Much has already been written about the various features announced at WWDC 2016. Co-authored by Pradeep Kumar Udupi and Kiran B, here is our addition to that list, from a developer’s perspective.
The Big Picture:
‘Openness’. That’s the word I would use to summarise the event. Apple has opened up many of their apps and services to allow us developers to hook in. These include extensions to Siri, Messages App, Maps, HomeKit and Keyboard suggestions. These should definitely help app developers in improving user retention and drive engagement. We can also expect a flood of clever apps that seamlessly integrate with these service to enhance the overall user experience.
WatchOS 3 brings features which developers (and consumers, if I may add) have been longing for. Background refresh support will let you update your app’s data so that user’s can view the latest content of your app instantly. Snapshots – the new framework which will allow an app to provide a snapshot of the data to the dock is pretty nifty. Fitness apps will now be able to access hardware data of the watch continue to run in the background to track the routines of the user. Access to digital crown and touch events is something that developers have been looking for since the first release. Developers can now use the callbacks of the digital crown to have a finer control on their watch app’s UI. For game developers, SpriteKit, SceneKit, Speaker audio and video, CloudKit will now be available on watch.
Finally apps get to integrate with Siri. So you may say “Siri can you book me a cab from here to my home” and have Uber present its options. The UI that Siri puts up in such situations can be provided by the app allowing us to incorporate branding or additional information about the app.
SiriKit also provides a mechanism you can use to tell the system about the interactions and activities that occur within your app. When you tell the system about these interactions, the system can determine if your app can handle the user’s current request and, if it can, pass the request to your app. E.g: In a chat app, we may let the system know that a user is having a conversation with his wife at that moment. The user could then tell Siri “Let my wife know that I am driving and shall respond to the chat once I reach my destination”.
The point to note however, is that SiriKit is only reserved for apps that implement one of the following types of services: audio or video calling, messaging, payments, searching photos, workouts and ride booking. So we cannot yet say “Siri, show me today’s headlines from NDTV” or “check Zomato for review of nearest restaurants”.
Messages App Extensions
iMessage has been completely revamped to allow third party integrations into the iOS’s messaging infrastructure. Its allows users to interact with your apps directly from the Messages app. Using the iMessage extension you can offer your app’s functionality within the Messages app. This sounds similar to the FB Messenger Bots that Facebook recently introduced to the developer community. Apps such as Fallout CHAT can easily use the iMessage extensions to provide their custom stickers to the users from the Messages app.
Apple Pay on the web
Apple Pay from websites is most likely the simplest payment option available till date. Click on Apple Pay on website, authenticate the same using touch ID on your phone. Done. No step 3. This would help drive usage of Apple Pay and thus be an incentive to developers to adopt Apple Pay in their app.
The dampener is that Apple Pay is still available only on select countries. Thus developers are forced to either provide secondary payment options or skip Apple Pay altogether.
The tvOS experience has significantly improved with the integration of Siri. You can now control almost anything using Siri voice commands. What’s really cool is that you talk to Siri in a conversational mode rather than issue discrete commands. Siri is intelligent enough to understand what you want and show you the content exactly as you desired. The new tvOS brings in most of the iOS frameworks to the TV.
Other cool features include ReplayKit (you can now record the games and app content on TV and share it on social media using this framework), Universal pasteboard (allows content to be copied and pasted across all Apple devices), PhotoKit – supports editing of live photos, HomeKit (control Homekit-enabled accessories from your TV and Single Sign-on (using the video subscriber account framework you can support authenticate your content with a single sign-on thus avoiding implementing your own authentication).
Among other things which caught my eye:
Rich User Notifications : The SDK now allows the apps to provide custom interface for your app’s notifications.
Call Kit : CallKit also introduces app extensions that enable call blocking and caller identification. You can create an app extension that can associate a phone number with a name or tell the system when a number should be blocked. We shall anticipate apps akin to True Caller in iOS this fall.
Camera: The Camera Capture pipeline now enables capture in wide-gamut colour formats on supported hardware. Also it supports RAW-format capture, bracketed capture of multiple images and Live Photos.
Xcode 8 & Swift 3: As with lot of services today, Apple for the first time provides a way a third party developer to build extension for the Xcode source editor. Xcode Source Editor Extension will allow the extension to add commands to interact with the Xcode source editor.
New documentation browser. Looks well organised and is lot faster than Xcode 7. The consolidated document sets—all SDKs in one package and has an easier way to manage code signing and provisioning.
All in all, a solid WWDC event from a developer perspective with a lot of new exciting tools to work on.
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