Apple gave us a lot to digest at today’s WWDC event, including big announcements about iOS 8, Mac OS X Yosemite, and a new programming language called Swift.
But even with two hours to present, Apple still couldn’t fit everything in. The company mentions dozens of new features to be released when iOS 8 hits this fall.
While some of the features will likely be enjoyed by a fairly limited audience (multi-device support for MFi hearing aids), there are a few features that stand out as things Apple lovers have been craving for some time — or hint at cool possibilities in the future.
First up is Wi-Fi Calling, which lets smartphone owners route calls over local wireless connections rather than through potentially flaky cell service. Of course, your cell phone provider has to have the technology in place to support it, which means that right now, only T-Mobile iPhone users have confirmation on the feature’s availability.
For those concerned with privacy, keeping your information off of Google’s (or Microsoft’s, for that matter) servers just got a bit easier on the iPhone: DuckDuckGo is now an option as a default search engine in Safari. With recent updates giving the privacy-focused search engine many of the same capabilities as Google’s Knowledge Graph, leaving Google’s world is more appealing than ever for those who don’t rely on it for mail and other tools.
Battery usage by app
One new feature that just made its way to iOS from its desktop cousin is battery usage by app. While OS X Mavericks let users see which apps were gulping down power (spoiler: it’s probably Chrome), iOS users have had to guess which apps were taking away their sweet, sweet time between charges. In iOS 8, that information is now available in the same part of the settings menu that shows how you’re using storage on your phone or tablet.
Rounding out the bunch is a feature inconspicuously titled “Hey, Siri.” Just like the “OK, Google” command on Android, the feature lets you summon Apple’s virtual assistant without touching your device at all. Unlike on Motorola’s Moto X (the only device that lets you use the command when the screen is off), however, you can’t simply say that command at any time. Your iPhone has to be plugged in to a power source (or tucked in a battery case) in order for Siri to respond to your voice alone.
The Moto X can afford to listen at all times thanks to a low-power coprocessor dedicated to the task, so perhaps Apple’s A8 system-on-a-chip will include something similar in the new iPhone and iPad models we expect to hit sometime this fall.