Exploring iOS 8: Release overview and thoughts

By Channel Mobile

Apple spent most of this year’s WWDC keynote presentation discussing iOS 8, the latest software update that has been released to developers, and will be released to the public in the next few months. As expected, iOS 8 continues to use the flat iOS 7 design, but offers a number of exciting new features.

Last year, with the transition to iOS 7, existing apps required implementing a complete design overhaul. We did this for many of our client applications, including the Childcare.co.uk iPhone app and have enjoyed receiving great feedback from users who upgraded their devices. This time round however, it’s about taking advantage of, and leveraging, the new features that have been made available to us in iOS 8.

One of the main themes running through the new iOS 8 features is the continued opening of previously private functionality which has traditionally been only open to Apple’s proprietary apps. Most importantly are the additions of Extensions to allow greater levels of inter-app communication and Touch ID, allowing iPhone 5s (and presumably users of any new iPhones released this year) to log into third party apps with their fingerprint data.

As WWDC is all about software, it didn’t surprise us that the iPhone 6 or the iWatch weren’t mentioned, however Apple do seem to be setting themselves up for a new wearable device by the time iOS 8 is released to the public.

Our thoughts on what’s been released…

It’s easy to see the unveiling of iOS 8 as altogether less exciting than that of iOS 7, and on the surface this is understandable.

This time last year, iOS 7 was redefining what Apple’s mobile operating system not only looked like, but also how it would operate and what experience users would receive. However, when you look behind the scenes, it is clear that iOS 8 brings a whole host of improvements, fixes and new features that will make the iOS experience even richer. Where iOS 7 laid the foundations, iOS 8 will bring maturity and development.

Having discussed WWDC and the iOS 8 release with the team, John, one of our Mobile Developers provided his thoughts;

In my opinion, the biggest, and most exciting feature is Extensions – the ability for apps to inter-communicate and present UI with other applications. A constant bugbear from users has been how inefficient is has been to send data back and forth between applications, and so now we have a method by which users will no longer be forced to return to the home screen, launch another app, copy data to the clipboard, return to the previous app and so on.

A more seamless experience will be possible, and one which developers are no doubt already thinking creatively about. This notion of extensions builds on Apple’s new focus on what it calls “continuity” – the ability for its users to seamlessly transition not just between apps, but between devices. Start writing an email on your Mac, and your iPhone will contextually become aware of this, offering the ability to then pick up the writing with no more than a swipe from the lock screen. It is this seamless movement across the entire Apple ecosystem that will bring unity to their products, and consistency to their users’ experience.

Other than this, notable additions were interactive notifications, custom keyboards and the ability to use TouchID to authenticate within third-party apps. Not to mention a whole heap of under-the-hood additions to the SDK: improvements to CoreLocation in particular look very interesting; the ability to track location not only within a 2D space, but also within an interior building with awareness of which floor a user is currently on to mention only one.

As more beta versions are released, developers who are already getting to grips with the brand new programming language, Swift, with which to build their apps will undoubtedly be coming up with new ways to exploit these additions. iOS 8 will be a great release for users, but primarily because it’s such a great release for developers.

As one person put it on Twitter, “Apple have spent the last two years putting developers in their place. Now it finally looks like they want to be friends”.

Making the most of iOS 8

Exploring iOS 8 and it’s new features has highlighted a number of opportunities for our clients to provide better experiences for users, and take advantage of the new features including HealthKit, HomeKit, Sharing Extensions, and many more.

We’re now looking at the next steps for our clients, and building the next part of the roadmap to improve their products, and leverage the opportunities!