Apple Debuts 4,000 APIs for iOS

Apple took the stage at Moscone Center West in San Francisco today to show off OS X Yosemite and iOS 8. Both releases are significant new operating platforms, and bring Apple's desktop and mobile products closer than ever before. As exciting as the new platforms are, developers have a lot more to be excited about: a refreshed SDK with more than 4,000 new APIs for creating iOS apps.

There are 10 core APIs in the iOS SDK that bring long-wished-for features not only to iOS, but to third-party apps, as well: Touch ID, PhotoKit, Camera API, HealthKit, HomeKit, CloudKit, SpriteKit, SceneKit, Metal, and SWIFT. Here are some details about each.

Of all the tools outlined above, TouchID and Switft are the two most important. Touch ID provides the hooks developers need in order to make use of the fingerprint scanner on the iPhone 5s. With TouchID, developers will be able to add biometric security to their apps, such as banking, finance, healthcare, and so on.

Swift, on the other hand, is a brand new coding language from Apple. As Apple described it, "Swift is Objective C without the C." Apple said it created Swift in order to spur the next-generation of iOS apps. Swift is simpler, faster, and gives developers a whole new level of freedom when it comes to writing applications. It works with Cocoa and Cocoa Touch, and can run side-by-side with Objective C. Developers can download Swift and the latest version of XCode starting today.

The remaining major tent poles represent new levels of Integration within native iPhone apps and third-party apps. For example, PhotoKit will let developers enable their own photo apps with the editing tools of the iOS Camera Roll app without importing them first. Further, the new Camera API gives third-party camera apps control over exposure, focus, and white balance in addition to any controls they've created on their own.

HealthKit is another major step for Apple. HealthKit is meant to serve as a hub for all the health and fitness apps that appear on an iOS device. Through HealthKit, developers can enable their apps to share data with the new iOS 8 Health application, as well as with healthcare providers. Apple envisions HealthKit will give consumers more oversight of their health and fitness, and let developers add value to their own services.

HomeKit takes a similar approach with respect to home automation. Today, the home automation and internet of things are unwieldy places with little cross-communication. Apple hopes HomeKit can resolve these issues by offering a single Platform through which devices, apps, and services can communicate. According to Apple, this means iPhone owners will be able to use Siri to change their thermostat or open the garage door.

CloudKit is Apple's new approach for iCloud. For both iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, Apple boosted its iCloud service to include full, automatic syncing of files and folders across devices. Everything is accessible from iCoudDrive. With CloudKit, developers will be able hook into Apple's iCloudDrive service - even going so far as to allow for secure, single sign-on - and cloud-enable their apps (almost) for free.

SpriteKit, SceneKit, and Metal all target game developers. SpriteKit offers power-efficient 2D gaming for iOS and adds lighting effects and other force fields for in-game movement. SceneKit shoots for better 3D graphics with a separate physics engine and quick object scripting. Metal (rawk!!!!) is Apple's tool for developers who want to port their console games to the iPad Air. According to Apple, Metal can squeeze console-grade performance out of the Air's A7 processor by optimizing the CPU/GPU combo in new ways to achieve efficiency.

These new APIs - in addition to the new features of iOS itself - put Apple's mobile platform on much more even footing with Google's Android and Microsoft's Windows Phone.



Be sure to read the next Application Development article: Google Adds 5,000 APIs to Android