My Review of iOS 8 (and everything that's missing)

Before Apple launched iOS 8 to the masses on September 17, I knew it was going to be a bumpier process for users considering so many anticipated features require OS X Yosemite to work. And Yosemite wouldn't be released publicly for at least another month. I was very interested to see how the rollout of iOS 8 would work in light of dependent features still yet to be released. And to their credit, Apple has tried to explain their rollout timeline, but not as well as I'd hoped. Most people think I'm an Apple Genius with every answer, but this time around even I was stumped.

On the main iOS 8 page detailing new features, Apple promotes the main features that are now available including Photos (just the app, not the service), Messages, Design (enhancements), QuickType, Family Sharing, iCloud Drive, Health, Continuity, and Spotlight. After watching the keynote introducing iOS 8 and becoming very familiar with these feature descriptions, I wanted to give everything a go on my own. After doing this, I've discovered that while most features work as advertised, some features don't even work—or haven't been released.

 

iCloud Drive

After you upgrade your devices to iOS 8, you are prompted to move your documents to iCloud Drive now or wait until later. Apple clearly explains that your computer running OS X Mavericks or earlier and other iOS devices running iOS 7 won't be able to access iCloud documents once they migrate to iCloud Drive. Like many others, I skipped this at first. I wanted to wait until I had the courage to download the Yosemite beta to turn on iCloud Drive. This past weekend, I dove in and installed Yosemite on my main (and only) Macbook Pro, this time choosing to enable iCloud Drive.

The process was easy and within 20 minutes, all my documents had moved from my laptop to iCloud Drive. Taking a closer look at my iPhone, I saw that iCloud Drive had been automatically enabled and documents were downloading. I noticed the same on my iPad. I was impressed that I didn't have to go to each device and enable iCloud Drive. It just happened automatically.

After all my documents had synced, I decided to test a few documents in Pages. With my Macbook Pro, iPad and iPhone all in view, I could watch as changes I made on one device synced to the other without issue—just as it had done before. Great! I opened the iCloud Drive page and investigated more features and product shots, including the new iCloud Drive document window clearly shown on an iPhone and iPad within Pages for iOS. This is where I started to believe I had done something wrong. I didn't have the same view on my iPad or iPhone. But why? Some people have wrongly assumed this iCloud Drive window is an app—but it's a redesigned document selector window within an iOS app.

After turning my devices off and on and turning iCloud Drive off/on, I turned to the Apple forums. I realized that many people were having the same issues without answer. Buried deep in a comment somewhere I saw a post that claimed Apple had not yet updated iWork for iOS to work with iCloud Drive. I confirmed this from low-starred reviews on the Pages app page itself. If that's the case, why is Apple showing off iCloud Drive fully featured now? I wasted a good 30 minutes wondering if it was something I did wrong.

 

My Photo Stream

This has been a major goof on Apple's part, and I've written a lengthy post about it. I understand the reasoning behind removing a Camera Roll and My Photo Stream album (somewhat), but the online manual for iOS 8 clearly references an album named "My Photo Stream." Take a look at the section labeled, "Managing My Photo Stream contents." It does give me a little hope that they intended to keep that album around, but perhaps discarded that idea in the end. Now the blame falls on whoever proofs these manuals before they publish.

 

Continuity & Handoff

I got a taste of some of these features working between my iPad and iPhone all week including answering calls, using Handoff (Bluetooth must be enabled), and the instant hotspot. After installing Yosemite, I wanted to dive into this a little more. Apple shows the SMS relay feature as coming in October, but everything else should "just work." Handoff is the only area I can say doesn't work as advertised—in some apps. Mail is the most impressive, letting you continue working on an email at the exact character you previously typed on any other device. It was almost magical. Safari will open the same page you have open on another device. Messages and Notes just open the app, without copying any new text added. After a minute, Notes will sync changes and then they will appear on another device, but it's not as seamless as the Mail Drafts.

The most disappointing part of Continuity is iWork. Apple doesn't mention that iWork for iOS (not to mention iWork for Mac on Yosemite) hasn't been updated to work with Handoff. I was sure I could use Handoff between my iPhone and iPad while editing a Pages document. Apple's product images clearly show this working with a Numbers document, but as of today, it doesn't work.

 

Conclusion

I knew some of these deep integrations between iOS and OS X would prove challenging for a staggered release. So far, I've been ok waiting on features. My biggest complaint and frustration have been purely communication or lack of it from Apple. I know that all of these issues will be resolved in the next 30 days, but I fear that 30 days will feel like a lot longer for some of us.

 

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