If you have recently updated your iPhone or iPad to iOS 8 or iOS 8.1, you may not immediately notice some of the changes. iMore.com recently had a great article explaining some of the new features of iOS 8 (including Widgets, Extensions, and 3rd Party Keyboards). If you are new to iOS 8, check out iMore’s summary.
If you currently have an iPad 2 or newer, or an iPhone 4s or newer, you can update your device to iOS 8. The update went live at about 1:00 pm EST on Wednesday September 17, 2014. iOS 8 is available through an over-the-air update or by connecting your iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s, iPad 2, iPad with Retina (3rd or 4th generation), iPad Mini, iPad Mini with Retina, or iPad Air to iTunes on your computer. iOS was first previewed for developers at WWDC in June 2014, and has had a number of beta releases before its release on September 17, 2014.
Although this update adds many new features to iOS, it looks very similar to iOS 7 once installed on your iPad or iPhone. The biggest changes occur under the hood. Most notable, for the first time users can now download and install customized keyboards that can be used throughout the device. Additionally, Apple has introduced extensions, widgets, in-line notification responses and a cloud drive service that can be accessed across all applications (iCloud Drive). Extensions and widgets can both be used by developers to extend your app experience.
Widgets are added to the notification center to provide you with updated information without having to launch an app (think sports scores, weather, shipping notifications, etc.). Extensions are added to the “Open In” dialog box within apps, and allows you to launch actions associated with another app installed on your device. For example, you could be viewing a preview of a document in Dropbox, and a PDF app could have an extension that lets you add annotations without having to fully open the app. The extension runs on top of the app that you currently have opened, and once you complete an action, it returns you back to the app you were using with any changes you made. (Universal password apps and Social Networking sites are also expected to take advantage of extensions).
With the ability to add customized keyboards, iPhone and iPad users will finally be able to choose apps with advanced features like swiping on your keyboard instead of typing. Swiftkey and Swype should both have keyboards released for the iPhone sometime on September 17, 2014. There are also picture keyboards in the works, and even keyboards that do nothing more than show you whether you are currently using upper or lower case letters when inputting text.
iCloud drive promises to be a central storage solution where all apps can have access to. This will allow you to start working on a document in Pages, save to iCloud Drive, and then access in a different word processor like Microsoft Word. With inline notification responses, you will be able to reply to text messages or tweets without actually opening a separate app. You can simply hit reply, respond inline and go back to what you were doing. (You can even enable the ability to respond from the lock screen).
Although I safely updated an iPhone 5s and iPad Mini with Retina, it is always best to be cautious before completing a significant update on your device. I recommend that you have a backup of your device using iTunes before completing the update, and set aside at least 3 hours in case there are problems. Although iCloud backups allow you to do a restore if you run into problems, if you have more than 20 apps, and are using a good portion of your device storage, it is not recommended that you rely on this method. Before updating or backing up your device on iTunes, make sure that you check to that iTunes is updated to version 11.4. (In iTunes go to the Help menu, and select “Check for Updates”).
Depending on your device you need about 1 GB of space available to download the update. I would recommend that you have at least 3 GB of space available before attempting the update over-the-air. Normally small flaws are discovered after a major release of iOS. It is usually safest to wait at least 2 weeks before installing the update if you use your iPhone or iPad for any mission critical purposes.