Apple introduces new health, messaging features for mobile

Company releases iOS 8 at its annual developer conference in San Francisco

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SAN FRANCISCO — Apple today introduced new health and messaging features for the software powering the iPhone and iPad, laying the groundwork for a busy second half of the year as the company works to emerge from a stretch of slowing growth.

Apple released new mobile software, called iOS 8, at its annual developer conference in San Francisco. The software includes HealthKit, which lets people monitor their health and acts as a data hub for fitness apps. The company also showed products called ICloud Drive and Maildrop for storing and sending files, and an updated version of its Mac operating system dubbed Yosemite.

As smartphones and tablets with similar shapes and designs proliferate globally, Apple, Google, Samsung and other technology companies are focused on differentiating their products through software and services that run on the devices. The release of its new tools today shows how Apple is increasingly positioning its gadgets to be more of a hub for people’s lives, such as tracking fitness activity.

The updates offer a glimpse of Apple’s direction since the death of co-founder Steve Jobs in 2011. With iPhone and iPad sales no longer the source of growth they once were, Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook has been under pressure to deliver another hit.

The event follows last week’s announcement that Apple is buying headphones and music-streaming company Beats Electronics for $3 billion, another move to rev up growth. The company plans to keep the music and headphones products as a separate brand, a first for Apple, and the deal brings on board music- industry veteran Jimmy Iovine and musical artist Dr. Dre. Iovine was among the attendees at Monday’s event, which is Apple’s 25th developer conference.

While Apple’s hardware is widely praised for its elegant and simple design, the reception to its suite of services for maps, photo organization and text messaging, among others, has been mixed.

Apple said its new mobile software will be available this fall. It includes health-tracking software, which shows the company’s growing interest in wearable technologies. Apple has been developing its own wristwatch-like wearable device and hiring people with experience developing health-related products. Apple said it is working with Nike and Mayo Clinic on the health software.

“We think this is going to be really important for health care,” Apple Senior Vice President Craig Federighi said at the event.

Apple, which has faced criticism from developers who said their apps are hard to find in the company’s crowded App Store, also displayed new search tools, new testing features, and new previews so developers can make short videos to showcase their apps.

The company also added ways for apps to work more closely with each other — for example, a photo edited in one app can be quickly added to another one. The programs are currently isolated so data can’t be shared with another tool.

Apple also showed new mobile search features that give customers direct links to relevant Web pages if they are making certain common queries, which will let a user avoid Google. The company added new text messaging features, including a predictive typing tool. Apple also introduced a new feature to help people store more photos on their iPhones, by letting customers store all their pictures on the company’s servers.

The company’s rivalry with Google was evident. Cook made several digs at Google’s Android mobile software, including criticizing it for having weak security.

Many of today’s announcements also focused on making iPhones, iPads and Macs work more seamlessly together — be they text messages, constructing documents or making phone calls. The new Mac software has a feature called Handoff, which makes it easier to work on documents between Macs, iPhones and iPads. It also includes ways to receive and make calls from the Mac if an iPhone is charging or isn’t available.

To show off the new ways to make a phone call using a Mac, Federighi called Dr. Dre using the computer with updated software.

“I can’t wait to get to work for the team at Apple,” Dr. Dre said during the call. “What time should I get in to work?”

With ICloud Drive and Maildrop, Apple is set to compete more with Dropbox Inc. and other similar services. Using ICloud Drive, Apple will save a person’s files on its servers so they can be accessed from any device. The mail service Maildrop makes it easier to send large files.

“You now have a great way to work across applications,” Federighi said.