Better iOS8 than never

It’s that time of year again, when Apple fans all over the world have a hell of a lot to be excited about and swoon over, as Apple yesterday announced a host of new features for their forthcoming iOS and OSX releases.

Although these updates won’t be available for some time yet, it’s important for us to take a deep look into some of the new capabilities, to enable us to think about the new experiences we can provide our customers, specifically on the iOS side of things.

The Geeky Bit

Apple proudly announced the introduction of “over 4000 new APIs” for developers. An API (Application Programming Interface) allows developers to access different parts of the operating system and its apps to enhance their own apps in various different ways. These new APIs range from new capabilities in the camera, to photo editing, health services and more. They enable developers to access new features, to be converted into a better experience in their apps.

iCloud Drive

Apple’s iCloud service already provides some backup and synchronisation features available today, but with iCloud Drive this functionality has been extended in a significant way.

iCloud Drive can be used to store any files or documents to be synchronised and accessed on all of the user’s devices. The key new feature here is that these files can be accessed by any app on the device, meaning that you can create a file in one app, and continue editing that file in another app on any iCoud Drive enabled device. This is something that has been possible on other platforms for some time, so it is obviously a welcome addition in iOS. Drive is available on iOS, Mac and even Windows.

Extensibility

Perhaps one of the biggest and most important new features in iOS in the last few years, the new “extensibility” options in iOS finally allow developers to access some key features that have been missing for far too long.

Sharing

One aspect of this is the ability to share content easily between different apps. This allows the built in Photos app to share a photo with any app that can handle photos, for example Flickr, Pinterest, Instagram… The list is endless, and therefore the lack of this feature has been one of the biggest gripes of iOS users in the past. It’s also possible to add new share “actions”: for example, selecting text from a web page could offer the option to translate or print the text.

Notifications

Secondly, the ability to add “actions” to notifications, allowing the user to take action on a notification without leaving the screen they are on, such as archiving or replying to an email. This is another important feature, as not only does it provide a better user experience, but it can enable better continuity with equivalent Android apps that already offer this functionality.

Widgets

Finally, the Notification Center can now be extended to show “widgets”, which can be used to provide up to date content from an app without having to open it. Apps that include frequently updating information such as sports and weather apps can really take advantage of this.

Touch ID

Introduced with the launch of the iPhone 5s, Touch ID allows users to unlock or authorise App store purchases with their fingerprint. It’s proven to be quite successful, although not completely foolproof. To date, there has been no way for developers to access this feature, but in iOS 8, Touch ID can be used for authentication in any app. It’s significant for apps that require a username and password, since it forgoes the need to remember anything but still protects security – likely a major improvement for apps such as banking, which require authorisation on every startup. It could also be used as an easy way to add a layer of security to other apps which contain sensitive information, but that usually wouldn’t want to constantly bug the user for a password.

Other areas of interest

Additional to the features discussed, Apple also introduced new services “HomeKit”, “HealthKit” and “CloudKit”. These new services offer integration between Apple devices and other devices in the home (such as thermostats), as well as health apps and services, and a platform for storing and accessing data in the cloud, respectively. The latter of these services is something that is already offered by many companies, including ourselves in the form of The Core, which provides a cross-platform cloud solution used in many of our apps.

With all this new functionality, iOS 8 is shaping up to be one of the most important and exciting updates in the operating system’s history.

The Distance shares in the excitement of delving into these new features both on our own devices, and more importantly, in the apps we create. We’re already looking at ways in which we can take advantage of all of this, and can’t wait for you to bring us your ideas too.

If you would like an App appraisal to ensure your App is ready for the switch to iOS 8 or our advice on how your App could take advantage of the new opportunities Apple have brought us, get in touch.

Update

Our Mobile Director – Anthony Main also did a last minute Pecha Kucha 20×20 presentation on the new key features in iOS from the keynote at DotYork. His slide deck has been included below for completeness: