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iOS 8: Top 10 Features

Apple's newly announced iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus have the world of tech buzzing, but some of the company's most exciting new software updates can be enjoyed on a range of Apple devices. Launching on Sept. 17 iPhone 4s and up, iPad 2 and up and the 5th-gen iPod Touch will all get some iOS 8 love. The updated OS introduces some new first party apps into Apple's rich ecosystem, while making some big improvements on the ones we already know and love. Here are some iOS 8 features we absolutely can't wait to try out.

Health and HealthKit

From the moment the software was announced this year, iOS 8 has become synonymous with fitness. The software update introduces a new Health app, which allows you to create detailed logs for your daily fitness, nutrition and sleep habits, as well as a digital emergency card that can be accessed from your phone's lock screen if you get sick. There's also the larger HealthKit interface, which will serve as a streamlined hub gathered from all of your fitness gadgets and apps. Bonus: If you pop for the $349 Apple Watch (previously rumored to be the iWatch) you'll get even more goodies out of the Health app.

Third-Party Keyboards

Android users have enjoyed the freedom to choose their own keyboard for years, and now Apple is finally giving its customers the chance to download the keyboard that best suits their typing habits. The default iOS keyboard is also getting a boost, with contextual, predictive texting that offers suggestions based on the exact person you're talking to. For those who upgrade to the iPhone 6 Plus, the keyboard has so much extra space you even get dedicated keys for cut, copy and paste.  

MORE: Apple Event Recap: iPhone 6, Apple Watch and Apple Pay

Control the Home with HomeKit

Just as HealthKit demonstrates Apple's awareness of the wearable and fitness spaces, HomeKit shows that Apple is prepared for a Smart Home future. The HomeKit infrastructure allows home appliance makers to make their gadgets iOS-compatible, and, with partners like Philips and Withings already onboard, you can expect to use your iPhone to turn on the lights or open the garage door in the near future. Plus, some of these smart home gadgets will be able to be controlled from the Apple Watch.

Interactive Notifications

Ever ignore a big text message because you're simply in the zone playing Candy Crush and don't want to close the app? With iOS 8's interactive notifications, you won't have to. Drop down notifications are now actionable, so you can answer a text, retweet a tweet or accept an invitation without having to switch apps.

Getting Serious About Siri

Apple's virtual voice assistant Siri has improved with every major iOS update, and iOS 8 is no exception. You'll now be able to activate Siri hands-free by simply saying "Hey Siri," and the companion will be able to recognize songs on Shazam and allow you to buy iTunes tracks with your voice alone.

iOS 7's Spotlight Search was a great way to quickly find apps, and it will do much more in iOS 8. Once you swipe the Spotlight bar down from the top of the screen, you'll be able to search for restaurants, news stories, landmarks, music (both local and from iTunes) and even movie times -- all from the same search bar.

Improved Photos and Camera Apps

Even if you aren't getting an iPhone 6 with an enhanced iSight camera, there's plenty of photo functionality to enjoy with iOS 8. The Photos app has been updated to automatically straighten pictures, and new editing tools will allow you to adjust things like brightness, exposure and shadows with a few taps of your thumb. Apps will have more control over your camera with iOS 8, meaning you can look forward to software that lets you adjust focus and ISO to your specific preferences.

MORE: iPhone 6 Might Be Best Pocket Camera You Can Buy

Family Sharing

Apple is aware that many families have multiple iOS devices, and has made sharing content across those devices easier than ever. With iOS 8's Family Sharing function, you can share content from iTunes, iBooks and the App Store across six different Apple accounts. The feature extends past paid content, as family members can use shared photo albums and calendars to keep each other in the loop.

A Better Way to Message

It doesn't take long for a group text conversation to devolve into a jumbled mess, but iOS 8 can fix that. Group chats can now be given a room name, like "Family" or "College Buddies," and you can add and remove users from the text chain at will. Find the constant texts too pesky? You can mute the conversation or leave it entirely in iOS 8. Sharing content via text has also gotten easier; you can now shoot a video for a friend on the spot or send someone your location with a tap of the screen.

Seamless Interaction With Your Mac

With the arrival of iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, your Apple mobile device will work better than ever with your Mac. The new handoff feature lets you start writing an email or text message on your phone and finish it on your MacBook (or vice versa), and, when synced up, you can even make calls right from your Mac.

Mike Andronico is an Associate Editor at Tom's Guide. He's leaning towards an iPhone 6 Plus. Follow Mike @MikeAndronico and on Google+. Follow us @TomsGuide, on Facebook and on Google+