The best iOS 8 features you may not know about

Apple's new update brings big changes, but also some great small ones


Apple's latest iOS update is here, and it's full of new features. The company has showcased plenty of the changes already: better photo editing, easy-to-send voice messages, a smarter keyboard, fitness tracking, and the list goes on and on. It's so long, in fact, that we've gathered some of iOS 8's lesser known features here to make sure you don't miss them as you get familiar with the new software today. Improvements are everywhere, and many of them aren't immediately obvious. We'll have a full review of iOS 8 soon, but for now hopefully you'll find something here you didn't know about before.

Camera: Manual exposure slider

iOS 8 camera manual
Okay, maybe this one's pretty easy to find, but it's still incredibly useful. Your iPhone's camera is usually pretty good about hitting the right exposure after you've tapped to focus on a subject. But if it's not perfect — or if you're going for a certain look — you can choose to brighten or darken the exposure yourself just by dragging the sun icon next to the focus square. Up to boost the exposure, or down to lower it. And it works nicely with the camera's AE/AF lock mode which is triggered when you hold a finger down on the screen when focusing.

See which apps are hogging battery

iOS 8 battery EMBARGOED
iOS now tells you which apps are draining your battery the most. The list is buried a bit in settings, however. Tap general, then usage, and finally battery usage for a look at power stats. You can choose to see which apps have used the most juice over the last 24 hours, or tap over to "last 7 days" for a longer look at what's been eating up your iPhone or iPad's battery.

See every attachment from every conversation

iOS 8 Messages details
The new "details" section of Messages is pretty great for one key reason: you can now review all of the attachments that have been exchanged in each of your conversations on a single screen. You'll see both images and videos you've sent as well as those received. And the archive goes back a long way — assuming you haven't previously deleted your message history. But if you do need to free up space, the details view makes it even easier because you can just tap and hold on any attachment to erase it from your device (and iCloud backups, where all those meme photos can eat up storage space.)

A far more powerful Spotlight

iOS 8 Spotlight
Maybe you've ignored Spotlight until now. But if so, it's time to start using it. Once you do, you'll quickly get hooked. Apple's built-in search tool, which can be accessed by swiping down on any home screen, is now incredibly powerful and genuinely helpful. It'll display Wikipedia snippets, suggested websites, content from iTunes and the App Store, local movie times, and more based on your search queries. And it can also dig through your message history, email, and reminders — with instant results.

View RSS feeds in Safari's Shared Links

RSS Safari
Who says RSS is dead? You can easily subscribe to feeds from your favorite sites and have them appear alongside Twitter activity in Safari's "Shared Links" pane. Adding a subscription is easy enough; visit the site you want to keep up with in Safari, and then just hit the bookmarks icon, tap the @ symbol, and you'll find subscriptions at the bottom. You can't rename feeds or customize them in any way, but there are dedicated RSS readers for that sort of thing. Just know that getting to your feeds takes a bit of scrolling; Apple seems to prioritize social accounts over RSS.

Request desktop sites in Safari

iOS 8 request desktop EMBARGOED
"Mobile" websites can be truly awful sometimes, so with iOS 8, Apple is finally giving you the option to specifically request the desktop version of any page you're on. It's something that's long been available on Android — and even in Chrome for iOS. But it's very nice that Apple's own browser can now help you avoid terrible sites that look like they were designed for the original iPhone. Yet again, this handy feature isn't in an obvious spot. Tap on the URL / search bar (as though you were leaving the current website) and then drag down to expose the "request desktop site" option.

"Hey, Siri"

Hey Siri iOS 8
Yes, this is absolutely an "OK Google" clone, but that doesn't make it any less useful. So long as your iOS device is plugged in, you can now launch Siri just by calling out "Hey, Siri." Just visit Siri's settings to switch this feature on. Presumably the power requirement comes because iOS is constantly listening for the right phrase, but since most people will probably use this in the car or when their phone's charging on a night stand, it shouldn't be a big inconvenience.

Search popular websites instantly

iOS 8 quick website
Now here's a super useful thing that most people will probably never even know about. If you go into Safari's settings, there's a new "Quick Website Search" feature. Whenever you search a website (Amazon, IMDB, etc.), Safari remembers that. So from then on, you can just launch a Safari search, type out "amazon" ahead of your search term, and Safari will offer to (instantly) search the website itself.

Rearrange where you share

iOS 8 share sheet
For the first time, you can now make iOS feel more like yours by rearranging the system's share sheet to give priority to apps you use most often. Are you a Pinterest fanatic? Now you can move it to the front — even ahead of Apple's own messaging and email apps — so you can easily get there without swiping. To customize the list, just tap the "more" icon anytime the share menu pops up. The same reordering can be done for actions at the bottom like "add bookmark" or "use as wallpaper" depending on what you're trying to share.

Set up a Medical ID

iOS 8 medical ID
We saved the most important one for last. This simple feature could help save your life, and that's not really much of an exaggeration. Even if you don't ever plan to use Apple's other health features, you absolutely should set up a Medical ID card after installing iOS 8. It's an easy reference for any medical conditions you might have, allergies, your preferred emergency contacts, and more. And it can be accessed from the lock screen by visiting the emergency dialer section. Hopefully emergency personnel will know to start looking there should the need ever arise.