Blog 53

Robert Walter, Technical Director

 WWDC16

It’s that time of year again when Apple has its Worldwide Developer Conference, WWDC. As always, there’s some level of discussion about what they will be announcing. There are the annual revisions of iOS and OS X, which are a given, but outside of those, no one's quite sure.

They normally kick things off mentioning how they’ve got a very strong developer group. This time was no different, with talk of around 13m registered developers around the world and the youngest who is 9 (does she want a job?)!

Apple watch

watchOS

Kevin Lynch kicked things off talking about the next version of the Apple Watch OS, watchOS 3. It is bringing in some useful iOS features, such as background updates, favourite apps kept in memory, which from the demo show how it’ll make apps much more responsive for users. It’s definitely an issue on apps and did have a detrimental effect on what we have developed, so it’s a very nice addition. On a side note, it is a concern about how this will affect battery use.

I won’t go into all the detail of what was discussed, but Scribble looked pretty cool for replies to messages. SOS is also a very nice feature that you’ll hopefully never have to use! It will call the police (in whichever country you’re in) and simultaneously let your designated contacts know in case of an emergency. This is a functionality that has been previously provided by 3rd party apps. However, having it baked into the operating system and the service backing it gives confidence that you can rely on it if the worst happens and you need to use it.

A lot of other features are being added to the SDK, such as video inline and game centre. We look forward to working with our clients, current and new, to implement them as soon as they become available.

Apple TV

tvOS

The new Apple TV that launched last year was a big step up from the earlier model, bringing in the much requested App Store. Eddie Cue talked in detail about the new platform, apps that have been developed, including an exclusive live and on-demand channel, Molotov.tv in France.

The remote app on iPhone is finally updated and adds text entry, which is a nightmare with the scroll pad on the Apple TV remote. So, it’s making one of the pain points of using the Apple TV much easier.

From development point of view, many new sections have been added to the SDK, including Replay Kit for saving video, Photo Kit to access your photos and Home Kit to allow your Apple TV to be the hub for home automation, but more about that later.

Updates will be coming out in autumn but the beta SDK is available now which we’ll be taking a look at shortly.

MacOS

MacOS

On to OS X, where Craig Federighi talked about the Mac platform. The first item was its name. It’s had the name, OS X, for 15 years and it was accidentally leaked earlier that it will now be known as macOS. It will still have the location-based code name, which in this version is Sierra.

There were some interesting features coming to MacOS but the ongoing improvements of Continuity with other Mac products look pretty neat. Using it to auto unlock your Mac if you have an Apple Watch, Apple Pay to the web using your Apple Watch or TouchID on your iPhone to authenticate is a nice touch.

Universal clipboard! How many times have you wanted to transfer a small snippet of text from your phone to your computer or vice-versa, and now you can!  Previously, I’d used 3rd party apps, such as PushBullet, or pasted into an email and sent it to myself, or even used the Notes app synced between computers. Now it’s baked in,  it will be so much easier. Although it was only mentioned in conjunction with iOS to MacOS but it would be really nice if it worked iOS to iOS as I am a user of iPhone and iPad.

Siri finally comes to Mac which wasn’t really very surprising as it has been rumoured for a while. With Microsoft bringing Cortana to Windows 10, you knew it was inevitable. As a user of Windows 10 on 3 different computers, I have used Cortana exactly 0 times. Talking to a computer doesn’t sit with me. However, in the demo tying Siri with universal cut and paste, pinned searches to notification centre seemed to work really well, so I’m looking forward to trying this out myself.

iOS10

iOS

iOS 10 was launched with 10 big features, and I will cover some of them here.

UX

They started with some updates to the lock screen, including rich and interactive notifications making more use of the 3D Touch feature that was introduced with the iPhone 6S/6S Plus last September. 3D Touch is a nice feature, but in its initial incarnation, I found I didn’t use it much. This looks like it could be a significant improvement to make it as natural for users  compared to other gestures. The lock screen redesign is probably still not quite on par with Android, but for iOS users, it is a big improvement.

The phone automatically awaking when you raise it is such an obvious feature and it is present on many other devices. Adding it in will be useful given that, as Craig Federighi mentioned, with Touch ID being so fast you have to use the power button to see your lock screen, which if you have small hands or are left handed isn’t straightforward.

Rich notifications work with 3rd party apps, so we will definitely have a great opportunity to work with our clients on features using this.

Siri

The long awaited Developed SDK is finally being made available! There are minimal technical details yet but we should get these over the next few days. We will definitely provide an update once we’ve had chance to have an indepth look! Although I can be skeptical on talking to a computer, using your phone feels more natural and we have clients who are interested in this area, so it’s definitely something that is going to grow and has a massive potential.

Updates to Maps brings in extensions to allow developers to expand it and make it more useful. However, everyone uses Google Maps, so are these going to be enough to switch users round? Only time will tell.

I won’t talk about the Apple Music redesign, except to say that apart from the colour scheme, it looks clean and simple, and reminds me of my old Zune from about 9 years ago!

Bringing in a Home Kit app to the iPhone is something that users and developers were a bit surprised wasn’t in there from day one. If you had a set-up at home, you would have to switch between apps to change multiple things. Now, you can do so with a single app, and it’s fully integrated with Siri.

I’m a Logitech Harmony user which has that functionality but with limited connectivity to other devices, so my home automation adventure hasn’t started yet (I’m moving soon, so looking forward to kick it into gear in the new house). Now, Apple will have the eco-system, in conjunction with Apple TV being the home hub, to square up against Amazon Echo and Google Home. The home automation war has started!

Messages brought in many improvements aiming at Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, WhatsApp etc. 3rd party apps look really powerful, however if you can only use them with people who have iPhones, you aren’t going to get that much use from the ability to have a shared food order. The only group of people I have where everyone is exclusively on iPhones is the Degree 53 management team, so Andy, you need to take us out for more curries!

Support

There’s a reduced set of devices compared to iOS 9, so the iPhone 4S, iPad 2, iPad 3, iPad mini, and fifth-generation iPod Touch will not run iOS 10.

Swift playgrounds

Swift Playgrounds

This is something that was suggested by Dave Verwer of iOS Dev Weekly last week. I’ve been programming for over 30 years (yes, I do count LOGO on the BBC Micro (more about this coming soon)) so I'm really interested in anything that makes it easy for kids to get into programming at a younger age. I have a 3 year old, so I’m really keen on getting him involved when he’s ready, and a niece and nephew who are 6 and 8 respectively, who I’m looking forward to introducing this to as well.

In fact, the example they initially showed is exactly like LOGO, looping round a set of commands to go round in a square. For me, that’s the most interesting thing that Apple announced!

Summary

In summary, there were a lot of interesting things announced at this year's WWDC. We can’t wait to get our hands on them in the next few days to have a more in-depth look to see how these improvements can make a difference to our clients.

 

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