12 top iOS 8 features: 1-6Tim Cook says that iOS 8 is "a giant release", and he isn't kidding: from the way your iOS device handles photos to the way you handle your everyday messages and calls, iOS 8 looks like it's going to be a big upgrade.
Some of the changes are relatively small - we doubt the prospect of seeing your recent and favourite contacts in the multitasking screen or seeing the iPhone's tab view on Safari will massively change your life - but others are a lot more exciting.
Here are the features you'll care about.
Interactive NotificationsYou're in the middle of something and a notification pops up. Instead of forcing you to leave the app you're in, iOS 8 enables you to process notifications without exiting the app.
You don't even need to unlock your device. Instead, a quick swipe displays your options: accept and decline for calendar notifications, a text entry field for SMS messages and so on.
More Spotlight resultsSpotlight search is taking on a more Siri-like flavour: in addition to the contents of your phone it can look for points of interest, app store results, iTunes songs (both in your library and in the wider iTunes catalogue), cinema listings and anything else you might conceivably be looking for.
Messages, Group Messages and Self-destructing messagesSMS messages are no longer limited to iOS devices packing SIM cards: if an SMS is sent to you, you'll be able to see it and reply to it on your iPad too (and on your Mac).
Group messages have been given a major update too. You can add people to and remove them from active conversations, share locations, see any images and attachments shared in the thread and best of all, turn on Do Not Disturb on a per-conversation basis if things are getting too chatty.
One of the most interesting new features is inline voice and video messaging, which enable you to send a quick voice or video clip that self-destructs at a time you choose.
Smarter SiriSiri gets its own version of "OK Google": "Hey, Siri" invokes Siri whenever you're within earshot. It boasts Shazam song recognition and the voice recognition engine now streams, so you can see the recognition as it goes along rather than wait until you've finished speaking. Siri gets 22 new dictation languages too.
Family SharingIf you've ever set up an iOS device for the kids you'll know how much of a pain it can be when you want to share a single iTunes account with the whole family.
No more. Family Sharing enables you to share your purchased content and shared media with up to six family members, and in a nice touch you can be asked permission when the kids attempt to spend half your wages on in-game Smurfberries.
And while we're on the subject of sharing, AirDrop now works between iOS devices and Macs.
The Health appIt's not called Healthbook any more and there's still no sign of the iWatch, but the rumoured health application is pretty much what we expected: it's a way for various third party devices, from Fuelbands to dedicated hospital apps, to share health data with your iOS device.
Apple promises that it will carefully protect your privacy, so apps will only be able to access health data you give them explicit permission to use. Here's hoping this one attracts more third-party support than Passbook did.
12 top iOS 8 features: 7-12
iCloud DriveiCloud gets new storage options - 5GB free, 20GB for 99c per month and 200GB for $3.99 per month - and new, simpler photo editing tools, and it also gets what looks rather like a Dropbox-style file system that enables you to share data between apps.
Edits are saved back to iCloud drive so they're available on your Mac, other iOS devices or Windows PC.
ContinuityIf this is as good as it looks, it's going to be amazing. With Continuity, your iOS devices and Macs know where they are and what you're doing, and you can hand over from one to another - so you can start writing an email on your iPhone and finish it on your Mac, or view a web page you've been looking at on Mac Safari and see it on your iPad.
In a really nice touch you can use your Mac as a speakerphone for your iPhone, even if your iPhone is in a different room charging.
Predictive typingWe've seen predictive typing on other platforms, of course, but Apple's version is context aware - so if you're replying to a message suggesting dinner or a movie, your typing suggestions will include "dinner" and "movie", and if you're replying to a tedious work message the available suggestions will use tedious work terms. iOS 8 will also, at last, support third party keyboards.
More efficient MailiOS Mail gets a few new gestures that make processing mail easier: you can swipe to mark messages as unread, swipe a bit more to flag them or swipe further still to delete them.
There's also an interesting solution to the problem of multitasking in Mail: if you want to refer to other messages while you're composing mail you can swipe the message down, browse your email to read or copy, and swipe it back up when you're ready to continue.
That'll make complex replies on iOS much more convenient.
Smarter home appsThe new HomeKit API is designed to make iOS the hub for all kinds of smart home equipment. Instead of multiple apps doing their own thing, Apple has created a platform for locks, lights, cameras, doors, thermostats, plugs and switches that groups devices together and controls them via Siri - so telling Siri "ready for bed" would turn off the lights and heating, arm the alarm and kill the TV.
If HomeKit is widely supported it could turn out to be a very big deal.