Apple's WWDC 2019 was two weeks ago. This year, it was very much a developer-focused conference; they didn't talk about music, movies, their TV service, or their magazine service. Other than the over-the-top Mac Pro, it was all developer centric.
There are nine things that stood out to me that will give direction to enterprises on how to think about Apple, macOS, and iPadOS in the coming year or two. Keep in mind some of these things won't come to fruition immediately — it will take a while for adoption to get there to make it worthwhile for complete support — but these are still things you need to keep in mind about the Apple ecosystem.
1. iPad OS is Here
Apple is separating the iPad operating system from iOS much like they did with watchOS and tvOS. It will run on the same basic APIs as iOS, but the way the windowing system works is different and gives tablet users a lot more capabilities.
This move indicates that Apple is feeling the pressure from Microsoft, specifically their Microsoft Surface tablet, and it helps position the iPad as much more of a general-purpose computing device instead of something that's basically a big phone. There will be support for multiple windows of an application, different ways of managing the applications you're running, and the ability to read external drives on your iPad, which is huge. Plus, this shift will let you read data from other computers, not just other iOS or Apple devices.
Making an app suitable for multi-window support in iPadOS will take a moderate amount of work if the app is already well-structured. You will need to decide what views the user will want as multi-window and the paradigm to use for those windows.
Keep an eye on iPadOS development. For example, if you have an application that is targeted at business users, strongly consider adding multiple window support to it.
2. iPad apps on MacOS
Last year, Apple teased “Marzipan.” This year, it’s got an official name: “Project Catalyst.” This means that you can take your iPadOS or iOS app and very quickly have it running on a Mac as a native application. We haven't tried it yet with any of our client apps, but from what we can tell, there shouldn't be any major issues getting things to run seamlessly.
This can be an interesting way for companies to get their icons on the desktop of Macs, which take up about 10% market share for laptop-class devices. And for home devices, it’s likely even a higher percentage because people tend to buy them for home more than they buy them for business. There are some security advantages to having a native app, and multiwindow support for iPadOS will also pass through to MacOS as multiwindow support on that platform.
If you have an iOS app today, I think this is something you should be looking at.
Apple pushed again on accessibility and improving accessibility of iOS, iPadOS, and MacOS. One of the interesting things they announced this year is called Voice Control, which allows users to use their iPhone without touching the screen, so they can control it and command it with voice to do pretty much anything you can via touch.
There's little that your app needs to do to be Voice Control-enabled if you’ve already made it VoiceOver capable, but there are some things that you can do to prevent it from working properly. For example, certain types of custom gestures can be a hindrance to accessible access with Voice Control or even accessible access for someone with a visual impairment. So, keep that in mind.
4. Doubling-Down on Machine Learning
At WWDC, Apple once again doubled-down on Machine Learning. This is the third year in a row. So, I suppose at this point it's quadrupling down on Machine Learning.
They have added more built-in libraries and more built-in models for things like sound categorization. They've improved their object recognition. And, they're enabling your ability to update or retrain models on-device rather than having to do it on the server.
One of the big drivers behind this is their push for privacy. These improvements mean that Apple want companies to be able to utilize Machine Learning without having to collect massive amounts of customer data. If customer privacy is a concern, you should be leveraging these new tools. Given some other moves Apple is making on privacy, I suspect that in coming years, they will start removing apps from the app store that are flagrant violators of users’ privacy.
5. ARKit is Continuing to Grow
Just like Machine Learning, Apple has doubled-down on Augmented Reality again. ARkit 3 will include features to make AR even more impressive — things like detecting bodies and occluding the AR image based on where people are standing. This solves some of the big problems we've had with making truly immersive AR experiences. How it detects the world is becoming much more powerful with apps that can recognize other types of surfaces or objects that may interrupt the scene.
Apple introduced some tools and frameworks that start to separate AR from gaming, too. RealityKit and Reality Composer are tools designed, from the beginning, for AR. They reported an interesting statistic in a later session: Wayfair reports a 3.4x increase in likelihood of purchase of a product if the user views the product in Augmented Reality.
One AR demo from the conference stood out to me — Minecraft. Minecraft on iOS is going to be a huge hit if it even has half the promise they showed on stage. I think kids, teenagers, and whoever plays around with Minecraft are going to love being able to build things in the real world and share everything within a physical space rather than just on a computer screen. This game shows the power of cooperative AR.
If you’re designing an AR experience, you should also consider how it can be enhanced by sharing the experience across multiple phones.
6. Adaptive UI is Necessary
This is an interesting announcement that was just kind of slipped in with a single sentence: as of this fall, any iOS app submitted to the app store must have an adaptive UI. This means every app must automatically resize and adjust its layout based on the size of the device it's running on. Whether it's running on a phone or on a tablet, it needs to stretch and adjust the size. If it doesn't use an adaptive UI, it will be rejected.
No more screen stretching just to get it on iPad. No more ignoring size classes. You've got to actually support an adaptive UI. They've given you 4 years — if you haven’t already, it's time to support different screen sizes.
7. Siri Shortcuts are Getting More Powerful
In the latest iteration of Siri Shortcuts, they have added parameters so that the voice interface can be more powerful on your phone. Alexa and Google Assistant have stabilized as far as their progress, and Siri is catching up.
If you haven’t already, consider how you can use voice to improve your app experience.
8. SwiftUI Could Make Developing Across Platforms Much Easier
Apple unveiled a new, major UI framework to help developers build apps in Swift called SwiftUI. This is a declarative way of doing user interfaces, and it's designed to be very flexible across all of Apple's platforms. Within a week, developers had added an extension to it to even use HTML. There is potential that SwiftUI may become a general-purpose UI development tool across all computing platforms such as Android and Windows and the Apple stack. It's not happening yet, but the potential is there for that to happen.
That could mean a business could natively target an iOS version of an app and get an Android version created from it easily — from there you could make a Windows version or a MacOS version or a web version out of it too. So, this has potential to be a very powerful tool.
However, like any tool that abstracts UI layout, you may lose some flexibility in your UI design using SwiftUI.
One note from this is that Apple is focusing more and more on Swift, and the direction for our clients is that you should work to remove Objective-C code from your apps. It used to be that it was okay to run them side-by-side, but as things progress, the Objective-C will start to get in the way more and more. So, if you still have Objective-C code lying around, get it on the roadmap to refactor that code out.
9. PRIVACY, PRIVACY, PRIVACY
This is Apple’s big differentiator. With every framework they talked about, especially within the Machine Learning space, privacy was a focus. Remembering that Facebook almost got kicked out of the app store this past year because they were abusing Apple’s privacy stance, I would not be surprised if very shortly, Apple will start rejecting apps from the app store if they violate their user's privacy.
And another little thing they slipped in was that if you build an app that's marked for children, it cannot collect third-party analytics and cannot do third-party advertising. They went to a point that if your app was ever targeted at children, it can't collect analytics. Once again, if you’re planning to have your apps live in the Apple space, just make sure you’re keeping your customers’ privacy in mind.
No real revolutionary updates this year, but WWDC brought some real, actionable improvements for developers — a lot of ways to get the work that you've done on your iOS app onto other platforms and to build and leverage that code in other places.
Given these new tools, it's now more important than ever to make sure your iOS app is well-written and running great, because if it is, your opportunities to leverage that work are greater than ever.