After the usual frenzy of rumours (which mostly proved incorrect) leading up to Apple’s WWDC, Apple have released a raft of sensible updates across their four (now consistently named) platforms of watchOS, iOS, macOS (formerly OS X) and tvOS.
Starting with watchOS 3.0, Apple are attempting to better support the core watchOS App experience as opposed to the more often used Glances and Notifications. watchOS apps have always been difficult to discover and extremely slow to launch.
During the keynote, a watchOS app was launched almost instantaneously. This will certainly help improve a user’s willingness to make full use of watchOS apps. Additionally, apps can now also be launched from watch screen complications. Further to this, Apple has added the ability to easily switch between apps and for each app in the App Switcher to contain live data, essentially replacing the function that Glances provided.
Apple’s entry into the living room continues to receive additional abilities from the core iOS platform, most notably the addition of HomeKit. We should see some home automation function start to make its way onto the Apple TV device with the release of tvOS 10 later this year.
Another iOS framework that should improve interoperability between iOS devices is the inclusion of MultiPeerConnectivity. This framework will allow iPads and iPhones to communicate with apps on the Apple TV more easily, vastly improving app onboarding and transition experiences. Even the Apple Remote app saw an upgrade, with Siri capabilities and better player controls.
The most anticipated feature leading up to WWDC this year was the potential opening up of Siri to developers. Today, Apple announced a new framework called SiriKit, which takes a first careful step towards opening up. The Siri integration for developers has initially been limited to a specific set of domains (audio or video calling, messaging, payments, searching photos, workouts and ride booking). Developers in these domains are able to provide support for a user’s “Intent” (ie. ‘I want to make a payment’) and then either extract the information from the Intent or ask further questions of the user (ie. ‘how much, and to whom?’). An interesting addition in the same area as Siri is the inclusion of a Speech to Text framework, which might bridge a gap for developers outside the initial SiriKit domains.
Following on the theme of extending core features like Siri, Apple have also opened up Maps, Lock Screen Widgets and iMessage for developers to build on top of. The iMessage app extension support is quite extensive and was given a large portion of the keynote time. This allows developers to build application support to conversations between people on the iMessage platform.
A few more things …
Apple had a range of announcements on their fourth platform, which was renamed to macOS. Of note was the ability for the OS to unlock if the user is wearing their Apple Watch. In the payment space was the ability to include Apple Pay as an option from the web (via Safari only at this stage), with authentication deferred to your iOS device.
However, Apple love leaving their keynote with something to remember and think about. This year they have introduced a development playground for the Swift language on the iPad. This obviously took a lot of thinking around how to effectively program on a touch device, but the demos made it look at least possible. The Swift Playgrounds app for iPad will contain a bunch of content that enables kids to start programming in Swift as they move through challenges (definitely a lot prettier than MIT’s popular Scratch platform).
An interesting set of updates this year; after 10 releases of the iOS platform, Apple are gradually starting to open up their platform for developers to integrate with the core experience. All of the developer SDKs are immediately available and as with all good things, they will be rolling out to users in the US fall timeframe.
This post was written by Daniel Bradby