous Fixes – While Apple has provided few details on these fixes, it has improved apps including Music, Mail, Maps, and VoiceOver. The changes also improve the performance of various iPhone hearing aids.

So, should Apple device users download the iOS 8.2 update? Even those who don’t plan to get an Apple Watch should definitely install the update, which comes free of charge and addresses multiple issues. For Apple Watch enthusiasts, the download is a must-have that takes exercise technology to a whole new level.

Edgar L