June 18, 2018 // By Mark Wilkinson
The big 3 conferences have come and gone, with Apple’s being the last. As primarily a native iOS developer there’s no shame in admitting I pay little attention to the other 2, although with our growing need for cross-platform like Xamarin, it has become even more imperative to keep up with what the Android and Microsoft platforms are offering every year. With Apple taking most of the press (out of the 3), it’s no wonder that a lot of the focus and the critical analysis comes down to what Cupertino promises (or fails to promise) to deliver in its next versions of iOS, MacOS, tvOS and WatchOS.
So, What’s New in iOS 12?
It’s no surprise that ARKit has captured a wide following in the Apple developer community. Originally released last year for iOS 11, it brought entry-level Augmented Reality programming to the iOS developer. Augmented Reality, historically, has been a high-level computer science topic that demanded a certain understanding of difficult math combined with programming. ARKit aims to abstract some of that away and make building AR apps for iOS within every developers grasp. This year’s introduction of a new file format USDZ courtesy of the wizards from Pixar add to this capability. The idea behind this file format is better accessibility to the objects in the AR space by editing the objects in Photoshop, then importing into your application or game. Again, the focus is on making Augmented Reality more accessible.
SIRI has been integrated more into your daily workflow, with the addition of a feature to help you plan and remember based on your location. It’s a new system of AI interacting with what it sees you doing on a regular basis. Cool I guess if you already rely on reminders, navigation and calendar appointments. Now you can have it super-powered with SIRI.
Another recurring prediction leading up to WWDC was the *eventual merging of MacOS with iOS, that maybe this was the year they’d announce the merger. We see this already in the Microsoft platforms, and it seems like the natural evolution of similar software spread among multiple devices. In fact, Apple (or really Tim Cook) addressed this directly with a simple question, “Are we merging the 2? NO.” His explanation is that MacOS and iOS server specific roles and combining them makes no sense. However, with all devices in their ecosystems now communicating, sharing and interacting more with each other, it’s not a surprise that key iOS applications are being ported to the Mac. News, Stocks, Home App and Memos. News probably being the most reasonable, as I would rather sit down to my mac in the morning and read my curated articles for the day on a 27 inch monitor than my phone.
The most surprising MacOS announcement seemed to be the Dark Mode. Now applications and the entire interface of MacOS can be set to darker shades for easier viewing at night, or if you’re like me, preferred dark shading all day. This includes of course Xcode, which now will get a dark mode, something Visual Studio shipped with in 2010. For developers of MacOS apps, UIKit is coming. UIKit is the development kit used only in iOS and it’s clear that Apple wants it’s legions (that obviously out-number MacOS developers) to bring their creations over to the Mac App Store. With UIKit, it will now be easier to port iOS applications to Mac.
The Apple Watch always gets an update at WWDC. This year is bringing of course a new WatchOS, 5. The coolest feature, that I might actually use with my kids (yes they have watches), is the walkie-talkie feature. Not much explanation needed here and maybe not a whole lot of real use, but it may prevent us from yelling across the house to get someone’s attention when the trash needs to be taken out or the games need to be turned off. There’s also the “we can tell when you start working out feature” that will start a workout session for you. I like the idea of this, as I regularly start a walk or lifting session and forget to start the workout app.
We might have a problem
It seems like a week can’t go by without seeing a Hacker News article discussing the health effects and new studies on our obsessive use of mobile devices. Apparently, despite the huge profits that these devices have brought to Apple, they’ve recognized this crisis and are incorporating a feature into iOS called Activity Report. This will give you a daily rundown of use of your device, how long you’ve been in an app, how many times you’ve glanced at your device and an ability to set your own limits on usage. It seems like a natural extension of the Do-not-Disturb while driving feature implemented in iOS 11 which attempts to prevent the user from using their phone if it detects it’s being transported in a vehicle. Of course, both of these features will be voluntary, so it’s not certain how many will make use of this, I mean who really looks at their glorious smart phone and thinks, “maybe I have a problem with this thing.” Thought so.