One of the new features in iOS is a significant overhaul of Messages, the built-in chat app that is also available on the Mac. In addition, the company has added abilities to the Notification Center service as well. The primary change in Notifications is that they are now interactive, allowing users to quickly reply to texted or emailed questions, or add invitations to Calendar. Messages now offers thread management, embedded audio and video, and more.
In addition to a new feature in OS X Yosemite that allows the Mac to leverage all of Messages' abilities (including a new phone ability), users can now embed audio or video messages directly into a chat, making all three communication methods available within texting. When an embedded audio message has been received on the lock screen, users can reply simply by raising the iPhone to their ear just as though it was a live phone call, and send an audio reply. A new sending interface makes it very efficient to record or send audio and video messages.
The interactivity of Notifications goes beyond quickly replying to a text. Onstage, SVP of Software Development Craig Federighi demonstrated an interactive Ebay widget that allowed him to be notified that he was outbid on an auction, and enter a new bid. Programs can offer widgets, which can be arranged in notification centre according to the users' priorities - effectively making Notification Center fully customizable beyond the default information.
Another feature in Messages is far more advanced thread management. A thread is created when a group of people collaborate in Messages. Very often, participants need to mute, manage or leave group conversations, and can now do that within Messages with more finesse than was previously possible.
In addition, Messages now offers QuickType predictive word suggestions, which take on their own context based on the tone of the conversation - for example, business discussions will produce more formal language suggestions, while chats with friends offer more casual language. Also, iOS 8 will formally support alternative and third-party keyboards, making texting even more productive for those used to options such as Swype.
Apple is releasing iOS 8 to developers today, and will make the final version available in "the fall" for consumers.