Apple’s iOS 8 platform may still be riddled with bugs, but the race is on among developers for making apps that are compatible with the new platform. In the following post, the key challenges and scopes that the new platform throws up for iOS developers have been highlighted.
It has been well over two months since the arrival of iOS 8, on the latest flagship iPhone devices. Already, four major updates have also been released – with iOS 8.1.1 being the latest among them. While functional issues, bugs and glitches are yet to be fully ironed out, there is considerable excitement among professional iPhone app developers regarding the new opportunities that iOS 8 brings to the table. We will here take a glance at some of the aspects about the new mobile platform from Apple that have got developers all abuzz:
- Increased need for cross-device support – It will no longer be enough for mobile app companies to create apps that are optimized for a single range of devices (for instance, iPhones or iPads). iOS 8, with its Handoff and Continuity features, has made it almost essential for every new app to have a properly functional OS X version as well (in addition to the regular iOS version). What used to be a mobile app only can now very well be used on an iMac.
- Cloud services have gained greater significance – iCloud Drive is still not without its fair share of snags – but as Apple fixes the problems, app developers have to start to consider cloud services as a part of their day-to-day tasks. With user-demand for iCloud Drive storage likely to increase at a rapid pace over time, every application needs to properly sync in the cloud, and be storable/usable on the cloud network. Poor performance on this count can lead to the failure of an otherwise promising iOS app.
- More APIs – A Double-Edged Sword? – At first glance, the 4000-odd new application program interfaces (APIs) of iOS 8 can appear nothing but a huge boost for developers. The scope for differentiating among apps in somewhat similar categories is immense. However, overdependence on the new APIs for app differentiation can be risky – since the chance of an app not performing as per expectations always remains. What’s more – in the absence of the requisite hardware, mobile app testing can also remain incomplete (for apps created with new APIs).
- Learn a new language – Few things get professional coders more excited than the prospect of learning a new programming language. While Objective-C is definitely not ‘out’, Swift is definitely ‘in’ after the arrival of iOS 8. The new language (optimized to work simultaneously with Obj-C) has already received the ‘Gold Master’ status – and many mobile app development companies have already started making ‘Swift-only’ apps. There are plenty of learning tutorials for Swift available online. It’s exciting, and far from difficult, to master the language and start using it to make apps of a new type.
- Greater design customizations are required – iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are by far the largest screen phones launched by Apple (screen sizes 4.7” and 5.5” respectively). To make sure that the user-interface (UI) of apps do not get distorted in any way on these new handsets, mobile app designers have to be more careful about customization in their graphic design services. All the screen sizes and optimal display resolutions (for the devices on which an app would be supported) have to be noted down, and UI/UX designing has to be done accordingly.
- More devices under the hood – The iOS 8 platform gives final users the opportunity to access and use mobile applications from a wider number of Apple devices than ever before, thanks to built-in apps like HomeKit and HealthKit. Prior to actually starting the app development process, developers have to jot down all the devices the app should run seamlessly on – and proceed accordingly. One of the biggest features of iOS 8 is the greater interconnectivity among devices it supports. Creating applications that offer top-notch performance across all devices is certainly a new challenge.
- App support on older iOS versions – The arrival of iOS 8 has thrown up a very interesting question, regarding the extent of backward support that new apps should provide. Till the last quarter, it was customary for companies to make apps that ran seamlessly on iOS 4, 5, 6 and 7-powered devices. Now that the eighth version of the Apple mobile platform is here, it is generally believed that the support for iOS 4 will gradually be phased out for new apps. While starting a project, developers have to take a stand regarding the platform versions their app would support.
- Need to be prepared for split-screen multitasking – Contrary to what everyone had expected, Apple did not bring split-screen multitasking feature in iOS 8. However, the very fact that this rumor had been doing the rounds for so long makes it advisable for iPhone app developers to create new apps that can operate in split screens (in landscape mode). In particular, considerations like battery drainage, display resolutions and mobile bandwidth consumption have to be taken into account. Split-screen will come on iOS devices soon, and it’s sensible to start preparing for the feature.
- The distinction between iPad apps and phablet apps are getting blurred – It’s time for a rethink for those app developers who used to maintain a clear distinction between iPhone and iPad apps. iPhone 6 Plus, for all purposes, is a phablet – and the applications created for iPhone 6 should be properly operable on the larger device too. On the other hand, iPad sales have flattened out over the past few quarters, which puts the necessity of making customized iPad applications under the scanner.
- New widgets and extensions – On iOS 8-powered devices, most apps need to have specific additional features – like the ‘Today’ view in the default calendar application. Widget support and new share extensions have been ramped up on the new platform, and developers have to ensure that their apps make optimal use of all the features of iOS 8. Focus on user-needs has emerged as the key concern for developers, who have to make customization of apps their priority.
- The race to get first-mover’s advantage – Well, this ship has already started to sail. Mobile app agencies that are first to announce that they have iOS 8-compatible applications are, understandably, likely to be at an advantage. As more and more companies upgrade their apps, this advantage would diminish. It’s all about making customized apps for the new iOS platform before rival companies – without compromising on the quality front.
Although iOS 8 is not radically different from its predecessor, iOS 7, as far as basic designs are concerned, there is a wealth of new features in the new platform. As such, people who have upgraded their handsets to iOS 8 (or have bought iPhone 6/6 Plus) would expect more from the apps they install too. The onus is on developers to match up to these client expectations. It won’t be long before ‘a good iPhone app’ became synonymous with an ‘iOS 8-compatible app’!