WWDC Brings Big Changes With iOS 14

This week marks Apple’s first-ever entirely online WWDC. With the cancellation of the in-person event this year, the company has instead decided to post all of this year’s sessions online for free to anyone interested in learning. Despite difficulties with COVID-19, developer educational material is now more available than ever.

New improvements have been made for all the OS’s (iOS, iPadOS, watchOS, tvOS, and macOS) but as a mobile developer, this post will primarily focus on iOS 14. Over the course of this week we’ll get to dive deeper into each new feature available to developers, but for now we’ve just seen the highlights. The keynote definitely did its job of impressing us, and there are a number of updates that will completely change things.

UI Changes Coming in Hot:

The first technical subject of this year’s keynote was a demonstration of all the changes coming to iOS. The whole UI experience has been renovated, with changes like the introduction of widgets and app categories customizations. Widgets can be dragged onto pages and resized alongside apps, giving you a much more customized feel than before. And most impressively Apple has introduced a smart widget that can be set up to display different information (weather, fitness goals, etc.) throughout the day. Smaller improvements like incoming phone calls and Siri requests no longer taking up the entire screen have also been introduced. Things look a lot more personalized and the overall flow is smooth even by Apple standards.

While picture-in-picture is a little behind the times (introduced back in Android Oreo), it’s a welcome feature. This allows users to shrink a video and continue watching while navigating to other sections of the phone. It will be interesting to see how this impacts the development lifecycle, perhaps following Android’s footsteps we’ll see an introduction of multi-resume.

App Clips:

There’s also a new way to discover/use apps without having to take the time to download them. Yes, you read that correctly. App Clips are a new feature that captures a small part of an app allowing users to complete one specific action without having to download and set up an entire app.

This same idea also exists on Android (known as instant apps), but what’s so cool about Apple’s implementation is that app clips can be easily discovered by scanning certain things in the real world. For example, you could pull up to a parking meter, scan a barcode, and then pay for parking without having to actually download the parking app. Its simple and secure thanks to App Clip integration with Sign In With Apple and Apple Pay.

Powerful New Messages and Maps:

Along with the other UI changes, Messages received a revamp and then some. Users will now have to ability to pin important conversations to the top of the messaging app, and from the home page you can see new messages pop up as they come in. Most importantly though group messages will no longer spam you with 100+ messages thanks to inline replies. A feature that’s existed in apps like Slack and Teams, now you can directly reply to one message in a group chat rather than to the full group. Side conversations no longer have to notify everyone, but they’re still there if you want to tap in and see them.

Xcode Changes:

Everything so far has just been about the features being introduced, but we also got a sneak peek at Xcode 12 during the State of the Union. With an all-new design, Xcode 12 will enable users to build Universal apps that support Mac with Apple Silicon just by toggling one switch. Document tabs and sidebars have been renovated for a more fluid experience, and font sizes can now be customized by section to really personalize your IDE.

SwiftUI has also seen some improvements, and while we’ll know about the technical later this week we got to witness the improved preview screen already. Apple’s site boasts “A brand new life cycle management API for apps built with SwiftUI lets you write your entire app in SwiftUI and share even more code across all Apple platforms.” More steps are being taken to bring together all the different OS’s developmentally while still keeping them individualized experiences.

Moving Forwards:

So far, we’ve only seen the keynote and the State of the Union, but 100+ sessions are coming up this week. We’ll be learning a ton about how both the developer and the user experience are evolving, so stay tuned. If you have any thoughts throughout the week on what else iOS needs to add or creative ideas for leveraging these new features feel free to comment below. And if you found this post enjoyable/helpful you can check out more at FreeMobileTutorials.com.

I’m a self taught Android, iOS and VR developer fascinated with the world of mobile. I’m passionate about learning new technologies by way of teaching others.

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