Mobile APIs That Rocked in 2014: Apple Pay, Healthkit, Watchkit & More


As part of its yearly iOS release, Apple introduced a significant list of new APIs to the libraries it makes available to third-party developers. Indeed, with iOS 8, Apple's new SDKs not only extend the functionality and reach of the iPhone and iPad, but increase the potential for interoperability with third-party accessories.

HealthKit

We have already reviewed Apple’s foray into health, which centralizes personal health information from various health apps--such as RunKeeper, Nike+ and MyFitnessPal--through the Health App portal. Users' data is aggregated into one location--without forcing them to choose one app over another--to manage all health information. The release of the Apple Watch in 2015 will allow users to track their heart rate and steps elegantly from their wrists. Apple typically introduces SDK updates during its mid-year developers conference, so we should expect to see greater strides in the API at that time. The SDK did come with a few wrinkles that need to be ironed out, but by its next iteration we should start to see a more polished and slightly more expansive SDK.

CarPlay

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With CarPlay, Apple has added hooks into the car industry. CarPlay has the potential to amp up in-car displays, which have historically been somewhat lackluster. There currently is no publicly available SDK released by Apple, and with a heavy reliance on car manufacturers to support CarPlay, the uptake is expected to be quite slow. With an SDK, we could see deeper mobile integration, similar to how WatchKit will interact with iOS, and we could see functionality bundled that would allow for specialized apps that could access the Internet and other services via the iPhone. 

WatchKit

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Apple's wearable is set to come out in early 2015, and developers have already gotten a sample of what’s possible with the WatchKit beta, released in November. (We also recently reviewed WatchKit.) The Apple Watch will provide users with the ability to access essential information with just a glance. Users can then decide whether to continue interaction through handoff to their iOS devices through specific and brief contextual notifications. Apple has packed a lot into the SDK, but one feature that is notable by its omission is the ability to create watch apps that run stand-alone. Appls require an equivalent iOS app, and, as such, are packaged within the iPhone bundle. We anticipate by next year’s WWDC that Apple will expand the capability of its WatchKit with the ability to build more robust and self-running wearable apps. There are additional restrictions, such as direct access to the watch’s heart-rate monitor, that we also expect Apple to open up at some point. We are very much in the early stages of the new SDK, and Apple traditionally takes a cautious initial stance before opening up a platform.

CloudKit

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Apple finally opened up iCloud, creating a Dropbox-like cloud storage platform that will serve the ecosystem of iOS apps. CloudKit has been somewhat of a revolution for Apple: The company has provided a generous amount of data for free while eliminating the tedium for developers of having to deal with the logistics of setting up the server back end. In the next iteration of CloudKit we expect that Apple will add server-side logic, not just storage, which would allow for a more complete server-side replacement.

HomeKit

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Apple entered the home automation market in 2014. The focal point of Apple’s HomeKit initiative is a unifying protocol–standardization via a singular SDK–to act as the conduit for devices or gadgets to communicate with iOS, allowing smart devices know when you are in a room, when you are going to use something and when you are finished using something (and take action accordingly). In the next year we expect to see another new SDK that offers integration with Apple Watch (and WatchKit), as well as with Apple TV, CarPlay and other systems that are becoming part of Apple’s ecosystem.

Apple Pay

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Apple took on the lagging Google Wallet with a mobile payment initiative of its own, striking fear in the hearts of PayPal and other payment merchant companies along the way. Providing a secure and convenient way of paying at stores using an iPhone with finger-print TouchID and NFC, users avoid the hassles of carrying a physical wallet and remain secure at the same time. Apple has provided an SDK that would allow third-party developers to take advantage of the new payment ecosystem, along with guideles on user-experience. We are seeing more and more banks and credit providers joining Apple’s payment ecosystem. Apple Pay is currently available only in the United States, but we expect its rollout to continue internationally in the next year or so. We will also see more merchants accepting NFC payments as this form of exchange becomes more popular.

Doron Katz A keen passion for emerging technologies, practices and methodologies, Doron embraces the vision of lean development with continuous customer development. Consultant for various startups, as a Project and Product Manager, with a mobile engineering background in iOS, and over 10 years of professional web development experience.
 

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