Today is the day. Apple is holding their fall special event where they’re expected to chat new iPhone(s), watch, and of course, iOS11. While there’s a lot we still don’t know for sure about the upcoming iPhone 8, or X as some people are rumoring, but even for existing devices there are some changes you need to know about and plan for if you’re a developer.
Here’s a quick breakdown of all the things you should be keeping top of mind and thinking through for your mobile app:
Changes to location handling in iOS 11 mean that if your app is directly accessing the user’s location in the background, instead of simply seeing the location-access arrow in the navigation bar, they’ll now see a blue title bar. This will be pretty discouraging to users unless your app is doing something like navigation on behalf of the user. Strongly consider switching to CoreLocation geofences instead to avoid users disabling location for your app or giving you bad reviews.
iPad multitasking and drag & drop
iOS 11 includes significant improvements to split-screen iPad multitasking, including the addition of drag and drop functionality. If your app has a lot of iPad users (like many shopping or business apps), you’ll probably want to make sure everything works well in the resized views. You’ll also want to take advantage of the new drag and drop APIs if your app involves significant selection or sharing elements, but most apps won’t have significant use cases for that functionality.
While this isn’t something you add to your app, it’s a mobile experience you may strongly want to consider building, especially if you sell physical goods. Business Chat lets customers ask questions or even complete orders from inside the Messages app built in to iOS, with discoverability from Safari, Maps, Spotlight, and Siri. See Apple’s documentation for more. Keep in mind that developing Business Chat experiences involves server to server APIs rather than client-side mobile apps, so it may involve working with a different set of developers internally than your usual mobile app features.
Augmented reality apps are now within every developer’s reach. Applications for this range from the trivially fun (fidget spinners) to functional (IKEA furniture previews in your living room). Game developers and companies with physical products should especially be paying attention to the possibilities here.
Some other iOS 11 features that might get developers excited in some areas, but that most of us can ignore:
- MLKit – Apple’s new on-device machine learning tools (along with improvements to iOS’s natural language processing APIs) mean that there’s now a fast on-device option for apps that are looking to add features like face detection for photos, sentiment analysis, or predictive input a la Inbox smart replies.
- Metal 2 – if you don’t know your shaders from your teraflops, you can probably safely ignore this one. But if you’re building a high performance game or graphics-intensive app, you’ll find a lot to love in Apple’s updates for the highest-performance low-level graphics tools. There’s also some new tooling to help developers building custom machine learning algorithms that can run on the GPU.
- Siri additions – Developers can now enable Siri functionality in some new domains – Lists, Notes, and Bills. This is in addition to existing payment, ridesharing, and exercise oriented ones. There’s also support for SiriKit extensions from Apple Watch. If you’ve got an app in one of those domains and would like to open it up for use within Siri, take a look at the changes. It’s still a fairly small contained list of accepted domains, but particularly the openness of the List-based intents mean that more apps should have ways of integrating directly into Apple’s virtual assistant.
We are anxiously awaiting Apple’s big event at 1pm today to find out all of the new great releases we can expect from them this fall. Expect a full breakdown of iOS 11 features and of course, the new iPhone(s) and watch.
What are you most looking forward to about iOS 11 or today’s Apple event?