Apple brought us its latest vision of the future at the 2022 Apple Worldwide Developers Conference. Although the rest of the conference is aimed squarely at developers, the keynote treats development as subordinate. Instead, it’s a way to feature Apple’s latest, and from time to time we’ll hear, “And for developers, there’s an API.”
This year, the announcements were disjointed. Much of that is due to iPadOS — it’s having trouble deciding if it wants to complement iOS or macOS. There were a lot of new features added to things that cross many of Apple’s technologies, so we heard announcements about features in iOS, for instance, that also applied to macOS and iPadOS. I’ll run through a few of the things that are of most interest to developers.
Lock Screen Redesign
As expected, the majority of what was announced for iOS focused on the redesigned lock screen — or screens. Lock screens are now available with different focuses, and navigating from one lock screen to the next can change focus on the device.
What it means: More capabilities appear to be accessible from the lock screen. Whether it’s widgets that can display information or a live activities API to provide limited interaction, iOS developers should be thinking about what can be done before users authenticate. Apple suggested using live activities instead of push notification for frequent updates, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see additional restrictions on how many pushes can be sent from the same source over a short time.
Focus changes will mean additional restrictions on what can be displayed — and, perhaps, what can be run, as well, as Apple works hard to improve battery life by sending out-of-focus apps to sleep.
There was a curious throwaway remark about app intents that got squeezed in without any detail right after talking about keyboard integration with dictation on device and before APIs for live text.
What it means: Apple’s had intents for a while as part of SiriKit. It sounds as if Apple wants to make intents more widely available. This means opportunity — you might find it easier to register yourself as a provider of something within iOS — but also competition, since more than one app may be competing for an intent. Watch this space.
Standards For Wallet Credentials
Apple Wallet adds order tracking but still faces regulatory hurdles. Right now, Arizona and Maryland are the only entities that recognize Wallet for driver’s licenses. Apple says it’s “working with” the IETF to support the IETF standard for secure credential transfer.
What it means: Credentials in the Wallet can be sent outside the iPhone ecosystem — and credentials from outside can come in. It’s likely that Apple will implement more in the Wallet than just the IETF RFCs, but developers who want to provide cross-platform support for hotel or car keys may be able to use similar infrastructure for all platforms.
HomeKit Gets Updated
After leaving it to languish for quite a while, Apple is now focusing again on HomeKit. There will be a redesigned Home app experience for users that brings everything together — and everything includes Matter devices.
What it means: A Home app rewrite is not surprising. Matter is a common API for smart-home devices, poised to replace all the existing (and incompatible) standards out today, and Apple’s been a strong contributor to the Matter standard. If you’re an IoT developer, you’ve been watching Matter as it slipped its release dates. Continue to keep up with the changes, although Matter hardware is already ready to go out. If you’re not an IoT developer, start thinking about how you can control — or interrogate — smart devices to make your apps more aware of the user’s context. What should you do if the temperature goes up to 120 F/50 C in the house?
Safari Finally Sees Web Push
As part of the macOS announcement, Apple highlighted changes in Safari. It’s been clear that the Safari team has been working to implement a lot of new APIs, including the release of web push notifications, group sharing, and biometrics for macOS Ventura.
What it means: It’s hard to complain now that we’ve (finally) got web push on Safari. But I will complain anyway. Now there’s one more API that works on Safari on macOS but not iPhone. It’s clear the focus at Apple is not on web apps.
iPadOS Continues To The Desktop
Most of the announcements for iPadOS won’t affect developers that much. There’s a new WeatherKit API and color accuracy. What interested me most, though, was the continued blurring of the lines between Macs and iPads. Apple announced “desktop-class” apps for the iPad Pro, along with virtual memory.
What it means: If you’re developing for macOS or iPadOS alone, it’s time to start thinking about developing for both. By adding support for virtual memory, Apple has signaled that apps can start to become applications. Developers now can write things for iPad Pro that won’t fit in RAM — or, at least, not in the minimum-specification 8G RAM.
What We Didn’t See
There was no mention of realityOS or Apple headsets or glasses. But there were hints. Virtual memory support for iPadOS was one: Now, large virtual worlds don’t have to be paged in. Another hint was the Metal 3 update. Extended reality needs fast graphics, and Apple’s latest updates can provide that — including what sounds like an API to allow loading direct to the GPU, another feature that will prove useful when the world expands beyond a single screen. Third is the increasing integration of Apple devices. That may mean I can share my Mac’s processing power with my iPhone — or my headset — when I’m at home.