Apple iOS 8: What Consumers, Developers Gain

Here's what Apple's iOS 8 and iOS SDK news at WWDC means to users and developers.

Eric Zeman, Contributor

June 3, 2014

5 Min Read

Apple WWDC 2014: 9 Things To Expect

Apple WWDC 2014: 9 Things To Expect

Apple WWDC 2014: 9 Things To Expect (Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Apple on Monday revealed iOS 8, OS X Yosemite, and an incredible array of developer tools during the opening keynote of its 2014 Worldwide Developers Conference. The company may have introduced a wide range of great new features in iOS 8, but the changes to the SDK are far more important to help Apple's struggle against rival Google.

Apple's two-pronged attack benefits consumers in myriad ways. Let's address those first.

iOS 8 adds several crucial gap-closers to the user interface that have long been available to Android handsets. For example, the Apple keyboard in iOS 8 adds QuickType word prediction to make typing faster. Both Android and Windows Phone already offer this feature. Apple also said iOS 8 can support third-party keyboards, such as Swype. Now all three platforms are on a more even playing field when it comes to text input.

Apple significantly improved its Messaging application in the face of competition from third-party providers. Messaging, which Apple said is the most-used app on its iPhones, can now easily add and drop recipients to and from group chats, share locations, and send vanishing voice/video messages. This addresses some of the features in WhatsApp, BBM, and others.

[For more on Apple's OS strategy, see Apple OS X, iOS Draw Closer.]

Family Sharing will make it easier to share content between iOS devices. The feature allows up to six "family members" to access iTunes, iBooks, and App Store purchases as long as they're billed to the same credit card. Anything purchased by one family member is instantly available to the entire group. Family Sharing goes further by making it easier to share photos, calendars, location, and other information. Some of these features come naturally to Android and Windows Phone.

iOS 8 introduces iCloud Drive, a cloud-based file management tool that will automatically sync content between iOS and OS X devices. It supports Apple's iWork suite and a range of other file types (PDFs, Docs, etc.), providing access to them across Apple's ecosystem of hardware. Further, Apple made AirDrop compatible between iOS and OS X (just as I had hoped). This makes it a cinch for users to push files between Apple devices at a moment's notice. Apple also talked about Continuity, a tool that will sync settings and content between iOS and OS X devices so users can stop working on their desktop and pick up in the exact same spot on their iPad or iPhone. Clearly, Apple hopes to retain consumers who might otherwise turn to Google Drive or Microsoft's OneDrive -- along with the productivity and other cloud-based services offered by the two.

Apple improved its Spotlight search tool, which now provides answers pulled from the device and across the Web. It is better at predicting search queries and offers suggestions faster than ever. Spotlight is now built into the Safari control bar and doubles as a search tool and Web site address field.

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There are hundreds of additional new features in iOS that iPhone and iPad owners will surely enjoy when the operating system becomes available in the fall. Developers also have plenty to be happy about, too.

The new iOS SDK adds 4,000 -- yes, that's four thousand -- APIs for creating apps. Apple built these APIs into 10 core tent poles: Touch ID, PhotoKit, Camera API, HealthKit, HomeKit, CloudKit, SpriteKit, SceneKit, Metal, and Swift.

Touch ID is huge. This lets developers access and use the fingerprint scanner on the iPhone 5s (and presumably future iOS devices). In other words, banking apps, healthcare apps, fitness apps,

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and any other type of app that requires tight security can let iOS device owners use their fingerprint instead of a password or PIN.

Another key idea is extensibility -- the ability for apps to speak to one another and share features. Extensibility will let developers reach into far more of the operating system and its tools than ever before, empowering their apps with features that simply weren't possible in previous generations of iOS.

Looking briefly at some of the tent pole APIs, PhotoKit will let developers add the editing tools of the iOS Camera Roll app to their own, and the Camera API gives third-party camera apps control over exposure, focus, and white balance. HealthKit includes an app that acts as a hub for other health and fitness apps so users can not only better track their health, but also share it with healthcare professionals. HomeKit aims to simplify home automation by letting the iPhone to talk to in-home appliances, such as garage doors and thermostats. CloudKit will let developers add instant cloud services to their apps via iCloud Drive.

SpriteKit, SceneKit, and Metal all focus on making game development simple. SpriteKit makes it a breeze to add 2D animations to games. SceneKit goes one dimension further and makes adding 3D graphics a cinch. Metal takes a step towards crazy town, as it can empower console-grade gaming graphics on devices such as the iPad Air (thanks to its A7 processor).

Last, Swift is a brand-new coding language from Apple. Apple claims Swift is simpler and 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.

In sum, Apple has closed the feature gap between iOS and Android for both consumers and developers. During the keynote, the developer attendees offered raucous cheering when Apple announced these new coding tools. It's clear they were excited by what Apple had to say. In the end, that should translate to much better apps and services for the rest of us.

Too many companies treat digital and mobile strategies as pet projects. Here are four ideas to shake up your company. Also in the Digital Disruption issue of InformationWeek: Six enduring truths about selecting enterprise software. (Free registration required.)

About the Author(s)

Eric Zeman


Eric is a freelance writer for InformationWeek specializing in mobile technologies.

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