17JUNE

2014

Article by Thang Vo
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Apple Introduces iOS 8 at WWDC 2014

After the revolutionary release of iOS 7 last year, Apple seems to have listened to developer and user feedback to make iOS 8 even better. Announced this week at WWDC, iOS 8 is packed with new features that not only make users happy, but also make life much easier for iOS developers. Let’s take a look at some of the key features (there are lot, so please forgive us for the length of this post!):

App Store Search Gets Serious:

Apple seems to be aware of the criticism surrounding app discoverability on the App Store. As a result, they have added an “Explore” tab to help users find an app they’re looking for. Apple also added a “trending searches” feature, quick search with scrolling lists, and related searches. While we doubt that the search capabilities are equal to that of Google, it is definitely an improvement over the old App Store search capabilities.

Apple also introduced app bundles and app previews. App bundles allow users to download a “bundle”, or a collection, of multiple apps. This feature is especially useful to developers with multiple apps. Now, devs can bundle all of their apps together, allowing users to download your entire library of apps with just one click.

App previews are short videos that accompany the description of an app. They are meant to quickly describe the app’s features and give a quick demonstration of the UI and UX. While this new feature is primarily for the user’s benefit, developers should really consider spending some time on creating these videos. Any opportunity to show off your app should be taken advantage of!

APIs for All!:

The release of iOS 7 was accompanied by approximately 1,500 new application programming interfaces. Seems like a big deal, right? Well, with iOS 8, Apple is planning to release as many as 4,000 brand new APIs.

These new APIs, according to Apple, are mainly intended to provide what Apple calls “extensibility”. Extensibility refers to the ability of apps to communicate with each other, meaning that iOS 8 will finally allow developers to share data between apps. Devs will also be allowed to define widgets to exist within notifications, and developers will also be able to create dynamic widgets within the iOS notification center.

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Any devs out there with keyboard apps? Apple is finally ready to play nice and has opened the doors for third-party keyboard apps to make the move to iOS.

This “extensibility” is a feature that Apple has been hinting at for a while, but it seems like they held off until now to ensure that all of the proper security mechanisms were in place.

PhotoKit, HealthKit, HomeKit, CloudKit, Handoff, and TouchID:

PhotoKit gives developers brand new APIs for managing photos and videos, and includes iCloud Photo integrating across Apple devices. This kit also includes new features for threading and caching full-sized pictures and thumbnails.

HealthKit is a brand new set of APIs that will enable users to store health information in a secure place on their iOS device. Any publicly shared health information can be accessed by apps, which can then provide information about the user without needing to connect with a third-party fitness device like FitBit.

HomeKit is Apple’s first foray into the smart home and internet of things. The HomeKit framework will support apps that connect with or control devices in the user’s home, and users will be able to control all of their smart home devices from one place.

As the name implies, CloudKit expands the functionality of Apple’s iCloud by allowing developers to work within the new CloudKit framework. Developers can use CloudKit to securely store and retrieve data from iCloud, and it will allow developers without much back-end expertise to easily add cloud services into their apps. Use of CloudKit will be free for devs, but there will be limits on how much storage you can use per day.

Handoff is a simple new feature, but it completes the Apple dream of a closed ecosystem. With Handoff, users are now

TouchID was introduced with the release of the iPhone 5S, but it has been unavailable to third-party apps until now. Apps can now use the fingerprint sensor for authentication and other security purposes, but Apple will retain control over the actual storage of user fingerprints.

SceneKit, SpriteKit, and Metal:

Game developers, rejoice!

Apple has introduced SceneKit, SpriteKit, and Metal to give game developers a hand when developing for iOS.

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SceneKit is a 3D graphic framework which helps create 3D animations and effects for mobile games. It also contains a physics engine and a particle generator to help devs simulate gravity and other physical forces within their apps. SceneKit also includes a way to easily script 3D objects such as shapes and materials.

You may remember SpriteKit from iOS 7, but it has been updated for iOS 8 to include custom Open GL ES shaders and lighting, advanced physics and animation, and new scene editors for Xcode. SpriteKit is designed to work closely with SceneKit.

Metal is a much more advanced framework for hardcore gaming (as opposed to casual gaming). This new framework allows devs to directly access the A7 graphics processor on the iPad and the iPhone to improve performance. Metal also allows for better graphics rendering, improved computational tasks, the exploitation of multi-processing and shared memory, and an API for unified graphics and shading language within Xcode.

Swift:

Probably the biggest announcement to come out of WWDC, Swift is a brand new programming language developed by Apple for the development of iOS and Mac OS apps. Swift is based on and complements both C and Objective-C , and offers new syntax and capabilities to the OS X Cocoa API set and Cocoa Touch framework. You can find more information about Swift here.

Apple certainly impressed at WWDC this year, especially after the last few years of unmet expectations. With WWDC 2014 being hailed as a success, it will be interesting to see how Google responds in the upcoming Google I/O conference later this month.