Eight Great Productivity-Boosting Features in iOS 8

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iOS 8

Did you get your new iPhone last week? Or upgrade your old one to iOS 8? Either way, you’re about to get a productivity boost.

Although the new operating system may not seem like the major overhaul that was iOS 7, it’s positively packed with small improvements. Here are eight that are guaranteed to help you work faster, easier, and smarter.

1. Faster, smarter keyboards

Swype for iOSMy favorite iOS 8 feature, bar none? Apple’s new keyboard, which not only attempts to predict the word you’re typing (and lets you tap it for instant completion once you spot the correct guess), but also guesses the word that comes next.

This is uncannily accurate. As you compose a sentence, you’ll find that the keyboard often requires just one or two letters of each word — and sometimes no letters at all.

What’s more, you can install third-party keyboards like SwiftKey and Swype (pictured) for gesture-powered typing, which I find vastly superior to tap-typing. Whatever you use, you’ll be amazed at how much more quickly you can enter text.

2. Hands-free Siri for the car

You know how you’re always topping off your iPhone’s battery when you’re in the car? Now there’s another benefit to mobile charging: Siri can recognize voice commands without you even touching your phone.

Just bark, “Hey, Siri,” and then say your command. This works only when the iPhone is plugged in, and only after enabling the option via Settings, General, Siri. It’s not only a time-saver, but also potentially a life-saver. Now you can keep both hands on the wheel.

3. Audio messaging

Don’t have time to tap out a lengthy text message? Dictate it instead. In iOS 8, simply tap and hold the microphone icon next to the message field, speak your piece, then drag your finger up to send it.

4. The “Recents” Menu

iOS 8 Recents MenuiOS still doesn’t let you add individual contacts to your Home screen, but there’s this: When you double-tap the Home button, which brings up the running-apps menu, you’ll now see a scrolling bar of “recent” contacts across the top. That’s a lightning-fast way to redial or re-message someone you just dialed or messaged.

And, bonus, if you swipe that bar to the right, you’ll see it switches to your Favorites list of contacts. The only tricky part is remembering this menu is there. Once you do, you’ll find yourself connecting to people much more quickly.

5. Smarter Spotlight search

iOS 8 Spotlight SearchSpotlight has always been an iOS underdog, an underutilized feature that’s really quite powerful. In iOS 8, it’s even better. Instead of limiting results to local data, Spotlight can now search across the App Store, iTunes and the Internet.

If you want to find the nearest Starbucks, just swipe down (from below the very top of the screen), then type “Starbucks.” You’ll see that Spotlight shows not only the installed Starbucks app, but also a Maps entry. Tap it and, presto, you’re on your way.

6. The Evernote widget

If you live and die by Evernote (and you should), you’ll love the addition of widgets to iOS 8’s Today menu (accessed by swiping down from the top of the Home screen). Specifically, the Evernote widget lets you create all kinds of new notes — text, photo, list — with just one tap. That’s certainly quicker than finding the Evernote icon, loading the app, then choosing the kind of note you want.

7. Interactive notifications

It has always been fairly ridiculous that when you receive a text message, you have to open the Messages app to send a reply. Now, thanks to interactive notifications, you can interact with all sorts of notifications — text message, email, reminders, social media updates — with just a swipe. No need to go past the lock screen. Woot!

8. Mo’ better Mail

iOS 8 Mail swipeThird-party app Mailbox earned kudos last year for offering various swipe-based actions that help you zip through your inbox, deleting, flagging or replying to messages much faster than you could ever hope to in the stock Mail app.

Now, ahem, the stock Mail app does exactly the same thing. From your inbox, swipe left for one-tap More, Flag and Trash buttons. Swipe right for Mark as Read (or Mark as Unread, as appropriate). And you can customize the available swipe options from within Settings. After the aforementioned keyboards, this may be iOS 8’s biggest productivity booster.

What is your favorite feature? Sound off in the comments.

Photo credits: Apple, Nuance, Rick Broida

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