in Apps, Cocoa, iCloud, iPad, iPhone, Mac OS X, Programming

WWDC Update: 5 key points for iPhone apps

It’s now been just over 3 weeks since the torrent of information unleashed at Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference refreshingly drenched the brains of designers, developers and engineers. I’ve resisted blogging about the public announcements to fully let the impact soak in and gage everyone’s reactions but now feels like a good time to talk about where the future of computing is heading.

The keynote was fantastic and had many interesting details about the upcoming OS X Lion and iOS 5 software which I recommend you read about as well as familiarise yourself with iCloud – Apple’s hot solution to working with multiple devices. iCloud is actually much more than just a document syncing solution. It effectively challenges that old-fashioned idea that your document is a physical file where you move this file from computer-to-computer as you need to work on it. Instead your document is ready when you need it. It doesn’t matter if you’re mid-edit on your iMac at home… if you pop out for a bit and carry on editing the document on your iPhone it’s just there for you, just as you left it on your iMac. The idea is that it’s ready whenever you are and this is a huge but subtle shift in today’s thinking.

So if you ask yourself what needs to change in modern day computing for your document to always be ready, what needs to happen? The answer is it needs to save itself whenever anything significant happens and that is where Lion’s Auto Save comes in! By saving whenever possible you’re also committing changes to the cloud and this enables your document to be easily editable by another device… lets say an iPhone.

Most apps on the iPhone have auto saved in some form or another because originally apps could get closed at any moment by the iPhone itself from an incoming call, a request to free memory, or a user pressing the home button. Starting with iOS5 there are now API methods for letting this all happen automatically. This is great because by using Apple’s classes and methods you also get iCloud support almost for free! There is a great overview of iCloud at the Apple Developer Center but as it’s still under NDA so you’ll need to log in.

I could write a small book talking about just some of the new technology but I’m going to reduce it down to just 5 key points I’ve set myself as a personal aim to focus on in my apps.

Key points to take note of:

  1. iCloud is big. Start integrating now. Every app should support it, even if it’s just remembering a page number, a post code, etc. iMessage is a great example of iCloud support as messages sync between devices.
  2. Twitter integration is smart, and saves all that OAuth panic and confusion. Integrate into apps whenever the user achieves something they might want to share. You might not use it but if your users do you’ve just advertised your app to all their followers.
  3. Notifications have received a revamp with the Notification Center which make them incredibly useful. More apps need to take advantage of these, even if it’s just to badge number in-app news.  Many developers find the need for server setup an extra hassle but it’s worth it and the new Newsstand notifications mean magazine apps can now automatically download new issues in the background – complete with the latest covers ready for reading on your morning commute.
  4. Now the iPhone and iPad is PC-free, apps should focus on supporting all functions not just consuming data but generating it as well like the new calendar app.
  5. GameCenter – photos and turn-based multiplayer mean GameCenter takes one step closer to bringing gaming alive and adds another reason to bring users back into your app. The turn-based multiplayer looks like it has potential to be really addictive and should cater for busy lives by breaking game sessions out of an app… games can now last days if you want them to as you bounce moves back and forth between your friends.

 

So they are the 5 key points I’m going to be focusing on in my apps. Feel free to suggest others in the comments.

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