Takeaways from WWDC 2014

By Phillip Garton

Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) took place this year on June 2nd. Although Apple didn’t unveil any new hardware like everyone had hoped, from a mobile application developer perspective, it was still an impressive conference bringing new software and features in Apple’s next generation of software.

Apple unveiled iOS 8, which in terms of UI is not a major leap forward but rather an enhancement of iOS 7.  Where iOS 8 shines is the new features and new content, as well as long awaited enhancements that have gone missing from iOS 7. We will be looking in detail, the new things that iOS 8 brings and what their impact will be to the mobile market place.

Notifications

Something on the surface that seem simple—but for iOS users is a huge change—is interactive messaging and notifications from the notification center in iOS. This is a feature that has long been a part of Android and has further been long desired by iOS users: the ability to interact with messages and notifications without having to open the actual message! iOS users will now be able to respond to text messages and third party application notifications directly from the notification center or the lock screen, making responses to simple tasks even faster then before. Along with quicker access to messaging and notifications we get quicker access to our recent contacts. By double tapping the home button, along with the apps that are open on your device, in iOS 8 you will now see a list of recent contacts at the top of the screen. Through this you will be able to call, message, or email your most recent contacts, making it even faster to reach to those with whom you are most connected.

Extending notifications further Apple has introduced travel time notifications. Improving productivity and timeliness, Apple calendar will now notify you of the time needed to get to an appointment on time, eliminating the excuse of a ‘got caught in traffic’.

Email

 iOS 8 enhancements are themed around productivity and making repetitive tasks faster and more efficient. Email, being one of the most used smartphone applications, was not ignored. Email can now be swiped right to be marked unread/read, and swiped left to allow for flagging or deletion giving quick access to common mail functions. Swiping down on an email being composed allows for access to other email content which is very beneficial for professionals as the need to reference or copy information into a composed email is a common activity and helps elevate iOS email to the next level. One of the most interesting and useful updates to email is that it now recognizes an event in the email body and allows the user to add it to their calendar without having to create an entry manually or receive a traditional invite. This is best explained by illustration: someone sends you an email asking if you would be free for dinner tomorrow at 6pm; from within the email iOS allows you to add this new event to your calendar by clicking on it. This is not only limited to events. Contacts can be added to your iOS contacts by simply clicking on the number.

Spotlight

Search iPhone/Search iPad just got a whole lot more powerful. Again focusing on efficiency, Apple introduced Spotlight Search. Searching by either pulling down on the home screen or searching within Safari now utilizes the Spotlight search. When searching, Spotlight not only searches the web, but searches apps on your device or in iTunes, news, etc. for relevant feedback on the query. This is not a new concept. But as always, Apple takes this one step further and Spotlight presents top recommendations based on your search, giving you faster connection to the content that you are searching for.

 QuickType

Like it or hate it, we have all become accustomed to autocorrect on iOS devices. We have all seen the sometimes laughable auto corrections that have been posted all over the internet. Apple has taken autocorrect one step further in a positive direction, adding intelligence and content completion. QuickType—as Apple calls it, makes suggestions based on commonly used words to complete the sentences that you are currently typing. But in true Apple style they take it to the next level! QuickType also manages how you talk to individuals and makes suggestions based on the context of the message and the person. An example of this would be if you are messaging a professional contact you might type “Exceptional Job!” but if you are messaging a friend you might type “Awesome Job!”. QuickType learns this and suggests words based on this predictions. Again, Apple is going after efficiency and ease of use.

Continuity

Continuity isn’t limited just to iOS but has been expanded to Mac OS as well. Continuity brings cross device interaction and connectivity to a level that most manufactures could only dream of. With continuity, messages, notifications, phone calls, and alerts are available on all devices within the same area. Even if your iPhone is in another room, you can receive, and place phones calls from your Mac computer, or receive and reply to messages. Not only does continuity bring your devices together, but also it brings a host of additional features. Group messaging is now improved allowing for threads to me named for better understanding. Attachments within the thread can be viewed within the details of the thread, eliminating the need to scroll through the entire thread to view an attachment. If you have ever been annoyed by an ongoing thread that has diverted from information that you care about, you can now elect to either set the thread to “do not disturb” or leave the thread all together. Further increasing messaging efficiency and ease of use, Apple has added the feature to quickly add images and content inline to the messages being composed. And if you just don’t feel like typing a response you can now simply add an inline voice or video message to truly convey something to the other party. Here is to hoping, no one will ever misunderstand your text message as it was intended!

Enterprise

Apple has not lost sight of the customer base that has had a major impact on its market share which is the enterprise market. Ninety Eight percent of Fortune 500 companies use iOS devices, and Apple is looking to further that by making easier for companies to roll out devices within their enterprise. Apple is introducing a Device Enrollment Program which will automatically configure your device for your business when a new device is activated. The enrollment program makes it even easier for device configurations, applications, and restrictions to be loaded on the device—making a huge impact on the cost and maintenance of devices on your corporate network, removing the burden for your IT staff, and making simpler for your employees to connect their iOS devices then ever before.

Apple also knows how important security is to the enterprise market. iOS 8 supports S/MIME controls per message, giving users the ability to choose to sign and encrypt individual messages for greater control over the security of mail messages. Message threads can now be set to VIP status to give higher priority to import messages. MDM enhancements give greater control over devices on your corporate network. Third party document support allows access to the documents which are accessible on device and the ability to manage both books and PDFs. Apple hasn’t ignored one of the biggest threats to enterprise security connecting to unknown networks. iOS 8 supports peer to peer AirPlay, eliminating the need to connect to a network to display content on other Apple devices.

iCloud Drive

Apple is looking to change how we think of the cloud and increase how we use the cloud. Currently with iCloud, most users use it for backing up important information and content on their device. With iCloud Drive, Apple looks to change this into a true storage alternative for your Apple devices. Apple does this by reducing the cost for storage 20GB for $0.99 and 200GB for $3.99 and increasing the sharing and ease of sharing content across devices. Spotlight now searches not only your device, the web, and apps, but also the cloud. Apple then takes it one step further by introducing Family Sharing so up to six users can share information across devices, share reminders, purchases, find friends, and find iPhone. Apple looks to connect users and the cloud more than before.

Thoughts and Reactions to iOS 8

Apple has continued to build on a strong OS that it started with iOS 7. iOS 8 brings more content and features, and I am sure even more will come to light as this is just a subset of what is to come from iOS 8. Apple has released both iOS 8 and Xcode 6 to developers so we are sure to see more in the coming months before its release in the fall.

The Cogent IBS Mobility Team is still reviewing all that Apple presented.

Please see some of the initial reactions from the rest of the team regarding Apple’s announcements.

Thorsten Gorny – Senior Manager & Business Development, Mobility

 – Health / HealthKit seems to be a great platform to unify and connect data from different devices, lets me hope for the iWatch…:)

 – HomeKit see above + curious to see what Apples strategy is in terms of hardware… Maybe this is going to be Apple’s second big product category after the iWatch…

 – Swift / Developers are sure to be excited!

 – TouchID open to other apps / cool, this could be something for us:)

 – Better / easier exchange of data between apps / could this solve our caller ID recognition issue in mD?

 Overall, even being still a little disappointed about the missing iWatch, I guess with HomeKit and HealthKit Apple laid the foundation for two new product categories which might take Apple to the next level – at least now I am 100% sure there will be the iWatch coming out soon…:) “

 Peng Xie – iOS Developer, Mobility

  • App extensions enables users to share contents across apps or perform one app’s action in another app. Developers can also use extensions to extend their app’s ability to Notification Center.
  • Custom keyboards are also considered as app extensions. I believe developers will come up with creative keyboards aimed to specific tasks such as entering email addresses or special strings that only requires a subset of the full keyboard. (Example: employee IDs)
  • The new games related kits in iOS7 should have a broader application than just for game developments. Especially with the improved Sprite Kit and newly introduced Scene Kit, developers will be able to create some pretty interesting new controls to greatly improve user experience of apps.
  • The introduction of Cloud Kit and Document Picker will make the communication between apps and iCloud easier for developers and provide more possibilities for sharing and editing documents across apps through iCloud
  • Unified Storyboards for Universal Apps
  • Developers can now use one Storyboard for both iPhone and iPad interface. The size classes will be used for app to adopt different screen sizes base on deploy target.
  • This change is important for developers since it’s rumored that Apple will introduce next generation devices with larger screens. In addition, it’s highly possible that Apple will continue using iOS and offer SDK for future Apple TV models. The unified  Storyboards will make it easier for developers to add support for Apple TVs.
  • App Store Improvements
  • Burstly, the owner of the famous testing platform TestFlight, is acquired by Apple earlier this year and Apple has included the TestFlight as a new feature to App Store. This improvement will greatly help the developers to beta test their apps.
  • A completely redesigned iTunes Connect will also come later this year. The new analytics feature will surely provide a better experience for developers and make it easier to maintain the apps in App Store. 

 Sean Kollipara – Android Developer, Mobility

  1. A good move to introduce long-overdue features.  These are long-overdue because most have been available in iOS’ biggest competition, Android, for quite some time.

            A. Extensions framework

▸    Similar to the “intent” system on Android where pieces of data can be sent between apps by attaching them to the intent

▸     Available on Android since 1.0 (September 2008)

 B. Third-party keyboards

▸       Available on Android since 1.5 (May 2009)

C. Third-party widgets

▸       Available on Android since 1.5 (May 2009)

D. Typing suggestions

▸       Available on Android since 1.5 (May 2009)

▸       iOS takes it a step further by analyzing the content of incoming messages to provide contextually relevant suggestions when authoring a response

E. Battery usage stats

▸       Available on Android since 1.6 (September 2009)

F. Videos in the AppStore

▸       Available in the Google Play Store (then known as “Android Market”) since December 2010

G. Interactive notifications

▸       Available on Android since 4.1 (July 2012)

▸       iOS takes it a step further by allowing a text field in the notification, which enables quick text-based input for responding to a message (or performing any other task that requires text input from the user)

H. Searching

▸       One search queries against multiple sources and produces a compiled list of results: apps on device, contacts, Google search, Bing search, etc.  I feel that this is merely a natural progression of technology and should be expected of all modern search tools.

▸       Spotlight similar to Google Now, which has been available on Android since 4.1 (July 2012)

▸       Music search (serviced by Shazam on iOS 8) has been available on Google Now since February 2013

▸       Use a hotword (“Hey Siri”) to activate voice assistant; available on Android (“OK Google”) since 4.4 (October 2013)

I. iCloud Drive

▸       Service is pretty much identical to Google Drive

▸       Nice that it’s available for a non-Apple platform such as Windows

▸       Disappointing that it is not available for Android or Linux.  Maybe there will be an Android version in the future, but that is doubtful because Apple has never released any apps that allow its services to be used on Android.

  1. Continuity (Airdrop, Handoff, and call integration) is really cool and convenient, and it will be difficult for the competition to imitate.  No one else has a full-blown device ecosystem in the way that Apple does with Mac, iPhone, iPad, OS X, and iOS.  Because the competition is so fragmented (multiple hardware and software vendors in desktop, laptop, mobile, etc.), there would first need to be a standardized protocol over which all of these devices can interact.  Even then, there would still be varying user experiences between vendors.  Currently there are third-party solutions (AirDroid, Pushbullet, Mighty Text, et al.), but the lack of native support in the operating system is a big UX papercut.
  2. Family sharing creates a simple framework by which parents can approve their child’s iTunes/AppStore purchases.  This will probably save headaches for lots of parents.
  3. Disappointed that TouchID is expanding, as I think fingerprints provide a false sense of security.  This is especially true when they are relied upon to unlock the device’s entire keychain. They are easy to steal: they’re probably all over the phone, and they can be lifted cheaply and easily using Scotch tape.  If compromised, fingerprints cannot be changed.  Within 3 days of TouchID’s public availability was originally released, many hackers had already found ways to circumvent its protections.  This demonstrates the inherent lack of security in using fingerprints as a sole means of identification.  I would like to see Apple, Samsung, and all other mobile device manufacturers discontinue the use of fingerprint-based identification, especially where security is mission-critical (ex: protecting bank account information).  Fingerprints are better suited as a replacement for usernames, not passwords.
  4. Location-based app suggestions on the lockscreen are really cool, especially when visiting new places.  I really liked the demo of showing a transit system’s app when in/near a subway station.
  5. Health and HealthKit are an awesome step forward in the realm of the health and fitness apps.  The idea of a properly-secured central repository for storing health data makes lots of sense, and it allows for a more complete picture of a person’s health situation because it combines data from all sources rather than it being fragmented in each app.  This also allows for the sharing of data with a user’s physician, which enables better, more personalized, and timely health care decisions.  I think this has the potential to revolutionize the way health care is handled.

Stay connected to Cogent IBS blog to see more information, as it becomes available and our reactions and thoughts how iOS 8 will impact you.

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4 thoughts on “Takeaways from WWDC 2014

  1. It is awesome to see brilliant innovations unfolding in different levels and layers of the new science named MOBILITY

  2. Nice summary and a comparison of feature availability between Android and IOS

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