There’s a lot to iOS 8 in the broad strokes, but as any fan can tell you, when it comes to operating systems, it’s more about the little things. And this being Apple, there are a lot of little things. Like, for example, these features!

1. Swipe To Text

With the extensions and widgets, you can now, when you get a text, just swipe down from the notification and go straight into the text screen. It’s handy when you just need to send a quick message back…which is, let’s face it, most texts. You’d think it’s a minor thing, but it makes an enormous difference when you’re just trying to get a text message off your plate and move on to the next thing in your day.

2. Battery Usage By App

How much battery do your favorite apps burn? That’s not an idle question. Depending on where you go, what you do, and what apps you’re using, battery life can vary wildly, and figuring out which app was eating up the most power was a bit of a task. In iOS 8, it just meters every app you use and tells you, straight up, how much juice it’s consuming. For those who need long battery life, or just want to go longer between rechargings, it’s an invaluable bit of data, and can even influence which apps you put on your phone.

3. Proximity Based Lockscreen Alerts

Particularly odd in terms of being left out is the surprisingly handy feature of proximity lockscreen alerts. If you pull out your phone while, say, going through the mall, the icon of an app you can use nearby will appear on the lockscreen. It doesn’t sound like a big deal until you actually see it in action; if you’ve got a lot of utilitarian apps for, say, coupons or loyalty cards, knowing when to pull them out can make a big difference.

4. Better Camera Controls

Pardon my being a tiresome nerd here for a second, but smartphone cameras are terrible until you throw a few apps at them that actually let you tweak things like exposure. It’s true that great photography can be done on an iPhone, but it requires being a great photographer in the first place. So Apple making control of your exposure something you can actually do in camera, just by dragging your finger back and forth, is a truly wonderful thing. It means your pictures will still be snapshots, but slightly better snapshots.


5. Sidescrolling Contact Lists

Finally, there’s this. It’s hard to explain until you see it in action, but essentially, your contacts form a side-scrolling list that you can blast through, looking for a specific person and finding them with ease. It’s a surprisingly intuitive and simple system to use, and it makes finding somebody in your contact a genuinely easy and simple thing to do.

Not all of these features will make it into the final software released this fall. But if you’ve got an iDevice capable of running iOS 8, try these out; you might be surprised just how useful they are.

Dan Seitz

Dan Seitz is an obsessive nerd living in New England. He lives in the Boston area with a fiancee, a dog, a cat, and far too many objects with processors.