IPhone and iPad enthusiasts, contain yourselves: iOS 8 is ready for download Wednesday.
Apple will release the next iteration of the operating system for the iPhone 4S or newer, the iPad 2 or newer, the iPad Mini, the iPad Air and the iPod Touch 5.
Though not as dizzying as last year’s upgrade to flat icons and slick animations, this year’s optional download of iOS 8 will deliver some new ways to create and consume content.
Most apparent will be the on-screen keyboard, which displays a row of suggested words as people type. Start tapping a-p-p-l, and then just tap on “application” (or “Apple”) to automatically insert the rest of the letters.
The Messages app has a new microphone icon. Tap it to send a voice message. All a recipient has to do is hold the phone to his or her ear and listen.
Video and group messaging are also improved. People can choose to let others see their location for a certain or indefinite period of time. From any screen, click the home button twice to quickly reach out to favorite and recent contacts.
Sorting photographs will be easier. The Photos app automatically creates albums, which some may find creepy. The app comes with new photo-editing tools, including a time-lapse creator, so photo-sharers can bypass Instagram to make their shots look more interesting.
With the new Family Sharing tools, up to six people can share their photos, calendars, locations and purchases from iTunes, the App Store and iBooks. That includes the ability for children to electronically ask parents for permission to download an app. Parent reaction to this feature will probably be mixed.
Interactive notifications could save people time, or become a new route to procrastination and distraction: They’ll let users reply to text messages from the home screen or reply to social-media posts while never leaving the Mail app.
Perhaps hoping to wean users off Google, the built-in search feature known as Spotlight now includes in-search result links to Wikipedia entries, news stories, content on iTunes and more. To launch Spotlight, slide a finger downward on a home screen.
Several more features that better link up the mobile devices to Mac laptops and desktops will arrive later this fall, when Apple releases another update.