WWDC may have been a little underwhelming for consumers this year, but it was a big week for the developer community. This year, the conference was all about developers as Apple opens up key applications in its platform for third-party access. The company released numerous APIs for previously closed-off Apple features, giving developers new ways to innovate and weave their creativity into the underlying platform. It’s exciting news for developers, and consumers will reap the benefits down the road.
Here’s a look at some of Apple’s most exciting announcements and what they mean for both developers and end-users:
Unlocking the Platform’s Power Features
Apple’s main focus was to open up content that had previously been cut off from third-party developers. Here’s what Apple has unlocked:
- Home Screen – Third-party developers can finally control the home screen. That means apps like Skype can change the home screen experience so users can get the same (or better) experience that was previously only reserved for Apple apps (like Facetime).
- Messaging – Thanks to a new Messaging API, apps can offer up services directly within Apple’s Messaging app. For example, companies like Uber could offer up ride services within the messaging platform when a user is texting about needing transportation.
- Siri – Apple also released an SDK for Siri, which will allow the assistant to perform more complex and connected requests. Also, Siri is being brought to all of its operating systems to bring a unified experience across any (Apple) device.
- Neural Network Technology – Developers now have access to Apple’s neural network technology, which allows machines to recognize photos, learn speech patterns and much more.
Meanwhile, developers will be able to bring voice control and speech recognition into their apps as well as integrate capabilities that were previously reserved for apps deeper in the core experience of the phone.
The result? More contextualized interactions in which apps work behind the scenes to provide valuable information and assistance across to OS. In other words, Apple is tearing down silos so developers can craft more fluid and intuitive experiences.
There are several reasons why Apple is so keen to open up major parts of its platform. First and foremost, the company is trying to entice developers to build contextualized experiences for the iPhone that differentiate Apple devices from competitors like Android. This also draws more developers to build great apps for the platform, which ultimately determines the success of Apple’s products. What’s more, messaging and in-context interactions are on the rise as more and more conversations and transactions are happening in messaging apps. This trend spells huge opportunity and, at the same time, is a big threat to the owners of the OS. But opening up the platform in new ways allows Apple to stay competitive as the mobile market evolves.
A More Connected Apple Ecosystem
Apple also wants to create a more seamless experience across its devices. The company announced Universal Clipboard, which allows users to easily share content between desktop, phone, tablet and watch. Now, users can move apps, data and transactions across different modalities. The goal is to harness more activity within the Apple ecosystem.
Leveling the Playing Field
Apple’s most bizarre announcement (and perhaps most surprising) was the newfound ability to delete Apple apps. Previously, Apple-created apps like News, Weather and Healthkit could not be deleted from the homescreen. While this may have frustrated some end users, I suspect the majority never thought twice about it. The ability to delete Apple apps is a minor announcement for consumers, but a seismic shift for developers. It is a symbolic leveling of the playing field and shows that Apple cares about developers and values their apps just as much as its own content.
This announcement is part of a larger effort to appease developers. Just before WWDC, Apple announced significant improvements to its App Store and made promises to speed up the app review process.
Huge Opportunity for Developers and New Experiences for Users
Apple is giving developers more control than ever before. And that’s exciting for both developers and consumers because it means more innovation and better experiences. Apple is opening up its crown jewel features as “mobile” continues to expand beyond the phone to include more and more “things” and interactions. For Apple and its devices to stay at the center of that universe, they really had no other choice.
Ultimately, the hope is that developers will dream up all sorts of use cases that help the end-user. When you think about it, there’s so much that you can do with apps today. If we had to wait for Apple to create all of the use cases, we wouldn’t have the variety and quality of apps we have now. The same holds true for contextual experiences. Apple relies on third-party developers for contextual interactions that are driving user experiences forward. And now Apple is giving developers the tools they need to unbundle apps to create more powerful moments.
Want to hear more about the announcements made during WWDC 2016? Check out our blog post, written by Appcelerator developers who were able to experience the event firsthand.