WWDC 2014 takes place in a couple of weeks. Anyone who follows tech blogs will have seen the rumour mill go into full swing.
Unlike previous years, where the event sold out in the blink of an eye, Apple launched a lottery this year where 5,000 developers were randomly chosen as attendees from those who applied.
We’re hugely excited this year as James Frost, one of Mubaloo’s senior iOS developers, was selected in the ballot for one of the prized tickets and will be flying out to learn all about iOS 8 in person.
We asked James to give some of his thoughts about what he’s expecting (and hoping to see):
iOS 7 had (and still has) many, many rough edges. There are certain inconsistencies with its design, there are occasional UI glitches and crashes, and crucially, the rush to bring iOS 7 out after internal changes meant that the quality wasn’t as high.
We’re expecting (and hoping) for a plethora of refinements across the whole operating system.
Apple needs to address issues across its software to make improvements and help to show why they make the best software out there. They’ve done this in the past with OS X, taking a ‘tick tock’ approach: alternating releases between a large ‘tock’ release with many big new features and updates, followed by a ‘tick’ release which refines and tightens. e.g. Leopard -> Snow Leopard (still regarded as one of the best OS X releases). Similarly, Windows 8.1 has greatly improved the initial experience offered by Windows 8.
Last year, Apple didn’t mention iBeacon during their public keynote address, only in developer-focussed sessions.
This year we expect iBeacon to get a bit of a headline billing as Apple shows how it is being used in its retail stores and how it plans to further enhance it. This could well include its plans for payments or new forms of communication or device-to-device enhancements.
iWatch or wristband. iWishful thinking, probably.
There haven’t been enough leaks to make us think it’ll be soon, but with the recent announcement of Google’s Android Wear Apple can’t afford to hang around for too long. Signs seem to point to Apple putting a large amount of focus on this area, and it could be that it has gone into privacy overdrive to protect its activity in this area.
Having said this, Apple is never worried about being the first to market (smartphones existed before the iPhone, tablets existed before the iPad), they are merely concerned with coming out with the best.
Apple TV:
Look on the wishlist of many iOS developers and you’ll see ‘developer tools for Apple TV’.
The rumour mill has been ramping up (it does every year) but this time, Google, Amazon and many other companies have been getting into the living room with their own boxes. Now is the time for Apple to take Apple TV forward, something developers will help it to do.
Siri API:
Again, this has been requested for many years. With the introduction of Android Wear, Google revealed a system for developers to specify phrases for Google Now’s voice input to trigger functionality within their apps. Yet again, Apple risks falling behind if they don’t provide their own API for this. As with Google, wearables or Apple TV might offer the perfect opportunity to introduce this.
TouchID API:
Ever since TouchID came out, developers have been hoping for ways to utilise the functionality for added security. With the number of Fortune 500 companies with iOS deployments (98%), the potential to utilise TouchID is huge. Alas, we can’t really see this being especially likely, but if the 5S truly was ‘forward thinking’, it leaves hope.
Sensory insights:
Last year, the M7 introduced a new chip focused all around collecting movement information and other sensory data for apps. This year, we’re hoping to see more of this and how developers can maximise the technology for smarter, more power efficient apps. The M7 would also be the perfect fit for a wearable, especially as it apparently is able to continue tracking even when power is turned off.
Improved notifications:
iOS is a long way behind Android in terms of notifications. iOS notifications are confusing (what does ‘Missed’ mean anyway?!), hard to use (tapping those tiny X’s to dismiss notifications is infuriating) and is lacking in useful features (Android notifications can have rich content and users can take actions such as Archiving an email right from the notification itself).
Improved inter-app communication:
This kind of goes back to the Siri request. If apps were better at talking to each other, they could be more powerful.
In iOS, apps only have a few very limited ways of sharing data or files. When a piece of content that isn’t stored in a file (perhaps just a snippet of text, or an address), a developer must explicitly implement sharing with a specific app. Android allows apps to define the types of content they can handle and the types of actions they can perform with that content – they’ll automatically present themselves as sharing options from inside any other app with a ‘share’ button.
Real-world payments:
You can pay for anything (online) using your smartphone; in the real world however options are somewhat limited to where you can use the PayPal app.
TouchID and iBeacons together could make for a powerful way to make payments in the real-world. With rumours of NFC coming in too, it seems that Apple could be laying the seeds for a powerful mobile payments platform (though rumours of NFC in the iPhone date back to 2010 so lets not get too excited!)
Transit directions built into maps:
We’re expecting some big upgrades to Maps in 2014. As the phone becomes more intelligent, it’s essential that Maps can direct users to get to a destination however they travel.
The current expectation of launching into a third party app, whilst great for third parties, is hardly the best example of user experience.
New designs for iPad:
This one is unlikely to happen, but it would be nice to see. iOS looks great on a phone, though on the iPad you are left with the feeling that space could be used in a more beautiful way. Notifications, multi-tasking and other elements are just bigger versions of what you’d find on an iPhone. Great for consistency; bad for design.
Follow James Frost on Twitter for more insight.

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