Apple unveiled tons of details at the WWDC keynote about its next-generation iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite. New end user features are demoed and new platform technologies are introduced. Many developers are overwhelmed by the amount of new info and excited by the possibilities. We handpicked 9 essential new features and technologies that are likely to change how you use your Mac and iOS devices.
1. iCloud Drive
iCloud Drive is your files and folders in iCloud. You can add any files and folders and organise them with tags. Adding files is simple, just drag them into iCloud folder in your Mac. Or you can create new files using apps that save to iCloud.
iCloud Drive is Apple’s answer to Dropbox. iCloud Drive has many advantages to other cloud drive providers by being tightly integrated with iOS and OS X, and there is not a need for another user account and login.
2. Health and HealthKit
Health is an iOS app that stores your health info such as blood types, allergies, heart rate and blood sugar. It gives you a dashboard view of your health in one glance and contains your health info for emergency purpose.
Health app is meant to be a central depository that collects health data from all health and fitness apps and devices. Apple is publishing a HealthKit for developers to enable their apps to work well together with Health app.
3. Family Sharing
Family Sharing allows up to six family members to share their music, movies, TV shows, books purchases from iTunes and App Store. No longer is there a need for all family members to share one Apple account. Each member can have his/her own Apple account, and sharing can be enabled as long as members are using the same credit card number.
Purchases by your kids can now be setup to request for permission from you for approval. This will reduce ‘unauthorised’ purchases and will safeguard your wallet.
Other than purchases, Family Sharing can also setup to share photos and videos, a family calendar and location. You can even track each other’s iOS device using Find My iPhone app.
One emphasis by Apple in this keynote is the so called ‘Continuity’ effort. It is an effort by Apple to build features that enables a seamless experience when using your iPhone, iPad and Mac together.
You can make and receive iPhone calls and text messages on your Mac without picking up the iPhone. For example you can answer an iPhone call on your Mac while your iPhone is ringing in another room.
Handoff is a feature developer can add to app to make it aware when iOS device is near a Mac and vice versa. You can for example edit an email on your iPad, and then walk over to your Mac and pick up and finish writing your email on your Mac.
Instant Hotspot makes it trivial to connect to your iPhone’s personal hotspot and get online with your Mac.
Apple has finally open up by allowing more inter-app communications by means of extensions. Apple is slow to launch this much requested feature due to its secure by default design.
iOS apps and OS X apps on the App Store are sandboxed. Each app has no access to data outside of itself. This makes it safe and consequently inconvenient when it comes to data sharing between apps. Extensions is Apple’s effort to add flexibility for data sharing among apps.
Third party apps can now create widgets which can be added to Notification Center in iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite. This allows quick access to app info without opening up the app.
Third party camera apps can now expose their filters as extensions. These extension filters can then be called up and applied to picture right from within Photo app.
Developers can now add extension to website for use within Mobile Safari. One example is an extension by Pinterest that allows you to pin picture right within Safari. Or an extension that translate the language for the text on a website.
Developers can now customise the system Share and Action sheets to add their own extension items.
Third party keyboard can now be used to replace the stock system keyboard.
Storage providers such as Dropbox, Google Drive can add their storage extension to iOS and OS X. The storage services will then be selectable as options when user is using the system wide document picker.
6. Touch ID API
Touch ID is introduced with the launch of iPhone 5s last year. This year’s new iPhone and iPad are all expected to come with the finger-print scanner. Apple has created an API in iOS 8 to allow third party apps to make use of Touch ID as authentication mechanism. We foresee this to be widely adopted by third party apps.
HomeKit is Apple’s technology and standard protocols to enable developers to make use of iPhone as controller to smart devices in your home. One example cited in the keynote is to give the voice command “Get ready for bed” on your iPhone, and your home will automatically dim the lights, shut the garage doors and lock the doors.
8. SpriteKit, SceneKit and Metal
There is a noticeable push of gaming API in this WWDC keynote. SpriteKit and SceneKit, Apple’s 2D/3D frameworks for casual gaming are greatly enhanced in iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite. What surprised everyone is the introduction of a new Metal framework which aims to retire the standard OpenGL framework.
Metal is designed to be closed to the GPU and makes console-quality games possible in iOS devices. This seems to suggest that a new AppleTV with games is likely this fall.
9. Swift programming language
Objective-C is the current de facto programming language used to create apps for iOS and OS X. Apple bombed its developer community by announcing a new programming language called Swift that is meant to replace Objective-C. Swift has a modern design, safe and is faster than Objective-C.
The early feedback on Swift has been mostly favourable. By adopting a modern, enabling and more powerful language, Apple is making iOS and OS X a more enticing platform to create better quality apps.