September 10, 2014 Last Updated 7:50 pm

A quick look at Apple’s new iOS 8: the lack of major errors may be its biggest asset

Apple’s new mobile operating system is touted as its biggest release ever, but some of its most important improvements are tied to the yet-to-be released new Mac operating system, OS X Yosemite

Shortly after the end of yesterday’s big iPhone and Apple Watch event, Apple released to developers the gold master version of iOS 8. Downloading and installing the latest mobile operating system is a snap, though still a pain for those installing it on their main devices as it involves two rounds of restores and a final sync to get all your apps back in place.

This year, though, iOS 8 will not, it appears, be a big deal for most users – and that is probably a good thing.

iOS8-PhotosTwo years ago, with the release of iOS 6, Apple moved from using Google Maps to its own mapping solution. TNM’s own report on the gold master that year warned people that there would be trouble. A couple days later, with official release of the operating system came the first complaints from iPhone owners, many of whom were lost and looking for a way home.

Last year, Apple introduced iOS 7, the first operating system that really bore the stamp of Jony Ive rather than Steve Jobs. Out went leather, in came pastels. Many users hated it, and still do. But there were enough new features that users would want, and so iPhone users dutifully upgraded.

This year, iOS 8 is touted as being Apple’s “biggest iOS release ever,” which is probably just marketing nonsense, as Apple said the same thing about its new, larger iPhone models.

Users will probably find that the way their photos have been organized and reorganized is the more startling change with iOS 8. Users will fumble about trying to make sense of the different ways Apple has now taken control of their photos, figure it out, be upset, but ultimately come to terms with the changes.

Others will notice that the Messages app now allows for voice messaging and sending videos.

But some of the best new features won’t really become live until Apple releases it next generation of Mac OS, called Yosemite. One such feature is the ability to make and receive calls on your Mac through your iPhone – a feature that will encourage even more people to cut their landlines. The series of features fall under what Apple calls Continuity. One features allows the user to start writing an email on one device and pick up where you left off on your Mac (or visa versa, one supposes).

InstantHotspot-smAnother cool feature allows you to connect your Mac to your iPhone with a feature called Instant Hotspot. The way it works is that you turn on Instant Hotspot on your iPhone and your Mac will spot the iPhone under its WiFi settings. The feature is designed to let your Mac go online when you have no access to WiFi, very useful in hotels that want to rip you off to access their network!

(The other big feature, the ability to make WiFi calls when WiFi is available, but no cellular network, will only work on T-Mobile in the US and EE in the UK. The technique is called Voice over LTE, or VoLTE, and will be very useful when more widely implemented.)

Ultimately, though, I think the lack of big blunders is iOS 8’s biggest asset. Other than playing around with your iPhotos app, Apple has avoided intruding too badly.

What I have noticed most is that some small features appear to perform better. Touch ID, for instance, is something I have refused to use because I have found it spotty. But after installing the gold master of iOS 8 I was forced to decide again whether to use it – I did, and it is working much better now. Other users will notice the changes to the keyboard and its predictive typing. For me, I use Siri’s dictation a lot. Why type? At first the feature’s success rate was 50-50, but I have noticed over the past few months that it has improved. This isn’t necessarily tied to iOS 8, but it is the kind of thing users notice and appreciate – incremental improvements to the things they do the most.

As mentioned in a previous post, the big changes for developers involve app previews, app bundles and TestFlight beta testing of apps. These new features were touted this morning in an email to developers. Here is that email:

We are pleased to announce the following new features for iOS apps:

App Bundles
App Bundles offer an easy way for your customers to purchase up to 10 of your iOS apps at a reduced price. To create an App Bundle, pick the apps you want to include, give your bundle a name, write a description, and set a price on iTunes Connect.

Customers who previously purchased one or more apps in an App Bundle can use the Complete My Bundle feature and will see the bundle price adjusted to account for those previous purchases.

Learn more about App Bundles.

App Previews
Showcase your app’s features with an App Preview video on the App Store. To capture real-time footage of your app, use a Lightning cable to connect your iOS device to a Mac. Edit your captured footage in your favorite video-editing app and upload your App Preview to iTunes Connect, just like you would with a screenshot. Be sure to follow the App Preview Guidelines before you submit your App Preview and your app to App Review.

iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite are required to capture an App Preview video. Safari and OS X Yosemite are required for upload and playback of your App Preview on iTunes Connect.

Learn more about App Previews.

TestFlight Beta Testing
You can now distribute your prerelease builds to up to 25 trusted internal users before you make your app available on the App Store. To get started, enable Internal Testing in Users and Roles on iTunes Connect for up to 25 of your team members with the Admin or Technical user roles. An email will be sent to your testers inviting them to test your app in the TestFlight app. Your testers can accept invites, install and update builds, and provide feedback directly in the TestFlight app.

TestFlight Beta Testing for external testers will be coming soon.

Learn more about TestFlight Beta Testing.

One question often asked of me is ‘how big is the download?’ and ‘how much space will it take up on your device?’ Well, as you would expect, iOS 8 is a heft download. But it is a bit hard to tell if it is taking up much more space on my iPhone than iOS 7 because I manage my music and other media manually. That means that after restoring my iPhone 5s all my music was missing.

But here is the thing: I stream most of the music I listen to so there was probably only one or two playlists on my phone at the time of the install. Before the install I had only 2.3 GB of space left, once completed I had just under 5 GB. That tells me two things: I encode my music at a high bit rate, so it takes up a lot of space; and that iOS 8 will not take up much more space than iOS 7 and so you shouldn’t here complaints about bloatware.

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