Make the most of iOS 8 with these tips and tricks. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
You don’t need a new iPhone to enjoy the awesome power of iOS 8. Loaded with new features and built-in apps, Apple’s latest mobile OS is its most powerful yet.
As intuitive as it is, there are plenty of tips and tricks that will help you truly get the most out of iOS 8 — even starting before you pull the trigger on the free upgrade. Just in case you don’t feel like reading all 182 pages of Apple’s official iOS 8 user guide, here’s a roundup of Cult of Mac’s most helpful iOS 8 tips and tricks. (We will update this post as we dive deeper into iOS 8 in coming weeks.)
[UPDATE: Lots of readers report that the new option to activate iCloud Photo Library isn't showing up on their devices. I'm looking into it. So far I know that the GM version -- the one I used to write this guide -- and the final version are identical, build number 12A365. My guess is that Apple turned off the beta already]
iCloud Photo Library is rad. The idea is that all your full-res photos (including RAW photos) reside on Apple’s servers, and you access them from all your devices.
That’s a change from Photo Stream as it is now, which stores only the last 1,000 photos you took, not your whole collection. Apple has also introduced new tiers of iCloud storage pricing to cope with all your photos (and videos). This is now live, and I signed up for the 200GB option ($4 per month) to test it out.
Photos on iOS 8 are so good that you will be able to ditch a whole home-screen folder’s worth of editing and organizing apps. That’s not an exaggeration: Apple’s new mobile OS packs in so many great new features that – even without the extending abilities of iOS 8’s new plug-ins – you can do pretty much any edit right there in the photos app.
The camera, too, has gotten an upgrade, and – maybe the most important for some – so has the iCloud Photo Stream, which will now give access to all your photos, from any device, whenever you want.
ProCam 2 – confusingly now at v3.0 – is the first camera app that allows manual focus and exposure on devices running iOS 8. You now get full manual control of ISO, shutter speed, focus and white balance, all with neat-o on-screen sliders.
Your iPhone 6 will take better photos than most pocket cameras.
Two things strike me about the camera in the new iPhone 6 models. One is that you can take better pictures; the other is that the iPhone is now a much better place for viewing those pictures.
With their bigger, brighter screens — and iCloud’s new Photo Albums feature (which stores all your photos, ready to view, in iCloud) — the iPhone 6 and its larger sibling, the iPhone 6 Plus, are looking to be the best smartphones yet, from a photographic point of view.
Widget, widgets, widgets. Boy, have we got some widgets for you. And text. Plain text. Plain old text, turned into a calculator. And widgets. Did I mention those? Weather widgets. Battery widgets. And yes, text widgets.
Read all about these new widgets and other new apps in this week's App Watch.
WunderStation from Weather Underground hooks into thousands of privately owned weather stations and presents their data in an iPad app. The smoothly animated graphs are beautiful and can tell you way more than you’d ever want to know about rainfall, barometric pressure and even UV. If you have stations near you, it’s pretty rad. If not, no biggie – the app is $Free
Filthy name, great app. Droool is a “photo gallery for your social networks.” Browse pictures from Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook and more, and index pictures from iCloud and other local folders without moving or copying the files. It’s fast, simple and looks great, and it’s free with in-app purchases. $Free
Terrible name, great app. iBetterCharge monitors your iOS devices’ battery level over your Wi-Fi network, using the same connection that iTunes Wi-Fi sync would use, if you still synced your iPhone with your computer in the space year of 2014. It can pop up warnings when the battery drops to a preset level, and a click on the menu bar shows you the level of all the devices on the network. $Free
This is what the Internet is made for. Photogrammar puts 170,000 Depression-era photos in a searchable, browsable archive. Explore on an interactive map, search or get into the Labs section and browse by metadata sourced from the U.S. Farm Security Administration and Office of War Information archives. Warning: serious time-sink. $Free
PlainTextMenu takes the text on your Mac’s clipboard and transmogrifies it into something useful. It strips out formatting, so you never get big ugly Comic Sans when pasting from a colleague’s Word report, and it can turn the text to uppercase, lowercase or title case along the way. From the school of One Thing Well. $1
Web service re/spin takes Spotify playlists and transforms them into Rdio playlists. If someone’s going to share a playlist, it usually comes from Spotify, and re/spin works with published Spotify playlists. Or you can just paste in a track list copied right from the app. It also works with Last.fm. Remember when PCs couldn’t read Mac floppy disks? It’s like fixing that all over again. $Free
You know all those hard drives grafted onto your Mac? Keep a close eye on them with StorageStatus, an app that turns hard drives into traffic lights in your menu bar and changes their colors when they do something. It knows when they are sleeping, it knows when they’re awake, and it knows when they’ve been good or bad. $3
Not new, but awesome nonetheless. Calca is as close as you’ll get to a plain text calculator. Tap in complex formulas or simple sums and see the results right there in a plain text document. Set variables or just add numbers. And see all your pages synced over iCloud between Mac, iPhone and iPad versions, as well as Windows(!). I love Calca for its balance of simplicity and power. From $3
Finally, a version for the iPad. TVShow Time tracks your favorite TV shows and tells you when they’re on. Browse shows and show synopses, and get notifications when something is about to air. See the shows on a calendar, view news about your shows and read about new shows. It’s pretty comprehensive, and looks great on the big iPad screen. $3
Who needs to go out outside this week? Not us: We have headphones, a home-monitoring video camera, a robot to clean the floors and a keyboard that sleeps on your desk, all ready to play with your iDevices. Determined to leave the house? Take the GoPro PowerPole with you and then offload the footage to a new wireless, battery-powered hard drive from Western Digital.
Forget fiddling with those little magnetic iPhone lenses – the Sony QX1 puts proper E-mount Sony lenses onto your iPhone or iPad. It’s actually a tiny camera that clips onto your iDevice, complete with 20.1 MP sensor and even a pop-up flash, and works in concert with the iPhone via Wi-Fi and a companion app. $400
You could buy these new B&W cans and never switch them on, they look that good. But they should sound good too, with huge drivers that “work like those in a hi-fi speaker” (whatever that means), a sweet padded headband and some shiny silver parts on the outside. The Series 2 even comes with a detachable cable with an inline mic for your iPhone. $300
Now you can buy the best paper notebook anywhere in the world – almost. The Baron Fig Confidant notebook now ships internationally, so anyone can enjoy its superior design, from the cloth-bound cover to the clever dot-grid paper to the fold-flat design that stays open on the table to the slightly wider aspect ratio for more comfy writing and sketching. And still just $16.
Dyson’s first robot vacuum cleaner uses a panoramic cyclops eye up on top of the mercifully muted body to map out your rooms to the millimeter. A full-width brush teases dust out of carpets, and the cyclone separates dirt and dust. It runs for up to half an hour before returning to its dock to recharge, and you can even remote control it from iOS and Android apps. $TBA
It’s called the PowerPole, but that’s not even the best thing about it. The PowerPole takes the useless space inside telescopic 17-30-inch GoPro mount and fills it with batteries, enough for eight continuous hours of shooting. The aluminum pole also has a pair of USB ports for charging other gear. $119
The Logitech K480 is a different take on keyboards for mobile. It sits on your desk, waiting for your devices to dock in its slot, and then performs double duty as a stand and as a Bluetooth keyboard. A twisting knob selects between three paired devices, and the K480 has keys for Windows and Mac. The slot is big enough for a tablet and a phone together and it runs on a pair of AAA batteries. $50
The only way the Shutter Button could be more minimal is if it ditched the fashion stylings and came in plain silver. It’s a Bluetooth remote shutter release for iOS and other devices, and it works by masquerading as a volume switch. Therefore, no companion app is required – any camera, even the built-in one, can work with it as long as the app allows you to take a photo using the iPhone’s own volume switch. From $29.
This 1TB/2TB USB 3.0 drive packs a Wi-Fi radio and an SD card slot, making it the most useful pocket hard drive, like, ever. It works with your Mac of course, but also your iPad and iPhone. You can connect up to eight devices, use it as an Internet-sharing Wi-Fi hub and even stream movies to your iPad. The battery lasts six hours for video (20 hours on standby) and you can back up photos direct to the drive using the SD card slot. From $180.
Withings has long been able to track your body with its smart scales and health monitors. Now it tracks your home with this Internet-connected camera. The Home records 1080p video and can alert you to movement via the iPhone app. It works as a security camera, but also as a life-cam, with a timeline mode that lets you make a video diary. It even monitors the air quality inside your home, and works as a baby monitor. If it made breakfast too, I’d marry it. $220
Wouldn’t it be great to use your Lightroom develop presets on iOS? Here’s how to make it happen. Photos: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac
I can’t tell you how much I love Adobe’s Lightroom Mobile. But like an insatiable lover, I want more. Specifically, I want to add my own presets. LR Mobile ships with a selection of the desktop app’s image presets built in, but unlike the desktop version, you can’t save your own settings as a preset, nor can you add any made by third parties. Or can you?
In this tutorial, we’ll see how to add any preset to Lightroom Mobile, using any and all of the image-editing tools available in the Mac version and making them available on iOS.
The Lensbaby LM-10, shot through a fisheye lens and two mirrors. Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac
I like the Lensbaby that I have for my regular camera, but I frikkin’ love the Lensbaby LM–10 for the iPhone. Like most things that make the trip from elsewhere to iOS, the little Lensbaby offers a subset of the original’s features, but they are – dare I say – a more focused set of features.
Let’s just say the iPhone Lensbaby is about the funnest iPhoneography accessory around.
The same photo, on all your machines: This is the future. Images: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac
OS X will get a new Photos app next year that will keep all your pictures in sync across all your devices. It will work with the iOS 8 Photos apps on iPhone and iPad to match up your full-res photographs, your albums and even the edits you make to your pictures.
The changes are a ways off, but fret not -– if you use Adobe’s Lightroom Mobile, you can enjoy this fabulous cross-platform photo synchronization right now.