Five iOS 8 features I can't wait to use

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There are so many fantastic developments coming down the Apple pipeline in the fall, it’s hard to single out just a few—but I’m going to try, because some of the company’s smaller iOS 8 improvements are features I’ve been itching to see on my iPhone for years. It’s enough to tempt a girl to install the developer beta on her iOS device. (Of course, even if said girl were silly enough to do such a thing, I’d like to take a moment and remind our lovely readers that this is not recommended if you value a working phone.) There are a bunch on my “can’t wait to use” list, but here are my personal top five.

Hey Siri, turn on my lights

In iOS 8, not only is Siri going to always be listening for your commands while plugged in, but if you have a HomeKit-enabled smart home accessory, Siri can potentially lock your doors, adjust your lighting, and more.

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This says “home of the future” to me in a way clap-on-clap-off lights never did—and the “Hey Siri” part of this should make your voice-activated assistant a bit easier to use in the car, too.

QuickType and third-party keyboards: So long, typos

Save for an iOS 7 face lift, the iOS keyboard has essentially stayed the same throughout its entire lifespan. It’s been more than functional, as digital keyboards go, but it hasn’t really gotten much love from Apple’s feature department. Enter QuickType and support for third-party keyboards: Both look to revamp your typing experience in iOS 8 in very different ways.

QuickType isn’t necessarily a revolutionary feature so much as it is an adaptive one—it takes the autocorrection iOS was already attempting to do behind the scenes and lets you actively pick the proper word (one of three) for your sentence. It also bases its prediction on conversation context—so it won’t prompt you with “Rad!”, say, if you’re replying to your mother about her new watch. While I imagine I’ll probably continue to do the majority of my typing the old-fashioned way, it’s nice to have options available for typing overly long words or very specific phrases.

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Third-party keyboards are the thing that really got me itching for fall, though—I’ve tinkered with Swype’s take and love it, and there are all sorts of brilliant ideas just waiting to be built: a keyboard with nothing but emoji packs? a keyboard with a big fat microphone button, to ease the use of dictation? The sky’s the limit.

All your photos in the cloud

I’ve tried a bunch of here-today, gone-tomorrow online photos services, and while some (Loom, for example) were promising, almost all of them got gobbled up by one of the major tech companies. As one of said major companies, Apple is in no danger of getting acquired, which means it might just be the first feasible location to store my images online.

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Photo Stream was a good start, but its 1000-image limit and confusing duplicate issue kept me from properly utilizing it the way I wanted to. With iCloud Photo Library, any image you take or save on your iOS device is instantly saved privately online—assuming you have the space. I’ll happily pay $10-per-month to keep my digital memories safe, especially considering that the company has plans to bring the Photos app—and iCloud Photo Library with it—to the Mac in 2015.

From iPhone to iMac, in a flash

It’s no secret that I’m intrigued by Apple’s Continuity framework: It’s a fascinating move by the company to move our computing to whatever device we deem necessary at the time. I have no idea if Handoff—which passes things like your email, Safari windows, documents, and more from your Mac to your iOS devices, or vice versa—will be as reliable as Apple promises, but the potential is there in spades.

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It’s especially exciting that the Continuity framework is open to third-party developers; usually, Apple limits new (and potentially breakable) technologies to its own apps for a year, but when it launches in the fall, Continuity should be backed by third-party apps on your Mac, iPhone, and iPad.

New, smart gestures and buttons

Apple’s Multi-Touch gestures have always been excellent at not only feeling natural, but being useful as well. And while we’re not getting an iPhone version of the iPad’s multitasking gestures in iOS 8, Apple will still pack in a couple of smart additions.

The pull-down gesture, originally built to enable Spotlight or Notification Center, is going to get even more to do in iOS 8: You’ll be able to pull down on notifications to quickly reply to a message or like an Instagram photo, or even enter text into a third-party app.

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And swipe gestures seem to be broken down into two categories: short and long swipes. Longer, faster swipes will engage different actions in places like Mail than a short swipe might; you can swipe briefly on a message to showcase the Trash option, for example, but a long swipe will automatically delete that email.

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