Insights from Apple WWDC 2014

Apple held their Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) last week where, amongst other things, they announced the latest version of their mobile operating system, iOS8.

While in previous years Apple have concentrated on user interface improvements, this year's release was a lot more focussed on providing new and improved services, with over 4000 new APIs to play with. Apple has also introduced a new programming language plus a huge amount of new core features around messaging, photos and tight integration with other iOS and OSX devices.

After a week of playing around with the beta software and tools in iOS8, here are a few things that we're particularly excited about.

Widgets and richer notifications

The Notification Center has been given an upgrade, allowing users to interact with apps directly from the notification banners. At the conference, Apple demoed a user receiving an SMS notification and replying to it directly from the notification at the top of the screen. This is a great way of making the notification process more efficient without taking focus away from the currently active application.

Also, the Extensibility framework allows third party apps to install widgets within the Notification Center (similar to the weather and Calendar widgets currently provided by Apple).

Swift programming language

Objective-C has been expanded over the years to include more modern programming techniques but it still feels clunky compared to other languages. So no wonder developers are excited about the announcement of Swift, a modern, expressive and intuitive programming language for building apps for iOS.

Swift can be used as a replacement or run alongside Objective-C, meaning developers can still use familiar libraries and frameworks inside a project using Swift. This new modern language should make it easier for existing programmers used to languages such as JavaScript or C#, as well as graduates looking to get started with iOS development.

Bluetooth low energy (BLE)

Currently used in Apple's iBeacons technology, Bluetooth LE is being used as part of the new HomeKit and HealthKit frameworks in iOS8. HomeKit will allow iOS devices to communicate with smart devices in the home, office or retail spaces, whilst HealthKit allows communication with wearable technology primarily for fitness and health tracking. Longer term, Apple has hinted at a much more prominent use for this proximity technology with indoor mapping and navigation solutions using the iPhone 5S motion co-processor.

Better developer tools and a new programming language should make it faster and more enjoyable for developers to create quality applications. There is a huge amount of new technology to be explored in this latest release and we're already throwing around some great ideas her at Code.

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