Apple iOS 8's 12 Best Business Features

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Apple spent only a minute or so of its two-hour WWDC keynote discussing the enterprise features in its upcoming iOS 8 mobile OS, which is set for release this fall. The response from the crowd after the business announcements was notably tame compared to the roars that followed many of the other announcements. The fact is, iOS 8 actually packs a set of valuable new features that demonstrate Apple's strengthening relationship with the enterprise and with business users.

Though Apple dedicated a short amount of time to the enterprise, some of the most exciting consumer features will also be valuable to business users. Here's a look at 12 of the most notable new iOS 8 features for enterprises and corporate users.

New IT Security Features in iOS 8

1) iOS 8 and Message-Specific Encryption

The new version of iOS lets users encrypt individual email messages when they want the added protection, using S/MIME. If youre sending sensitive information in an email and you want the peace of mind that your content is safe, you can encrypted those messages without having to encrypt all of your less sensitive correspondence. To enable encryption, you just check an option on the Compose Message screen.

[Related: Coming in iOS 8: Apple Knows You So Well it Can Finish Your Sentences]

2) iOS 8 and Passcode Lock for More Apps

In iOS 8, mail, third-party apps, calendar, contacts, reminders, notes, messages and all user credentials are password-locked after a reboot. You cant access the data or see related notifications until you unlock the device. This provides an additional layer of data protection for iOS devices following reboots.

3) iOS 8 and New MDM Tools

Apple's iOS 8 will support a number of new IT policies to give administrators additional tools for deploying, managing and removing books, PDFs and other documents. IT also gets new control over files downloaded from corporate domains using the iOS Safari browser and documents stored in iCloud, and admins will be able to restrict the applications that can be used to open those files.

IT can also remotely set device names, stop users from enabling their own restrictions and block the device wipe feature. A new backup-monitoring feature gives IT insight into the last time users backed up their data.

Corporate iOS 8 users also get a new setting that lets them see some of the specific IT policies that have been applied to their devices, so they can understand restrictions and the associated limitations.

iOS 8 and Wireless Service Fees

4) iOS 8 and Wi-Fi Calling

Apple very quietly announced support for Wi-Fi calling in iOS 8, but the feature could be truly valuable to enterprises looking to reduce, or in some cases eliminate, wireless calling fees. Anywhere a business user has access to Wi-Fi, he could potentially place a phone call without incurring charges. That means no more calling fees while in offices with Wi-Fi. The feature is particularly valuable for frequent international travelers, who may incur large fees for roaming or occasionally find themselves with poor or nonexistent network coverage. (Wi-Fi calling is not new, nor is it unique to iOS 8, but Apple devices have never supported it.)

So far, T-Mobile is the only U.S. wireless carrier to express its support for iOS Wi-Fi calling, but other major carriers could follow suit some time this summer.

New Productivity Features in iOS 8

5) Enhanced iOS 8 Mail App

Apple made a ton of notable enhancements to the Mail app in iOS 8 and added a number of new features.

For example, its now easier to mark messages as read/unread or flag them for follow-up using swipe gestures. The VIP Threads feature lets you mark certain conversations as urgent and then receive specific notifications for those threads, while a dedicated VIP Threads mailbox lets you quickly see only the most important conversations without sifting through all other messages.

External email addresses can be set to display in red, so users know whenever theyre sending messages to recipients outside of their organizations. Exchange users can now manage out-of-office settings using iOS, too. Its also easier to quickly add reservations, flight confirmations and phone numbers that appear in messages to your calendar with a tap.

6) Enhanced iOS 8 Calendar App

Apple added enhanced availability functionality to the iOS 8 Calendar, so its easier to view coworker free/busy status when scheduling meetings. New meetings can be marked as private, and iOS users have more control over granular meeting settings, such the ability to create repeat meetings at certain intervals. A new Calendar setting lets a user quickly send a message to all meeting attendees to, say, provide a quick update before the event starts.

7) iOS 8 and Cloud Enhancements

Apple's iOS 8 makes it simpler to work on a variety of document types across Apple and Windows devices. Apple said iCloud Drive now integrates with some third-party cloud services, but it didn't specify which companies. (A screen shot on Apple's website shows icons for Box and OneDrive in the context of iCloud Drive, which seems to suggest they're are two of the supported Cloud services.)

From Apple:

"Third-party document apps can make documents available to other apps more easily than ever -- without making unnecessary copies. So if you have an app that can access your corporate file servers, you can get to the document you need right from the app you want to edit it in."

8) iOS 8 Enhanced Messages

Apple's Messages app gets a significant upgrade in iOS 8. In addition to new voice/sound note, video message and location-sharing features, users get more advanced control over how to respond to and receive notifications for group messages. For example, you can quickly add and drop recipients from group messages and leave any conversation whenever you're ready. The ability to add names to conversations makes it simpler to monitor specific threads and avoid others.

9) iOS 8 Interactive Notifications

One of the most simple but truly valuable additions to iOS 8 are interactive notifications. These let you quickly respond to mail, messages, calendar invites, reminders and compatible apps without ever leaving the app you're in. If you're composing a Mail message and get a social network friend request, you can simply tap the dropdown notification to accept the request and get right back to your message.

[Related: Coming in iOS 8: Apple Knows You So Well it Can Finish Your Sentences]

10) iOS 8 Multitasking with Recent and Favorite Contacts

iOS users can currently access a multitasking feature that lets them quickly navigate open apps by tapping the home button twice. In iOS 8, a Recent and Favorite contact bar appears atop the multitasking panes. With a tap of the contact image, you can quickly initiate a phone call, text message or FaceTime video chat.

11) iOS 8 Keyboard Enhancements

Apple is bringing a revamped keyboard to iOS 8. To speed up and ease the touch-type process, predictive text features will suggest the next words you're likely to type. The QuickType keyboard "learns" and eventually suggests words and phrases based on messages you've composed in the past.

Predictive text keyboards aren't new, and other major mobile software, including Android and BlackBerry, have had predictive options for years. Still, QuickType could vastly improve the typing experience on Apple devices.

Perhaps even more notable is the fact that Apple is now letting iOS users install third-party keyboard apps -- something it strongly opposed in the past. With iOS 8, Apple users will be able to experiment with a variety of keyboard options and then choose the one that works best for them, instead of being forced to use Apple's keyboard.

12) iOS 8 Integration with OS X 'Yosemite'

Apple's iOS 8 is designed to work together with the upcoming "Yosemite" desktop Mac OS, also due this fall, in a number of notable new ways. Corporate Mac users stand to benefit from the enhancements.

For example, business users with Macs or iPads will be able to answer phone calls, through their iPhones, using their computers or tablets, as long as they're on the same Wi-Fi network. Plus, users can respond to text messages from any of their contacts, whether or not they use Apple devices, via Mac or iPad.

A unique new Handoffs feature means iOS users can start composing messages on one mobile device and then pick them up and send them using another Mac. Handoff also works with a variety of additional apps including the Safari browser, and all of Apple's productivity and PIM apps, assuming all of the user's Apple devices are signed into the same iCloud account.

Read more about the upcoming integration of iOS and Mac OS X Yosemite on Apple's website.

Apple's iOS 8 software is set for release some time this fall, and it will be available for iPhone (4s, 5s), iPod touch (fifth generation) and iPad (iPad 2, iPad mini with Retina display). Visit Apple's iOS 8 page for more details.

AS

Al Sacco covers Mobile and Wireless for CIO.com. Follow Al on Twitter @ASacco. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline, Facebook, Google + and LinkedIn.

This story, "Apple iOS 8's 12 Best Business Features" was originally published by CIO .

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