Coming in iOS 8: Apple knows you so well it can finish your sentences

Predictive typing, bundles of apps and voice in Messages are among the new capabilities

If you like the way iOS predicts what word you're trying to spell, you can now look forward to it filling in the words that follow.

Predictive typing, voice messaging in Messages, bundles of apps and video previews of apps are among the new features in iOS 8, a release of the iPhone and iPad OS that Apple is calling the biggest update since the launch of the App Store in 2008. There are enhancements across much of the OS, including HealthKit and the Continuity features that the company announced Monday for shifting among Macs, iPhones and iPads.

The company unveiled iOS 8 at its Worldwide Developer Conference in San Francisco on Monday. It's available immediately in beta and will be generally available in fall this year for every device since the iPhone 4S, iPad 2 and iPod Touch fifth generation.

With the new predictive typing feature, iOS will follow through on what's just been typed with words that it thinks are likely to follow, said Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of software engineering. For example, if you type a message to a friend suggesting dinner, predictive typing might add "and a movie."

The predictions won't be the same in everything you type, though. Apple says iOS will be able to learn the words you typically use and understand the context in which you're typing, such as a business or personal communication. "It's incredibly smart," Federighi assured the WWDC audience. "It learns how you type to different people in different apps." For privacy, all that specialized learning about your writing style will stay on the device, he said.

With iOS 8, Apple is also making its Messages app more like an all-purpose communication tool. In the middle of a text-message exchange, users can give a long press to a microphone button and record a voice message. Users can also listen and reply to those voice messages from the phone's lock screen just by holding the phone up to their ears.

Video messages and photos can also be easily sent in Messages through a swipe gesture, Apple said. Those messages will self-destruct after a short while unless the user decides to keep them.

Along with more ways to communicate comes more control over chat sessions. Users can choose to share their location with their chat partners for an hour, the rest of the day, or indefinitely. They can also selectively use a "Do Not Disturb" feature to stop new messages from a busy conversation from buzzing away in their pockets. And participants in a group chat can be added or subtracted at any point along the way.

Other changes specifically for developers could change how consumers buy and use apps. For one thing, people selling apps will be able to bundle several together and sell the package at a discount. And instead of just images, descriptions and reviews of apps, consumers will be able to view videos of the key features of an offering before deciding whether to buy or download it.

Potentially more important, apps will be able to share features, or "actions," through a capability Apple calls Extensibility. For example, a user looking at a website in a foreign language in the Safari browser will be able to activate the translation feature from the Bing search engine within the browser app, Federighi said. Another use will be for photo editing, where after taking a picture users will be offered the editing tools of every photo app on the phone. They'll be able to bring up the user interface and capabilities of those third-party apps without leaving the current app.

In a move that could help to secure apps, Apple is releasing an API (application programming interface) for the Touch ID feature that secures the iPhone 5S through fingerprint recognition. Developers will be able to use that function to control access to apps and data, unlocking items on a user's iOS Keychain when the user's fingerprint is verified. The fingerprint information itself stays on a secure part of the A7 processor and is never exposed to third-party apps, Apple said.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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Stephen Lawson

IDG News Service
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