Well, it’s over for another year. This year’s World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) was one of the most anticipated in years, with predictions ranging from improved Siri features, a new TV, apps on Apple TV to new Macs. Just before the conference, I made a few predictions:
- iOS 6.
- An SDK for building apps on Apple TV.
- And a long shot, new APIs for Apple TV & iOS that allow iOS companion apps for programming on the Apple TV.
I got one of three right. We didn’t see any announcement of a new TV, or, support for apps on the Apple TV (which can be done today with jailbreaking). I have no doubt that the latter is coming, perhaps towards the end of the year. We did however, see the announcement of some new Mac hardware, the new retina MacBook Pro (literally) looks amazing, and the new MacBook Airs are a welcome upgrade to an already awesome machine.
As usual, we sent a couple of our developers to the conference. We do this as it gives our developers the opportunity to learn about the new APIs & how they impact our software, to talk with Apple engineers – sometimes there is only a single person who can answer a question – but also because it’s one hell of a good time! Our developers cite the access to Apple engineers, and some of the insights derived from those conversations as their main highlights. Though the free schwag is always welcome!
So what are the highlights to our customers & their readers?
Firstly, one of the most interesting stats shown was that more than 80% of users run iOS 5. Our own analytics show the number running iOS 5 to be greater than 90%, some apps are as high as 97% and greater than 50% or users running the latest version of iOS 5 (5.1.1).
As expected, iOS 6 was announced, which is due to ship before the end of the year. The good news is that Oomph apps run flawlessly on iOS 6. iOS 6 is a further refinement to iOS 5, the most significant “feature” from our reader’s POV is the dropping of support for the first iPad.
Maps are being migrated away from Google Maps, to Apple’s own technology (which appears to be at least partially sourced from TomTom). Maps will include new features such as 3D (presently available in select cities) & turn-by-turn navigation, but street view appears to have been dropped. The new Apple-based Maps is a drop in replacement for the current Maps; all MapKit features (at time of writing) appear to work without modification, and this includes the Oomph Map widget.
Siri is being brought to the (new) iPad, and will include dication support in all text fields. This will work great in the Notes widget, allowing you to easily dicate notes, or possibly even allow live dictation of a talk you’re attending (though I have not tested this in practice!). There is unfortunately no API yet, so you can’t for example “open the recipes index” just by saying it. The good news is our voice control widget allows simple page navigation without the need to wait for iOS 6. Oomph staff have a very varied background, so here’s hoping it’s accent detection has also improved!
iOS 6 adds support for new social networks, of most prominence is system-wide Facebook support, which allows both sharing & authentication from within apps. This ties in very nicly with Facebook’s recently launched App Centre.
Apple is also ramping up their support for Chinese users, from our point of view the biggest announcement here was native Support for Sina Weibo, which we rolled out ourselves in Oomph 14. Like we did with Twitter, Oomph will support these system wide sharing features when iOS 6 is released, as well as continuing support for our current sharing options (email, Twitter, Facebook & Sina Weibo) on iOS 4 & 5.
You now can embed banners into Mobile Safari (called Smart App Banners), these allow you to show a link to your app in the App Store at the top of a web page, when viewed on on Safari on the iPad. These are great for driving traffic from your web sites to your apps. Another minor feature introduced is that when clicking on an App Store link inside an app, a mini-window is shown within the app, rather than switching out to the App Store, downloads can also be initiated from this mini-window. This is great for driving traffic to other apps in your stable & will work great with App Store hotspots.
So what else would we have liked to see in iOS 6? We’d love to see the support for Newsstand improve. With the minor iOS 5 updates, we had some respite, however Newsstand support within the lower levels of the OS is still patchy. For example the system-wide downloader – which manages all system-level downloads; Newsstand, music, apps, updates, etc. – only performs a single download at a time, and doesn’t work very well, especially on 3G and poor wifi networks. Oomph apps only use this for background Newsstand downloads, we use our own extremely robust downloader for all foreground downloads (from the My Issues screen). We’d love to see the system downloader improved so that we can move all our downloading to the system downloader.
Another thing that has caused our engineering team the most trouble, is the rendering changes that came out with the iPad 3. As the new iPad screen is four times larger, images are now rendered to the screen in four “tiles”, which are visible to the user when drawn. We have invested a lot of resources into working around this and are now shipping a version that behaves almost exactly like iPad 1/2. Our new adaptive rendering algorithm works great, but unfortunately it appears that iOS 6 will not include any built-in mechanisms to get around these limitations. We’d love to see greater control of on-screen rendering & the image caches backing that rendering.
As Apple developer account holders, our customers have access to the pre-release version of iOS 6, and as always, we value your feedback. While we don’t recommend it just yet (many apps crash on iOS 6), if you are upgrading to iOS we appreciate your feedback, via firstname.lastname@example.org.
As an aside, please note that even though some information (such as this here) has been made public, we are privvy to additional information that we cannot share due to the NDA restrictions covering WWDC & iOS 6. Because of this our Account Managers & support staff may not be able to offer detailed insight or commentary on some of the nitty gritty details of iOS 6.