You can’t deny the power of Apple. Its sheer economic strength (if it was a national economy, it would be the world’s 27th largest, between Belgium and Venezuela) leaves it well-positioned to steer a large part of the innovation happening in the mobile space.
The ongoing Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco has provided us with more insight into the latest of these innovations, but the focus has been on what’s next for iOS developers. iOS 9, watchOS 2 and other improvements – here are the top news that we think anyone working with mobile development should be aware of.
The latest version of iOS will focus on stability improvements and security. However, there are some new features that look really exciting in this future release.
iOS 9 on the iPad
iOS 9 comes with a new way of editing text on the iPad. QuickType keyboard includes a new shortcut bar, users can use 2-finger gestures and the keyboard will become a trackpad so it will be easier to position the cursor and perform text selection.
With multi-tasking, users will be able to split a screen view of two applications. Different apps will be contained in each side of the split view and the size of each panel will be adjustable via a slider. Apps will now be contained in different form-factor frames so it’s even more important to implement your UIs using auto-layout and size classes APIs.
New Apple Pay features in iOS 9 include being able to manage loyalty and reward cards in Passbook. With all these changes, Passbook has been renamed to Wallet.
The number of bank and vendor participation in the Apple Pay program has been increased since it was introduced. Apple Pay will also be available in the UK this July, launching with some of the most popular banks. Apple also announced a partnership with the Transport for London and users will be able to pay with their devices when moving around the city.
iOS 9 includes what Apple calls “Intelligence”. The new OS has been enhanced with new context-sensitive functionality. Based on the user’s behavior patterns and context, iOS 9 can suggest apps automatically.
Intelligence is strongly tied to Siri which has been provided with a new UI and some new features. Users can now request performances such as “Show me photos from last summer” and a filtered view of all the photos matching that query will be presented.
Apple is making big efforts to ensure users’ privacy and security. That’s why all the information users provide for Intelligence to work will be stored in the device and the feature will work without needing to communicate to a server nor will it be associated to the user’s Apple ID.
The Notes app will include some new features like a toolbar with formatting options, images, checklists, drawing tools and website links support.
Trying to catch up to Google Maps, Apple Maps will now support public transportation information and routing. It will also allow the user to search nearby restaurants, shops, etc…
A new built-in app will be included in iOS 9, News. News will provide the user with a new reading experience in which publishers will be able to create interactive articles with custom fonts and layout, using the Apple News Format.
Apple also introduced a low-power mode, which will be able to extend the battery by an additional 3 hours.
Core Animation and Core graphics are now built on top of Metal which means that animations and UI will have a much better performance.
Unified Developer Accounts
One of the announcements at WWDC 2015 which will make developers happier is that Apple’s new developer program is now unified across iPhone, iPad, Safari, Mac and Apple Watch. Starting this fall, developers will no longer have to pay the Developers Program price to deploy their apps to their own devices. Just signing up for the free developer account will be enough.
Although it’s been only a few weeks since Apple Watch was released, Apple is providing a new version of watchOS whose main feature is supporting native apps directly on the watch. The concept of the Watch App being an extension of the iPhone app stills remains but they will run on the watch instead of on the iPhone. This means that users will experience a big improvement on performance as well as the watch still being useful despite the iPhone not being near.
One of the most important features introduced in watchOS 2 are Complications. These are important pieces of information the user can see right on the watch face. Now data from 3rd party apps can be included as Complications too.
Another feature of watchOS 2 related to Complications is Time Travel. With Time Travel, users can turn the Digital Crown to see what was happening yesterday, today and what is planned for tomorrow. Within the time face, users can use the Digital Crown and the included Complications will update the data they’re displaying.
With watchOS 2, app developers will have access to the device hardware like the Digital Crown, Taptic Engine, accelerometer, heart rate sensor, speaker and microphone. This will allow developers around the globe to create more powerful apps for the Apple Watch.
Developers can now leverage WatchConnectivity, enabling Apple Watch to communicate with the iPhone in a more efficient way. WatchConnectivity saves battery life by allowing the WatchKit extension to transfer information for the iPhone app to use when it´s next launched, allowing file transfers between the 2 devices. With NSURLSession, Watch Apps will now be able to perform network requests without delegating this task on the iPhone.
There are many new features and tools for developers unveiled during the different sessions that will take place at the conference. These are the some of the bigger announcements.
App Thinning is a nice feature that will change the way apps are distributed. Before app thinning, users were given the package for the apps including some resources and binaries that were not going to be used on their devices. App Thinning provides three mechanisms to improve app delivery and installation:
- Slicing: Using image assets in Xcode will allow the App Store to create a specialized app bundle including only the assets that fit the user’s device. It will also only include the architecture specific binary in that binary (32 bits or 64 bits).
- On-demand resources: Developers will now be able to host additional content in the App Store and the app can the fetch some resources only when needed.
- Bitcode: Apps can now be submitted as LLVM Bitcode (intermediate language) instead of native executables. The App Store will take care of compiling and optimize those botched files to native binaries.
The bigger announcement about Swift 2 is that Swift is going to be fully open source. Baked-in safety features combined with excellent speed mean it has the chance to improve software versus using C-based languages.
- Swift source code will be released under an OSI-approved permissive license
- Contributions from the community will be accepted — and encouraged
- At launch the Swift Team intends to contribute ports for OS X, iOS, and Linux
- Source code will include the Swift compiler and standard library
Swift is very focused on protocol-oriented development and Swift 2 adds protocol extensions. Where developers used to use global functions, Swift 2 now adds methods to common types so functions chain naturally, as well as keeping the code much more readable. Swift 2 will also provide better interoperability with Objective-C via nullability annotations and including generics in Objective-C.