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VENICE BEACH, Calif. — Along with a new iPhone next week, you can count on an upgrade to the iOS mobile operating system, which brings new features to iPhone users — even if you don't spring for the new model.

We reached out to iOS developers for their take on the coolest new features of the operating system. They've been using it since early summer, when Apple made it available to them for download.

Here's what they're excited about:

iMessage. Add audio and video to text messages. "As a consumer, I am thrilled," says Gregg Spiridellis, CEO of e-card website and app JibJab. "I believe the use of media in communications is about to evolve in a big way."

App within an app. To developers, these are called "extensions," a way to put one app into another, and vice-versa. Max McCann, a developer with start-up laundry app Washio, imagines a To Do-list app that notices someone has laundry as an item. With extensions set up, "the To Do-list app could allow users to schedule a Washio pickup or show the current status of their Washio order." If you're a fan of WhatsApp, and you want to send a photo from SmugMug, you can't do that now — but you'll be able to with iOS8.

More photo features, Apple is adding heftier editing tools for your iPhoneography. And all iOS photos will be backed up to iCloud in the background. Brad Jefferson, CEO of video slideshow maker Animoto, calls this a "game changer." Apple has "its toe in the water with their current iCloud offering, but it doesn't focus enough on photos," he says. "Apple is finally realizing that it's important to possess all of a person's digital photo and video files. I was also intrigued to hear that they will make all photo and video clip files available via the Web so I no longer need to be on an Apple device to see and download them."

Continuity. With the new Apple Yosemite operating system for Macintosh computers, you can start a call on the iPhone and finish it on the computer.

Expandable keyboard. Keyboards can be altered for, say, different languages, and Apple is adding predictive text to finish sentences for you. For instance, start typing "Let's meet at Star," and Apple adds in "bucks." "This is a trend that's going to be big," says Spiridellis. "We believe the point of contact for communication is going to be the keyboard. In our wildest imaginations, we can imagine creating a keyboard that not only will let you create letters, but also create, manipulate and share content."

Family sharing. Families can now share their iTunes, iBooks and app purchases. And good news for kids — young ones under 13 can now get their own Apple ID under the family-sharing plan.

Healthkit. To be paired with Apple's upcoming, unannounced wearable health device, this iOS app brings activity trackers such as Fitbit and Jawbone Up into one central home, along with heart-rate monitors and other health apps and devices. Apple says via Healthkit, you can monitor all of them in one central location.

Spotlight: the search engine for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch will be expanded to go beyond just what's on the device, and now also search Wikipedia and online search via Microsoft's Bing.

IOS 8 will work with all iPhones going back to iPhone 4S. Apple is expected to introduce iOS 8 in late September, around the same time the new iPhone hits the stores.

Follow Jefferson Graham on Twitter

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