As part of Apple’s 2016 Word Wide Developers Conference Keynote, the company unveiled its latest iterations of four major operating system platforms, macOS ‘Sierra’ (the successor to OSX), iOS 10, tvOS and watchOS 3, each packed with a plethora of new features and improvements.
While a lot of the technical information on each of the SDKs will be kept under wraps through Apple’s usual non-disclosure agreements, which will cover this week’s technical sessions, there are many notable announcements that Apple has introduced that will get developers excited, which we will now explore.
We start-off first with iOS 10, which brings in quite a lot of new features for developers to get their hands on, starting with Raise to Wake, a feature that would provide a subtle overview of notifications and updates when lifted, and users are able to respond to each of the notifications using 3D Touch immediately.
3D Touch has also been enhanced on the home screen, to include widgets for apps that are interactive, without even having to launch the app, and instead getting a live preview, such as diving into live news, or live sports, outside of the app. The keynote stated:
We will be showing you how to work with widgets, as well as diving into all the new iOS SDKs, as soon as the NDA is lifted.
Siri has finally been opened up to third-party developers on both iOS and macOS, which will potentially bring about a deeply-integrated set of features, such as allowing users to say “Book an Uber to Moscone Center”, or “Facebook Message John”. With iOS 10, Siri now is able to understand new domains, such as payments, ride-sharing and more.
QuickType through deep-learning, allows for contextual typing and messaging awareness. For instance, if a user messages another user asking “where are you”, the user would have their current location map suggested. If a user asks for a friend’s phone-number, deep learning would associate dates with calendar events and pre-fill intelligently, it can check your calendar automatically for availability, and more. This is a huge space with great potential, which could improve immensely in the future.
Deep learning is also applied to photos, allowing for facial recogntion locally on the iPhone. In fact, the iPhone would not only be able to detect faces but also objects/scene recognition, such as water, animals, monuments and more.
Maps also got a big revamp in iOS 10, being more proactive and intelligent and contextual with suggestions, search along route, but most importantly, opening up Maps to developers. Through Maps extensions, you can potentially have a third-party restaurant reservation app allow for bookings directly through the map view, and then prompt the user to call and Uber, and pay for the car, and track the location of the Uber, all without leaving Maps.
One of the worst-kept secrets, the Mac operating system has had a significant change name, from OSX 10 to macOS Sierra, and finally will conform to the same naming standards as all the other operating systems in the Apple platform family.
Apple introduced continuity, last year, to seamlessly allow the app experience to move from one device to another, such as writing an email on your mac, before continuing the same message seamlessly on your iPhone. This year, Apple brings Auto Unlock, the ability to wake up your Mac and unlock securely, through using your Apple Watch, without needing to type a password.
This is further extended with Apple Pay, which has been a feature on iOS for a while. It will now make its debut on the Mac, as Apple Pay for the Web. The way it would work is, when a user sees an Apple Pay sheet on Safari, they would authenticate using continuity and Touch Id via their iPhone or Apple Watch.
Universal Clipboard is the second notable feature introduced, where you can copy on one device, paste on another. That is, you are able to copy images, video, text from the iPhone, and the nearby Mac would have access to your clipboard contents, conveniently, using the same copy & paste actions you are familiar with.
Apple has extended the concept of tabs in Safari, to native apps, meaning all Mac apps would be able to be displayed in full-screen, via tabs. Best of all, no developer intervention is needed, as all apps would be supported out-of-the-box. Developers now also have the ability to hook into VOIP calls in iOS 10, as well as access to caller ID through caller ID extensions, for spam alerts.
Lastly but not least, Siri has been ported to the Mac, and along with that, access for developers, as has been the case on iOS 10.
While no new hardware has been announced, watchOS has already matured to version 3, and would supposedly address some of the major concerns consumers and developers have with the wearable-device, including the responsiveness of apps.
That is, frequently used watch apps would now respond much faster, by keeping the user’s favorite apps in-memory, with background updates, as well as support instant launching of apps. It was demonstrated on-stage as being 7-times faster for the favorite apps, than watchOS 2.
New APIs of particular interest to developers including User Notifications Framework Reference to support handing of local and remote notifications, and manage scheduling of notification deliveries based on various conditions.
To coincide with iOS 10’s proactivity features, watchOS 3 includes proactive contextual location information using NSUserActivity.
ApplePay is now supported on the watch for 3rd-party developers, allowing users to provide payments securely via the watch, and PassKit.
For apps that are workout-fitness related, developers are now able to have their apps run in the background, and access HealthKit data constantly, rather than through intervals.
SpriteKit and SceneKit are now available on watchOS, giving developers the ability to tap into richer graphics rendering and 2D animation, similar to iOS, using WKInterfaceSKScene to support features like physics, lighting, and more.
watchOS will also now provide API access for developers to access the current state of the digital crown, via delegate notifications on WKCrownSequencer.
Finally, CloudKit and Game Center have been added to watchOS 2, to provide developers with access to iCloud data containers, as well as interacting via the GameKit platform, respectively.
Last year Apple introduced a whole new generation of Apple TV, with tvOS, allowing developers for the first time to be able to develop apps on a whole new platform and ecosystem. This year, Apple continued to refine and introduce new SDKs to allow developers to enrich the user experiences.
The first notable SDK improvement developers now have is single sign-on, which means users would no longer have to sign in to their cable provider for every app, like CBS and Fox, individually. Now, the user can register his or her cable provider once, from the list of participating pay-tv providers and all apps will bypass having to re-authenticate again.
Live Tune-In is another new feature, enabled through Siri, allows users to request to play live TV, whether its live sports, or live news, immediately. For instance, a user is able to say “watch Sky News Live”.
Other tvOS APIs introduced in the latest os iteration includes ReplayKit which empowers developers to be able to record and watch live broadcasts from their apps, PhotoKit to access iCloud-stored photos and videos from the Photo Library, HomeKit-powered apps for controlling HomeKit-enabled devices from Apple TV, and the introduction of Game Center.
Apple has announced updates to all of their three platforms, with iOS 10, the newly renamed macOS, tvOS and watchOS 3. Whilst a lot of the features will be exciting for the end-users, no doubt developers will also have greater power to create more engaging and contextual apps. Siri has been the big thing in 2016, and with deep learning and opening up the platform to third-party developers, we are starting to get a glimpse of what the future is for mobile.
When the non-disclosure is lifted by Apple, we will go into greater detail on each of the areas of all the platforms, that have been announced in the more technical sessions this week. Nevertheless, today’s State of the Union once again shows great promise and excitement for the industry, and a greater integration between disparate devices, platforms, whilst bringing devices closer to understanding complex natural language.