Apple kicked off its 27th annual conference announcing it has over 13 million registered developers, with over 5,000 in attendance, from 74 countries – including Mubaloo’s Senior iOS Developer, Matt Colliss.
WWDC 2016 proved to be very much user focused, which seems apt given the two million apps, available on the App Store, that have been downloaded 130 billion times. Apple’s users will hardly be disappointed by the exciting array of new features, across all Apple platforms, that were announced at the conference. This year’s WWDC is about further refining the experience for users, to deliver subtle but compelling improvements and, most importantly, opening up some great new tools for developers.
While we highlight some of the user features announced, our focus is on iOS 10 and what the updates to the OS mean for the enterprise and developing apps for iOS.
With the announcement of the new watchOS 3 come several performance boosts and feature enhancements; including third-party apps now launching much faster, simplified interactions within many apps via a single gesture or a tap, along with live app previews. Apple has also made APIs for SpriteKit, SceneKit, CloudKit, HomeKit and Game Center available to developers for control of video, speaker and more, to help expand what apps can do on the Watch. Access to ApplePay, background operations and native access to the Digital Crown and touch events could help developers transform the Apple Watch user experience dramatically. The update is all about speed and refining the operating system to define the role and need for Apple Watch more clearly.
OS X is now macOS, consistent with the naming of Apple’s other software platforms and is called macOS Sierra. macOS Sierra is focused on Continuity, allowing Auto Unlocking of your Mac; iCloud, making all files on your Mac available across multiple devices; and introduces features including Universal Clipboard, to enhance traditional copy and paste functionality. And, finally, Siri will be available on macOS Sierra.
Apple TV is getting a small but fairly significant update with improvements to search, Siri and Sign-In. Apple has developed a new version of the remote app for iOS so you can use your iPhone as a remote, now with all the features of the hardware Siri remote and more live channels will be made available, making it much easier to use video channel apps on your Apple TV.
Developers will be interested in the ReplayKit, PhotoKit, and HomeKit APIs, along with the introduction of a lot more features for building new apps for Apple TV. In particular the potential for HomeKit could be huge, with smarter smart-home controls from Apple now available through the new Home app and Apple TV serving as the hub for HomeKit enabled homes and accessories.
Apple Pay for the web was announced, which allows users to pay for goods through Safari on macOS and iOS via fingerprint-enabled iPhone or the Apple Watch authentication.
Craig Federighi, Apple’s head of software engineering, has described iOS 10 as the “biggest iOS release ever for our users”. However, with Siri, Maps and Messages being opened to developers, WWDC 2016 is a big deal for developers too.
iOS 10 has a redesigned Lock screen, rich notifications, quick interaction with apps, expanded 3D Touch capabilities and amazing new functionality delivered through updates to Photos, Apple Music, Apple News and HomeKit.
3D touch allows interaction with notifications, even from the lock screen, so you can reply to messages, view maps or check news updates without ever unlocking your phone. Third party developers will now also have access to more features via 3D touch to create new interactions for their apps, which will be accessible from the home screen icon.
Enhancements to widgets were announced, allowing developers to create more compelling widgets with better functionality and user experience, which will be made available directly on the lock screen.
In its biggest update ever, the Messages app is getting rich links to allow music and videos to play directly within a conversation and Messages is being opened up to developers with iMessage apps. Developers can now use the Messages framework in iOS 10 to create an app extension that lets users interact with their apps directly within Messages. Users can easily create and share content, add stickers, make payments, and more, without leaving Messages.
VoIP apps are now integrated into the Lock screen and Contacts app, promoting apps with calling features like Skype, to work just like the Phone app.
Apple Maps is being opened up to developers in iOS 10, with an all-new design, proactive suggestions and easier to access controls. Developers can now make use of Maps extensions to integrate app functionality directly in the Maps app to enable ride booking, restaurant reservations and a host of other functionality.
Perhaps one of the most significant announcements was Siri being opened up to developers in iOS 10. Apple is launching a software development kit allowing third-party developers to integrate with Apple’s virtual assistant. With Google Now, Amazon’s Alexa, Cortana and most recently, Viv, joining the market for voice and artificial intelligence, this move comes as a competitive necessity for Apple.
In addition to the Siri SDK, access to a new Speech Framework API has been made available, which will allow developers to easily implement basic speech recognition and transcription in third party apps.
Siri will have enhanced understanding, allowing users to interact with the virtual assistant in new ways. Siri will know where a user is and what they’re doing to help them with directions or replying to a message. For example. Siri will also be able to predict what a user is about to say next, with its news QuickType feature.
Swift Playgrounds for iPad
The compelling new tools being made available will inspire iOS developers and attract others to the platform. And, as further encouragement for developers of the future, Apple has also announced Swift Playgrounds for iPad to teach coding through an animated interface, with a particular appeal for children.
Other new iOS 10 features include Split View in Safari on iPad, Notes collaboration, conversation view in Mail and Live Photos editing. It is also clear, that with the launch of iOS 10, the iPhone 4s and iPad 2 will not be supported, which will effectively kill off the 3.5″ screen and the non-retina iPad.
With every major area of iOS now open to developers, WWDC 2016 is empowering developers to expand on the functionality delivered via apps and provide an enhanced, seamless user experience on iOS. With artificial intelligence and voice controlled interfaces fast becoming one of the key ways for users to interact with technology in the future, access to the Siri SDK could be the most significant announcement made.
While the Keynote address itself was very much focused on the new features available to users, there are some fantastic new development tools underpinning those updates. The Keynote was lighter than usual on the details of the new frameworks that are now available to developers to leverage, but Apple have of course published full release notes for all platforms which tell the full story.
This update is all about allowing developers much deeper access into areas of the operating systems which have previously been closed off, including the native Phone and Messages apps, Maps and of course Siri. These integrations will enable developers to extend apps in exciting new ways, hooking directly into the native tools and apps that users use most frequently. This will allow developers to enable users to interact with their apps and content more readily, streamlining user experience dramatically and helping to drive the use of these apps.
iOS 10 also allows surfacing of content from apps in compelling new ways, via an enriched widget experience and home screen 3D touch interactions. Users will be able to search even deeper within apps with enhancements to app searching via Spotlight, which now includes in-app search continuation. Additionally and most exciting, is SiriKit which will allow developers to make content and services from our apps available through the Siri interface, opening up whole new ways for users to interact with our apps.
And emojis. Emojis are bigger now. Let’s not forget that.