Every year, at its Worldwide Developer Conference, Apple unveils its plans for the future of iOS, macOS and more. WWDC gives app developers like us the insight we need to future-proof our mobile app development. Because many of the announcements made this week will help us to enhance the user experience (UX) of our applications.
As to be expected, a large part of this year’s keynote address was dedicated to iOS 12. But we also saw announcements on Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality (AR) and an all-new focus on making the most out of the time we spend in-apps.
If you’re just looking for the highlights of WWDC18, here they are:
- iOS12 introduces smarter, stacked notifications which users will have more control over. Other features include Group Facetime with up to 32 participants and significant increases to the speed of the OS.
- All-new Siri features like Shortcuts and Suggestions will help users do more in less time through customisable controls. With this, users can easily create automatic sequences of app actions based on specific phrases they set.
- macOS Mojave (10.14) brings with it a whole host of productivity tools, customisable actions and post-app era interactions. So, users can quickly complete tasks like signing documents and editing media without ever having to launch an app.
- ARKit 2 introduces a completely new file type usdz that makes AR much easier and quicker to share because it’s usable without unpacking to a filesystem. ARKit 2 also includes persistent AR experiences as well as more accurate measuring of real-world objects.
- Create ML, an all-new AI tool, will help developers to test and train their ML models much faster than before. By combining Create ML with Core ML, it will be much easier and quicker to integrate AI into mobile app development going forward.
— Sonin (@soninapps) June 6, 2018
iOS 12 Highlights
One of the biggest focuses of iOS 12 is its speed with Apple working hard to make its devices feel faster than ever, especially on older devices. According to Apple, in iOS 12, apps will launch 40% faster, the keyboard will appear 1.5x faster than before and launching the camera from the lock screen will be 70% faster. So, looking forward your iOS users will expect more snappy app interactions across the board.
At WWDC18, Apple also introduced Group Facetime with up to 32 participants. But the really clever bit is the built-in AI that recognises who in the group is talking and who isn’t. Based on this, the Facetime thumbnails will then resize in real-time.
Another big step for iOS 12 is grouped notifications which now display in a stack. Further to this, users will be able to customise which notifications get priority on their lock screen and which go straight to the notification centre. So, app developers will need to carefully consider how they keep their app or brand in their users’ minds. This means you need to provide your users with highly relevant push notifications which relies on a deep understanding of your users.
Siri Suggestions and Shortcuts in iOS 12
Let’s face it, Siri is still a ways behind Google Assistant and Alexa right now. But in an effort to fix that, Apple is updating its voice assistant with Suggestions and Shortcuts. These new features won’t just make Siri more powerful, they’ll also let iOS users achieve more in less time.
With the all-new Shortcuts feature, you can set up your own custom voice commands. These then link to in-app actions so all you have to do is say ‘I’m Heading into Work.’ Siri will then start the navigation, read out your day’s calendar appointments or to-do-list before resuming your podcast or playlist.
Sound familiar? At Google I/O 18, we got a glimpse of Android P’s Actions and Slices and looking forward, more and more of our mobile interactions will rely on these predictive app systems. Systems that use AI to suggest specific app features and information based on our digital behaviour. We asked our mobile developer Manj what the potential of these new Siri features are:
Digital Wellbeing in iOS 12
Another key focus for both WWDC12 and this year’s Google I/O 18 has been digital wellbeing or digital health. The average Brit checks their phone 10,000 times a year. This sounds like a lot but that’s only 28 times a day, or less than once an hour of your waking day. Suddenly, 10,000 times doesn’t sound so high.
But just because we’re spending more time on our mobile phones, it doesn’t mean we’re achieving more. So, one of the biggest trends in mobile app development right now is helping users achieve more in less time with less effort. Whether that’s through post-app era interactions or giving users more control over their mobile apps.
To help people make the most of the time they spend on screens, iOS 12 will include a new report dashboard called Screen Time. From here, you’ll be able to see exactly how much time you spend in each app. You can set daily limits and get in-depth reports, gaining a much better understanding of your mobile behaviour. We asked our iOS developer Manj what he thinks the benefits of Screen Time are:
“iOS Screen Time settings is used to control/view how much time kids/we spend on each app. Also with parental controls, we can restrict Age restricted apps, websites and videos being run on kid’s devices. App limits, new Do Not Disturb and Notification Controls help users reduce interruptions and manage screen time for themselves and their families.”
Productivity Tools in macOS Mojave
macOS 10.14 (named Mojave) introduces a range of new features to make user interactions easier and more enjoyable. To increase the productivity of users, new Quick Actions in Mojave automate and streamline user tasks like creating password-protected PDFs. And continuing the trend of doing more with less, macOS will now let users edit media and mark up PDFs without ever opening an app.
These post-app era interactions will become increasingly common. Being able to do more without opening the relevant app will quickly become the standard. So, to get ahead of this curve, you need to think about your app in terms of the specific actions or tasks your users complete.
Shared Experiences with ARKit 2
The new ARKit 2 platform announced at WWDC18 will allow developers to integrate shared and more engaging Augmented Reality experiences. Beyond this, a new spectator mode will let other users view the AR experience in real-time, opening up a number of possibilities for both collaboration and recreation. And finally, ARKit’s new capabilities means mobile apps can much more accurately measure real-world objects.
A lot of the new features are made possible by a new file type usdz. By working with Pixar, Apple has developed a completely new file type optimised for shared AR experiences. All while keeping the high-quality graphics and animations. We asked our mobile developer Austin what he thinks about ARKit 2:
“With ARKit 2, Apple is introducing the new usdz file format for iOS 12 which will simplify content sharing. It could also lead to streamable AR experiences because usdz files are usable without unpacking to a file system. In addition to this, Apple’s new AR app Measure can quickly gauge the size of real-world objects, providing accurate diagonal measurements in real-time.”
Easy AI Development with Create ML
In 2018, Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are staples of any developer’s toolkit. But training your AI model takes a lot of time and computing power which is why most of it is done in the cloud. Create ML, Apple’s new AI training tool, will let developers do all this locally on their own computer. And it’s set to change how we develop ML models for mobile apps.
For example, it can take up to 24 hours to train a model with 20,000 images. Bit with Create ML, that can be reduced to just 48 minutes on a MacBook! Further to this, the file size of the model is also reduced from 90MB to just 3! Our mobile developer, and resident AI expert, James had this to say on the Create ML announcement:
“With this new tool, developers can greatly reduce the time it takes to train their ML models and, through quantization, the size of ML models can also be reduced by up to 75%. The Xcode integration will also allow developers to train, test and prototype models and mobile apps much quicker than before.”
This means smarter apps that can create custom mobile experiences and interactions for each individual user. With artificial intelligence, you can greatly improve the value of your mobile app offering which helps you retain users and ensure a return on your investment. And with CreateML, this has never been easier or faster.
WWDC18 and the Future of App Development
The future of mobile app development lies in more proactive app experiences that take advantage emerging technologies like AI and voice recognition. Thanks to tools like Create ML, integrating these technologies is becoming much easier. But as more developers make use of these tools to enhance their apps, user expectations will begin to skyrocket. Soon, your users will expect to do so much more with less even if that means they’re not opening your app.
Looking forward, you need to take a user-centric approach if you want to future-proof your app. Think about your app from your users’ perspective, what are the specific tasks they’re looking to carry out? Which points require their input and where can you automate actions for them? These are the areas where advancements we’ve seen out of WWDC18 can make the biggest impact.
If you’re interested in developing a mobile app and want to take advantage of the latest iOS app trends, then we’d love to hear from you. Give us a call on +44 (0)1737 45 77 88 or send us a message today.