While Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference 2015 wasn’t the best WWDC, it did show some improvements to the company’s products. The event was a showcase for items like the watchOS 2, iPad multitasking features and Apple Music. After a lot of critics came to the surface in the last few months with comments about Apple losing its touch, we had great expectations for WWDC 2016.
Even though there wasn’t a huge announcement or product unveiling as part of the event held in San Francisco last week, there were some things that could mean a lot for the developer community. Here’s a list of key announcements that, in my opinion, will mean a shift in the way we develop apps for the Apple users:
1. Apple ecosystem gets even more connected
First and foremost, as usual, Apple is all-in with a universal ecosystem for all of its devices and systems. But this time, all four platforms – iOS (iPhone and iPad), watchOS (Apple Watch), tvOS (Apple TV) and macOS (Mac notebooks and desktop) – are really one.
New features like Auto Unlock, Universal Clipboard and Siri on desktop are proof of this, as well as the renaming of Mac OS X to macOS (Sierra). But this bet is not only important for Apple, it can be a great opportunity for developers too: It’s a great time to improve already existing apps or even to create new ones that will take advantage of all the different devices users have at their disposal, giving them a more meaningful use and improving the user experience.
2. A more mature watchOS
A lot of people had doubts of the Apple Watch when it was first announced – It wasn’t clear what real advantages a user could get from it. But as Apple keeps improving this product, we can start seeing some shiny new features from watchOS 3. This version offers an enhanced day-to-day usability as well as the connection with other devices, as mentioned above. In my opinion, the Apple Watch is starting to look like the best smartwatch around.
We of course need to point out two great additions both for users and developers announced at this year’s WWDC: improved performance at launching the apps (supposedly 7 times faster!) and the ability to write using Scribble. The future looks really bright for the Apple Watch.
3. Apple sets new standards for the IoT
If you saw the WWDC and have an interest in the Internet of Things, you probably saw a great possibility with the HomeKit. While Apple’s home automation started with iOS 8, it’s now starting to look really solid. The system now includes a range of new features and accessories, including cameras, doorbells and remote connectivity improvements.
Apple also showcased new abilities for developers to create HomeKit-enabled, tvOS-based apps. This further demonstrates Apple’s move toward more unified devices and operating system platforms.
HomeKit is one of the most advanced home automation systems available currently, and will probably set a new standard for IoT mobile apps.
4. Siri will now be open to third-party developers
This is perhaps the closest this event came to a typical Apple-style, large-scale announcement. Developers have waited years for this kind of integration, and Apple has finally made it a reality. Apple announced on stage that developers can now add functionality via SiriKit so users will be able to tap into third-party services just by using the “Hey Siri” voice command.
Armed with a new API that makes third-party integrations easier and more streamlined than ever before, this opens up a world of possibilities for developers, particularly when it comes to the user experience. Siri can now be interlaced into a range of different applications, including chat platforms, digital payment and even ridesharing applications.
This new feature will also be immensely beneficial for utilizing Carplay mode. Thanks to Siri’s new functionality, drivers can launch and carry out actions via voice commands without taking their hands off the steering wheel.
Apple’s new Siri functionality will eventually set a new standard for apps across Apple’s systems, as Siri is now fully supported on macOS, watchOS, iOS and tvOS.
5. iMessage Apps and Sticker Packs
Siri wasn’t the only platform Apple opened up for third-party developers at this year’s WWDC – Apple also made certain iMessage capabilities available, including Sticker Packs and iMessage Apps. While the first one is self-explanatory, the second is not that simple. The idea behind opening iMessage apps to third-party developers is to customize the experience users have with the platform, creating custom functionality with your app’s assets, the user interface, etc.
Here, you can find and download Xcode 8 beta, which includes the iOS 10 SDK, and see the Messages Framework Reference.
Apple’s WWDC: Final thoughts
While WWDC 2016 certainly wasn’t as groundbreaking as Apple events of the past have been, it is the first step toward a bigger and better ecosystem for users. With improved integration capabilities and access to new features and platforms, there are now a whole host of options and opportunities for app creators and users alike. As members of the development community, we think it brings some new and tasty features to the table to play with, and we look forward to the future advancements that will be spurred by these new possibilities.