iOS 8

Apple releases iOS 8, starts serving upgrade downloads

Apple iOS 8 messaging features on the iPhone
Credit: Apple

So far, Apple seems to have avoided another online meltdown

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Apple today shipped the free upgrade to iOS 8 for existing iPhone and iPad owners, opening up the download floodgates at 1 p.m. ET, as expected.

Computerworld immediately began retrieving iOS 8 and in the initial stages at least -- with a slow broadband connection, the upgrade was forecast to take more than hour -- the download proceeded. As of 1:30 p.m. ET, there were no reports on Apple's iPhone support discussion forum about download problems.

The biggest issue seemed to be the size of the upgrade -- many reported that it was in excess of 1GB -- and the enormous free-space requirements, which were 5GB and up. For owners of 16GB iPhones, not to mention those with the even punier 8GB iPhone 5C, that could be a major problem.

Apple called iOS 8 "the biggest release since the launch of the App Store." The App Store appeared in 2008 with the second version of what then was dubbed "iPhone OS." Apple rebranded iPhone OS as iOS in 2010.

iOS 8, which will also power the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus that Apple introduced last week -- and which go on sale Friday -- is a free upgrade for owners of the iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPhone 5C and iPhone 5S; iPad 2, the third- and fourth-generation iPads with Retina screens, the iPad Air, the iPad Mini and the iPad Mini with Retina; and the fifth-generation iPod Touch that debuted in different configurations in October 2012 and May 2013.

Apple introduced iOS 8 at its annual developers conference in June, when CEO Tim Cook and other executives highlighted a slew of changes, notably new developer frameworks called "Healthkit" and "Homekit" for collecting health-related data and managing home automation devices, respectively.

iOS 8 download

Apple released iOS 8 today. The large download and even larger free-space requirement -- 5GB and up -- may be a problem for some 8GB- and
16GB-device owners.

Other changes to iOS 8, which was not visually revamped as that took place in 2013, included opening the operating system to third-party on-screen keyboards; an iOS-OS X continuation feature called "Continuity" that lets users start some tasks on, say, an iPhone and then finish them on a Mac; and a refined Notification Center that will provide in-context, interactive notifications.

Today, Computerworld reviewer Michael deAgonia concluded that iOS 8 was "packed full of really handy features" that people "will be using on daily basis," but warned that the software still contained bugs.

"There are a few rough spots and lingering bugs -- but for the most part, iOS 8 is as responsive and snappy as iOS 7 before it," deAgonia wrote.

At least one of the biggest additions to iOS, Continuity -- especially its sub-component, "Handoff" -- will really only become useful once Apple releases OS X Yosemite for the Mac. Yosemite is expected to ship on Oct. 22.

iOS 8 can be downloaded over the air from iPhones, iPads, iPad Minis and iPod Touches, or through iTunes. From an iPhone, for instance, users must touch the "Settings" icon, then the "General" button on the resulting screen. Tapping "Software Update" will kick off the update process.

For Computerworld's test iPhones, iOS 8 weighed in a near a gigabyte -- 957MB to be specific -- although others reported smaller or larger downloads.

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