Apple's iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite bring design and features closer together

Apple has taken the wrappers off the next version of its computer and tablet/smartphone platforms: iOS 8 for the iPhone, iPad and iPad mini; and Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite for iMac and Mac Pro desktops, and MacBook and MacBook Pro laptops.

For every minute detail of the next versions of iOS and OS X, see our sister site Macworld – but here are the things that are likely going to matter most to you.

When can I get iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite?

Before we get onto the details, the first question is when can I get hold of iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite – or when do I have to make sure my apps are completely ready for Apple’s updates? iOS 8 is out in the autumn as a free update, though an iOS 8 beta and and SDK are available right now to developers.

OS X Yosemite will also ship in the autumn for free (as OS X 10.9 Mavericks was), and a developer version is available today.

What iPhones and iPads will support iOS 8?

Apple says iOS 8 will support  iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s, iPod touch 5th generation, iPad 2, iPad with Retina display, iPad Air, iPad mini and iPad mini with Retina display – though how it’ll run on older devices is anyone’s guess.

iOS 8: New Photos app

Apple has redesigned the Photos app so that it syncs with a similar app on your Mac using the new iCloud Drive online storage system. The idea is that your photos ‘live’ on the iCloud Drive, automatically uploaded from your phone (or iPad if you’re one of those weird people who take photos with their iPad) – and any adjustments to your photos made on your phone also sync across all of your devices.

How this works when you run out of space from your free 5GB iCloud Drive and don’t want to pay a monthly fee for more, hasn’t been announced.

New tools allow you to automatically straighten horizons.

iOS 8: Health for everyone

The HealthKit platform  is a single point-of-contact for health hardware devices and health apps, including (but not exclusive to) Apple's own Health app (above, second from left). It can access information from wearable heath devices from a variety of sources from multiple manufacturers – assuming those manufacturers build support for the app – but can also push information out to other applications: Apple gives an example of combining exercise information with sleep and nitration information in the Nike+ app.

In contrast to Samsung’s similar and just-announced Simband platform – which is directed through a smartwatch – the Health app lives on your phone. A mooted iWatch was nowhere to be seen.

More on HealthKit and the Health app

iOS 8: Control your house with HomeKit

One of the many new developer tools Apple unveiled Monday at the Worldwide Developer Conference is HomeKit, a new suite of tools that will let the makers of smart home products integrate their wares more deeply into Apple's mobile OS.

HomeKit is notable for what it isn't. Apple didn't pick one standard protocol for the industry to rally behind (at least not yet), like the way the company pushed adoption of USB by building it into the iMac. Apple didn't announce its own hub or gadget, like the Revolv, to bridge multiple device protocols. HomeKit isn't a single app on iOS, like Health or Passbook.

More on HomeKit

iOS 8: A Mail refresh

You can quickly move between the draft you’re writing and your Inbox to check things. There’s still no cure for ‘reply all when you mean to just reply’ though.

iOS 8: Quick(er)Type

Apple has upgraded the QuickType predictive text feature to be more personalised and context-sensitive. How effective this is will no doubt be a subject of much debate.

iOS 8 & OS X Yosemite: a new Swift programming language

Swift is a new programming language that can create apps for both iOS and OS X, and that Apple says is easier to work with than the current Objective-C. Apple says that Swift " combines the performance and efficiency of compiled languages with the simplicity and interactivity of popular scripting languages. By design, Swift helps developers write safer and more reliable code by eliminating entire categories of common programming errors.”

Swift code can work alongside Objective-C, so you don’t need to completely rewrite apps.

iOS 8 & OS X Yosemite: iCloud Drive

iCloud Drive opens up iCloud to be more like Dropbox or Google Drive, so you can use it as shared storage for any files you like. UK pricing hasn’t been announced, but in the US it will be $0.99 for 20GB and $3.99 for 200GB (both per month).

OS X Yosemite: a flat design comes to Mac OS X

Drawing on iOS 7, Yosemite has been given a user interface overhaul, rich with bright colors and translucent effects – plus numerous changes to the visual identity of almost every system app that brings them closer to their iOS counterparts. The interface now also comes with a "dark" mode, which dims system elements like the Menu and Dock and allows apps to be more prominent.

OS X Yosemite: a sleeker Safari

This may be the biggest change affecting digital designers. Safari now sports a slimmer interface that leaves more room for content, but there’s improved support for code such as CSS and WebGL. Again, the details are to follow.

OS X Yosemite: Answer your iPhone from your Mac (and see your texts too)

The integration between Apple's mobile and desktop operating systems now extends to the ability to easily share cellular phone calls and SMS messaging, with support for both baked right into OS X, which will be able to make and receive calls seamlessly, so long as an iPhone is within reach and paired via Bluetooth.

OS X Yosemite: Handoff to your iPhone, iPad or Mac

Yosemite debuts a feature that Apple calls Continuity. It allows your Mac desktop or laptop to detect other Apple devices in close proximity and share functionality and tasks in new ways.

Activity started on one device can be picked up easily on another. If you're looking at a Safari webpage in Yosemite on a Mac, for instance, and then pick up your iPad, swiping up on the screen of the iPad will load that same webpage there.

We’ll be exploring more of these features as they affect you, and discussing the design of OS X Yosemite with leading designers, over the next few days.

Additional reporting: James Niccolai and Marco Tabini

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