This week we decided to talk all things Apple with Justin Bolles, a senior iOS developer and co-founder of Connect Think. Check out what Justin had to say about his 3rd attendance at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in this info-packed interview.
Q: Our team carves out time to watch the WWDC Keynote from our office, and we gain valuable insight from each viewing. What is your primary reason for attending WWDC and what do you get out of being there in person?
Learning, learning, and more learning. The live stream Keynote is just the first half of Day One. There is a developer keynote for attendees in the afternoon, then hundreds of breakout sessions throughout the week. Each session dives deeper into specific items that didn’t make the Keynote or were only mentioned in passing. The ability to dive into the details of the newest release with the engineers who designed the changes is truly a unique experience.
Q: Were you able to speak with other iOS developers to learn more about how changes may affect development in the future? What insight did you gain?
One of the best parts of WWDC is getting to meet others in the development community and getting to hear about their projects and challenges they are facing. The Apple development ecosystem is now so big with tvOS, iOS, macOS, and watchOS, everyone had different highlights and disappointments from the week’s announcements.
Q: Are there steps you plan to take in preparation for upcoming Apple advancements? If, yes, can you provide a few examples?
Whenever there is a significant change to an operating system, we sit back and review those changes in the context of which of the apps we develop can take advantage of those features. Then we present the opportunities that come along with these enhancements to the client and implement the changes they would like to make. Next, with each iteration of the developer preview release, we move through our testing phase. Our emphasis on consistent testing ensures that we aren’t met with any surprises upon final release.
Q: Do you foresee any difficulties when clients decide to update their systems to iOS 10? How will you handle challenges during updates if they arise?
I believe iOS 10 is going to be a great upgrade for consumers and enterprises alike. While developers will have to take the time to update their apps to take full advantage of the new features, I don’t think there will be many changes that will interrupt current apps. This OS update is certainly not as drastic as the interface overhaul Apple made with iOS 7.
Q: What information did you gain outside of the Keynote? Do you have any particular expectations of iOS 10?
There was so much great information throughout the week from table cell prefetching to Apple File System. Literally, acres of fresh ground to improve the everyday experience when using iOS, macOS, tvOS, and watchOS.
With the release of iOS 10, I think there are a lot of things that will slowly improve as the development community has time to dig into the new APIs. This was a big unveiling so it will be exciting to see what people can do with it.
Q: Do you see opportunity for cross development when it comes to built-in Apple apps (i.e. Apple has opened maps and messages to developers)?
Apple Music intrigues me as a new development route. So much of Apple’s success has been rooted in music. The iPod saved the company. iTunes changed the way we consumed music. Making some of the Apple Music functionality available to third-party developers could pave the way for it overtaking established rivals like Pandora and Spotify. Apple has to figure out how to offer something that others can’t, and leveraging the power of the developer community could be that thing.
Q: Describe how the following new features, unveiled during the WWDC 2016 Keynote, will affect development for Apple products and apps in the future.
Proactive maps: The biggest takeaway from a development perspective, is Apple’s new direction with native apps. The natural growth of App Extensions over the last several iOS releases has slowly opened up Apple’s stock apps. Apple doesn’t let you replace the default apps, so this is their way of allowing the third party development community in, while still holding title control over user experience within the platform.
Updated music platform: Although this update doesn’t do much for developers, it does bring Apple Music a little closer to its competitive set as far as UX/UI goes. This is a classic example of getting something out in the world and letting users tell where the UX is lacking. From an everyday perspective, I think Apple did an excellent job of addressing some of the most clunky areas of Apple Music.
Homekit advances: As a natural gadget nerd, this really brings the home of the future one step closer. Currently, nothing in my house supports Homekit, so it doesn’t effect me directly, but now that there is a solidified app, I can see myself adding more “smart” products to our house.
Changes in chat/messages (video in a message, invisible ink, emoji reaction prediction, handwriting, etc.): From my perspective, similar to my response on proactive maps, these changes signal an opening of the ecosystem for Apple. It will be exciting to see what third-party developers can do with the new found space to operate in the core apps.
Phone updates: The biggest part of phone updates is bringing VOIP calls to the forefront–as a “first class citizen” on the platform. This advancement could lead the way to data-only cell plans in the future. Minutes, for the most part, are a thing of the past. They could go even further that way if it becomes a lot more natural to start a FaceTime, Skype, Slack or WhatsApp call right from the contacts area.
Q: What were your favorite parts and top takeaways from WWDC this season?
My favorite part of WWDC, each time I have had the opportunity to attend, is the ability to meet other developers and see what apps they are working on. Also, the excitement from the crowd right before the Keynote also makes waiting in line for 6 hours totally worth it!
This year Apple is attempting to strike a balance. They are trying to collect data on iOS usage while still protecting privacy. They are trying to open up their native apps while still controlling the user experience. They are looking to unify the experience across the different platforms while making sure they can still take advantage of the unique opportunities each provides. It will be interesting to see, in upcoming months and years, if they have been able to do so.