iOS 8: The Year of Productivity
Last year, Apple dropped a bomb during the WWDC Keynote with a major overhaul of the operating system design: shifting paradigm from skeuomorphism to a function-led minimal interface design. All year long, iOS developers updated their application to reflect the new design guidelines, creating leaner and simplified user experiences.
This year, Apple introduced the same design concepts with Mac OS X Yosemite bringing continuity between iOS and OSX devices. They also disrupted the developer community with the announcement of a brand new programming language: Swift. That alone would have been a game changer, but Apple took it a step further announcing they added over 4,000 APIs opening a new world of possibilities for application developers around the world; Making iOS8 the biggest developer release since the original SDK.
Furthermore with Swift, Continuity, Extensions and TestFlight Apple is empowering developers to produce applications better and faster.
As soon as Apple announced Swift, the room went silent… developers were slowly processing the consequence of the new programming language in their current workflow. With Swift, Apple modernizes Objective-C by introducing capabilities like closures, structs and generics. Developers are now empowered with tools that allow them to use functional programming idioms to build their applications. Swift goes hand in hand with Microsoft #F and languages like Erlang & Haskel - both of which are trending in the industry.
For enterprises, it means that developers will be able to produce reliable code faster. Allowing them to spend more time on user experience.
With Continuity, Apple brings device communication to a new level of sophistication by creating a synergy between all nearby devices. These new features allow users to answer phone calls without taking their hands off the keyboard, turn their devices into instant hotspots, or to send text messages directly from iMessage. Furthermore, with the introduction of a powerful API called Handoff, Apple allows users to access their work on any device - with a simple swipe up from the iOS home screen, you have immediate access to the document/webpage you were viewing on another device.
More importantly, Apple is releasing Handoff API to developers, paving the way for a new era of contextual applications. What if while writing a paper on your Mac, you could swipe up and bring a contextual dictionary on your phone? Handoff will change the way we interact with connected devices and phones will became complimentary tools when used near a workstation.
Continuity bridges the gap between mobile devices and workstations. Now, it’s up to us developers to embrace Continuity and create unique user experiences.
Last year Apple acquired TestFlight under the radar - paving the way for a full integration of the beta testing suite into xCode. With the new release of the App Store, Apple will allow developers to distribute an application up to 1,000 beta testers, offering extensive testing before releasing their applications into the wild. Additionally, Apple has also introduced a new build in crash reporter that gives developer instant feedback on any issue occurring during the beta testing phase. Since Testflight now has roots in xCode, we believe that the application deployment process will improve and developers will have more time to focus on fixing issues. While this App Store exciting news is exciting, these new features come with a cost… applications now need to be approved by Apple to initiate the beta testing phase. This will also ensure that the beta testing service is not used to distribute malware.
Part of the Extensibility framework, Apple announced new features allowing application developers to interact with users outside of their current application sandbox. For example, interactive notifications can now be used to prompt questions or answer text messages, and widgets allows developers to display information or actions shortcuts directly from the notification center.
Additionally with extensions, Apple is opening up the iOS ecosystem and allowing developers to share views and controllers between applications enabling developers to create their own frameworks and reuse them across many applications. This gives developers the option to use third party applications to edit pictures, scan bar codes or use external payment solutions.
In the hands of developers, these 4000 new APIs will redefined how we interact with our surroundings. We can imagine a world where employees start working during their commutes and resume in the office using Handoff… where iOS users monitor their health condition using HealthKit… and where homeowners control their smart home remotely using HomeKit.
With all of these new features and APIs, Apple opens up a new world of possibilities and takes a leap forward in terms of development productivity by allowing developers to produce cleaner and safer code while reducing the release cycle length.
Now it’s time for developers to write the code and change the world. Fun times ahead!