We're about three months from WWDC 2014, the conference where Apple is expected to announce iOS 8 and subsequently release it when it launches the iPhone 6 (or whatever they're planning to call the next flagship iPhone model). Apple plays its cards close to the chest and with iOS 8, as opposed to iPhone where supply chain leaks are possible, the secrecy is more guarded.
There are a few things we know about iOS 8 now thanks not just to speculations but to reliable sources cited by major publications. There are a lot of things we don't know about iOS 8 though. Apple made a huge, questionable jump from iOS 6 to 7 and one thing we know for sure is that it can't make that kind of a radical jump once more. So what's iOS 8 going to give us that would make it really impressive?
iOS 8 Release Date: September/October?
I think we can safely assume that Apple does have some kind of a pattern as far as iOS is concerned. The announcement for every new iOS happens at WWDC which happens in June every year. The release coincides with the annual device launch.
With iOS 8, the release date is most likely in the months of September or October. With speculations about iWatch release date and the run-ins with production issues rife, October seems a more likely candidate. But with no real concrete speculation backed by the pundits so far, I think it's too early to talk about iOS 8's release date.
Hardware Integration: iWatch, Health, M7, TouchID, CarPlay
What is more interesting and important to talk about is what iOS 8 brings to the table: the features, the interface, the way it works in tandem with the new things Apple is experimenting on.
One of the most blatantly-discernible features about iOS 8 is the kind of hardware integration that it should come with. We're looking at some really new things Apple is working on, ranging from the rumored iWatch/smartwatch to CarPlay.
But there are existing things that it will be tweaking: the M7 co-processor that it introduced in the new iPhone 5s and iPad Air and the TouchID. These are things that work under the hood and that means the differences/changes wouldn't be obvious or open. Configurations to the code, performance enhancements, new hardware capabilities mapped to new code in iOS 8 … these are things that are actually exciting to look forward to.
“Healthbook”: The iOS 8 App
If rumors are to be believed, Apple's and fitness just like so many of these Nike+ bands. While that's the hardware part of it, the software comes in the form of an iOS 8 app, according to earlier reports.
The Healthbook app, as it is dubbed for the moment, is the app that works in tandem with the iWatch/smartwatch. It has been rumored to have some really cool features like sleep tracking and, as widely speculative as it sounds, hydration tracking. These are new things for iOS and that it comes up as a new app should be exciting enough for enthusiasts.
Generally though, it isn't as exciting for folks who have already been using a lot of health/fitness-related apps coupled with hardware like Nike Fuelband.
iTunes Radio, Maps
Most recently, we heard speculation that Apple is testing iTunes Radio as a separate app. This could possibly mean that in iOS 8 we get to see a separate app for Radio but what UX decision is exactly pushing Apple in this direction is unclear.
iTunes Radio has demonstrated a successful run so far with a lot of users opting for it over other wildly-popular radio apps like Spotify and Pandora. Although iTunes Radio isn't going to put these startups out of business yet, it has definitely emerged as a winner in a short time. The success, however, is traceable to it being launched from Apple's platform and in a way that it integrates with your music almost seamlessly.
With a separate app, Apple could be looking at more features to add to iTunes Radio.
Maps on iOS 8 should be a whole lot different from iOS 7, in terms of data and a couple of new features. For starters, Apple has acquired a lot of companies involved in GPS and Navigation. This is to add to its navigation data and strengthen the native Maps app to compete with Google's Maps app. There are also new features like Public Transit Data in the new app.
The iOS 8 Interface
Besides concept videos and images, we have nothing on the table to hint at how rounded the icons are and what color palette Jony Ive and his team has chosen for iOS 8's interface. The shift from iOS 6 to iOS 7 has been so radical that there would be absolutely no jumps from here. iOS 8 will most likely resemble iOS 7.
There should be some major changes, yes, but the leap to Control Center and the flat-design is kind of sealed.