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What's right (and wrong) with iOS 8

Since its release, I've put iOS 8 to the test on a range of hardware, from the aging iPhone 4s to a brand new iPhone 6 Plus, and I've gotten to know the operating system really well, and this has allowed me to draw up a pretty good picture of what's right and wrong with this new release.
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Introduction

Last week Apple released the long awaited update to its mobile platform, iOS 8, and it is available either as a download for iPhone and iPads, or pre-installed on the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.

Since its release, I've put iOS 8 to the test on a range of hardware, from the aging iPhone 4s to a brand new iPhone 6 Plus, and I've gotten to know the operating system really well, and this has allowed me to draw up a pretty good picture of what's right and wrong with this new release.

Let's take a tour of the highs and lows of iOS 8.

Note: This was written prior to the iOS 8.0.1 debacle.

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Right: Change, but not too much change

I like change, but change for the sake of change is hard to swallow. Apple has resisted the temptation to fiddle with iOS just for the sake of making it look different/newer. iOS 7 received a major makeover, and rather than go for another big makeover, Apple has built on what it released a year ago

The user interface has been refined rather than radically changed, and the improvements – some of then large, others subtle, all go to making the operating system easier to use.

There's hardly a built-in app that hasn't been tweaked and refined, from the Messages app to the keyboard. Overall, I'm very impressed with the refinements that Apple has done here.

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Right: Opens up new possibilities

Thanks to the raft of new APIs brings new features to old devices in the form of built-in features, apps, hardware, and internet services.

The tighter integration between iOS and OS X will mean that those who are living and working within the Apple ecosystem will see an unprecedented level of connectedness.

Also, a new programming language – Swift – should not only herald in a new era of apps, but make it easier for developers to built, test, and release winning apps.

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Wrong: OTA (Over The Air) updating is clumsy and awkward

When iOS 8 was released, users jumped on it, but many found out that they didn't have enough free gigabytes on their iPhone or iPad to carry out the update, and as a result had to delete data to make space for it.

Bottom line is that any system that doesn't involve me having to manually delete random stuff off my iPhone or iPad in order to free up space is better than the current mechanism. The current update mechanism is painful and clumsy, and those are two words I would have thought Apple would be keen to avoid.

And yes, I know I could use iTunes on a PC or Mac to back up my iDevices, but with a true post-PC device I shouldn't have to do that. And anyway, I know plenty of people who don't use iTunes, or who don't have a PC or Mac. Going the iTunes route is just a cop-out, a way to dodge a pretty obvious flaw with the update mechanism.

This is inelegant if not totally awkward way for Apple to deliver updates, and it is a clear sign that the way updates are delivered and applied needs updating.

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Wrong: Confusing iCloud message

The above message seems to have confused people. Some people expected Apple to release OS X 10.10 Yosemite on the same day, while others didn't seem to have had a clue what "OS X Yosemite" was.

But people who click on that button have found themselves locked out from their data on systems not running iOS 8 or OS X 10.10 Yosemite, and those who have hardware that can't be upgraded are facing the expense of upgrades.

Releasing features before they are rolled out across the Apple ecosystem is bound to cause some users problems, and ambiguously worded don't help in the least. 

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Wrong: Incomplete features

The Health icon is now on every iOS 8 device, but the feature doesn't work, and won't work until a future update. This is not what I've come to expect from Apple. Why not roll it out when it is ready?

I don't understand why incomplete features weren't left for a future iOS 8 update, because that seemed like the best way to avoid user confusion.

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Wrong: iOS 8 UI scales poorly for the iPhone 6 Plus

After only a few hours of using the iPhone 6 Plus I realized that iOS 8 is a massive compromise when it comes to the 5.5-inch display. Apple could have done much more to make iOS 8 easier to use on the iPhone 6 Plus, but for some reason it didn't. As a result the interface is totally unusable for single-handed use.

I'll expand on how Apple could improve iOS 8 to make it better suited to the 5.5-inch display in a future piece.

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Wrong: Siri is still nothing more than an annoying novelty

Siri has been a part of iOS since iOS 5, first debuting on the iPhone 4S, and later the third-generation iPad, and has then been baked into all iOS devices.

But almost three years down the line and Siri is nothing more than a novelty – and an annoying one at that. It's too fickle, undependable and frankly far too annoying to be a part of my daily experience, and I'm losing hope that it's going to improve.

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Wrong: Bugs and performance issues

As with all major iOS releases, bugs and performance issues plague iOS 8.

While most of these should be picked off with future updates (such as iOS 8.0.1, which was released yesterday), it is a period of uncertainty – and frustration – for users. Given the speed and scale of iOS upgrades, perhaps Apple should open up a limited beta program so it can identify and eliminate bugs before they are unleashed onto tens of millions of users worldwide.

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