Apple iPhone 6 And iPhone 6 Plus Review

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iOS 8's Application Extensions

Last year, with iOS 7, Apple overhauled the appearance of its mobile operating system for the first time since its inception. It was a striking, drastic departure from the skeuomorphic design language used in previous versions and easily recognizable at a glance. The changes in iOS 8, launching alongside the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, while not immediately noticeable, are just as significant. Sitting below the now familiar facade, which receives only minor tweaks, is a wealth of opportunity for developers. Rather than building the walls surrounding the OS core higher, Apple has been busy building doors and allowing third-party apps supervised access into the forbidden zone.

Application Extensions: Powering iOS 8’s Biggest New Features

In iOS, all apps run inside a sandbox, which, among other things, means third-party apps can’t communicate with other apps or access their data. While good for security, this barrier hinders productivity. For example, moving files between two apps requires a third app or service to act as an intermediary, like emailing yourself a file and using the "Open In..." option or uploading the file to Dropbox. Apple’s new doorways, or application extensions, circumvent this cumbersome process by allowing apps to provide additional functionality within other apps and to access files outside of its own sandbox directly.

Many of iOS 8’s new features are enabled by these application extensions. The action extension allows an app to manipulate data within another app, somewhat analogous to a Web browser plug-in. During the WWDC keynote presentation, Apple demonstrated this extension by using Bing Translate inside Safari to translate the text of a webpage.

The photo editing extension is a more specialized version of the action extension, allowing a third-party app to edit a photo or video inside the Photos app. Another specialized extension, which enables one of iOS 8’s most anticipated features, is custom keyboard. This provides the ability to replace Apple’s default keyboard with a third-party keyboard, system-wide. Now iOS users, envious of Android’s keyboard selection, get to Swype away impediments to text entry with a keyboard of their choice.

iOS 8 Home screen (left) and the Today view showing widgets for eWeather HD and Evernote (right)

Widgets, another staple Android feature, finally make their debut in iOS thanks to the today extension. Unlike Android, which places its widgets on the home screen, iOS 8 widgets live within the Today view in the Notification Center shade. Widgets can be added, removed and reordered by tapping the Edit button at the bottom of the screen in Today view. Any installed apps that offer widget functionality automatically appear in this list and must be manually enabled. Apple’s decision to place widgets in the Notification Center keeps the home screen uncluttered, but does require an extra step to view them, an inconvenience slightly offset by having access to them from the lock screen.

After opening the Notification Center, there may be a slight delay for a widget to update its information. This is due to the strict memory policy Apple places on widgets to keep them from draining the battery or impacting performance. Even though extensions, including widgets, are packaged inside a containing app, they are separate binaries that run independently of the containing app. Thus, iOS can start and stop widgets and manage their memory space separately from the app providing the widget.

iOS 8 share extension: Share a photo with Evernote. Tapping “More” allows customizing the apps that show in the menu and allows them to be reordered.

The share extension makes it easier to share pictures, links and files with online services from within apps. Previously, iOS allowed posting to Facebook and Twitter from any app, but uploading a file to a service like Dropbox required each developer to include Dropbox API support within their app. This method placed a burden on programmers to try and include support for the myriad services on the Web—clearly impractical—and led to frustrated users whose preferred service wasn’t supported by all of their apps. With share extensions, however, a service provider like Google can create an extension for the Google Drive app that instantly gives all apps the ability to upload to Google Drive through the Share menu.

The Storage Provider extension, which simplifies sharing documents between apps, has the potential to be the most useful. A first for iOS, users can now edit the same document with multiple apps, without multiple step file transfers and creating copies of the document in each app. Similar to the share extension, an app with a Storage Provider extension appears in the Document Picker interface when creating or opening a file. For example, installing Microsoft’s OneDrive app adds OneDrive to the Document Picker interface and allow access to files from within any installed app instantly.

It should be noted that, within iOS 8, an app still can’t directly access the storage container of a different app. For this to happen, the app that initially creates the files must mark its container public so that the Document Picker can discover its files. Any apps with public containers then show up in Document Picker if the app trying to access the files supports the requisite file type.

The Document Picker actually runs “out-of-process” so that it can see all public containers. It also serves as the security guard for the doorway between apps. When accessing a file within another app’s public container, it’s the other app’s Document Picker (not the host or calling app) that performs the actions on the file, like moving it to the host app for editing. When this happens, the Document Picker returns a “security scoped” URL informing the kernel and host app that it’s allowed to open and edit the file.

The Storage Provider extension also handles the file state while sharing the file between apps, including file bookmarking, so when you leave a document in one app, you can open it in another app and continue where you left off.

  • manez
    I can think of a thousand more interesting things to review than the newest iphone x.
  • blackmagnum
    Everyone would want to own one and be the envy of their peers. They want a device that is attractive, well-made and intuitive. That's how Apple sells them by the millions, don't you agree?
  • lanbaner
    Nvidia has a better GPU. The G3 has a better display. The Note 4 has better camera. Gone are the days were the iPhone was the leader on all fronts. Would be nice to see all the strengths from the competition in one phone. Considering the transition to 20nm for Maxwell early next year we could possibly see an iPhonekiller on all aspects. Although I have to agree that the build quality on the iPhones is always top notch.
  • M3God
    Other then just sticking to just 1GB internal memory, there is no mention that apple switched to cheaper and slower TLC memory to make more profits while screwing the customer. The TLC memory has been linked to crashes and bootloops that require a trip to the apple store.
  • aaaas
    I browse the Web and talk on the phone on Verizon all the time. At least the last two generations of devices have been able to do this... at least for android...

    Interesting article, as I've been considering a switch to iphone.
  • KaptainK
    " Wi-Fi calling is currently only supported by T-Mobile in the U.S."

    Not True! Republic Wireless has been using wi-fi calling for years. Republic also includes a feature where it will hand the call off from wi-fi to cellular if you leave the wi-fi zone during the call. Does the iPhone do this??
  • cknobman
    A. Thanks for including the Lumia 1520 in the comparison chart of phablets, most other sites dont do this.

    B. The price for the 6 plus in that same chart ($299) is on contract while every other device price is off contract.

    As a whole if you are an iPhone user I am sure you are happy with the changes made to the 6. Outside of that the iPhone "cool factor" ship has sailed and this wont be winning over many Android users.
  • cmi86
    How can this guy sit here and hump apples leg by saying the A8 should be competitive if not class leading when it's competition averages over 1Ghz higher clock speed and 2 more cores.... I know a lot of people doing reviews now a days feel obligated to shine up certain companies and make their products appear in a positive light. This is not that... this is a blatant lie.
  • SirKnobsworth
    How can this guy sit here and hump apples leg by saying the A8 should be competitive if not class leading when it's competition averages over 1Ghz higher clock speed and 2 more cores.... I know a lot of people doing reviews now a days feel obligated to shine up certain companies and make their products appear in a positive light. This is not that... this is a blatant lie.
    Clock speeds and core counts can be deceptive, the key point here being that Apple's Cyclone cores can execute about twice as many instructions per clock cycle as most of their competitors. This shows up in the benchmarks - the iPhone 6 and 6+ do very well in single threaded tests, though tend to lag behind competitors in multithreaded tests like physics. Note that this is also the approach that Nvidia is taking with their Denver cores - fewer, bigger cores as opposed to more small cores.

    How this translates into actual performance will vary of course - most smartphone workflows aren't particularly well threaded so having four cores as opposed to two probably won't make a huge difference in many situations, but I'm sure there are plenty of exceptions.
  • ZXS
    Due to their zero reading on the black level tests, AMOLED displays are said to have an infinite contrast ratio.

    MATT, do you know this is Samsung's marketing BS?

    Smartphone displays reflect about 6% of incoming light (which is much more than LCD backlight emits). Actual contrast of AMOLED is worse than that of LCD since the reflections are so high, but maximum brightness is much lower than that of LCD.