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Apple is a company that always sparks attention in the technology sector. Launches of products like the iPod, iPhone or iPad have always been awaited with a keen sense of excitement, even when the end product ultimately fails to live up to the market’s expectations. The announcements from Cupertino are often even more important for the people who develop apps and services for their operating system than the devices themselves.
At its latest WWDC15 presentation held in San Francisco, Apple announced several important developments for its new iOS 9. These include several APIs and services within the new Software Development Kit (SDK), which promise to bring substantial improvements in the area of searches and videogames.
Developers will be able to incorporate the multitasking function into the applications developed for the iPad. Although the documentation provided by Apple on its future API is not definitive, we can now consult some of the new possibilities enabled by this app programming interface:
– Slide Over: it allows the user to display two applications on the screen at the same time, one in a secondary view. The idea is to be able to switch from one app to another with a sliding movement. This function will be available on the iPad Mini 2, Mini 3, Air and Air 2.
– Split View: this is a feature that enables two applications to be displayed in parallel on the iPad screen. Users will be able to interact with both, and even change the size of the window of each app on screen. It can only be used by developers in apps for the Air 2.
– Picture in Picture (PiP): this will enable programmers to create apps that can be launched on screen with floating windows. It will be available on the iPad Mini 2, iPad Mini 3, iPad Air and iPad Air 2.
From the Xcode 7, Apple’s Integrated Development Environment –which is already available to download in its beta version– each iOS app template will support both the Slide Over and Split View functions.
In any case, the most important new development in the multitasking function will be the use of resources: from now on, no application will be able to make exclusive use of those resources – not only the screen, but the CPU and memory.
2. Links between applications and new APIs for searches
Apple has taken a giant step forward in this area. The company has converted the search system on the iOS 9 into a giant connector of third-party applications, and it will also be able to index the content of any apps the developers wish to promote in the searches. This is known as deep links.
Behind all this, Apple is looking to achieve two fundamental goals:
– For any user who is using a specific application to be able to switch to another app without affecting the user experience. For example, in this video we can see how a user who is reading information on the Golden State Warriors on the ESPN app can switch directly to the NBA team’s own app to buy tickets.
– For the users to make better use of their apps. It will be possible to index the content of the apps and for users to obtain responses to their queries with the information on these apps. This answer will be available whether the user has downloaded the app or not.
For this advance in search engines, Apple provides developers with three APIs:
– The new Core Spotlight framework: it includes APIs that allow developers to specify the content and keywords to be indexed by iOS 9. Let’s imagine the user is looking for information on a travel destination. Thanks to this API the developers of the Kayak app –for example– will be able to place their offer of tickets in the search.
– Adding a marker to the information: this allows developers to mark the content of their apps with context information. It is useful in two different ways: it improves indexation, and relates the content with the user’s searches. Here is a practical example of content marking in applications for iOS 9:
– NSUserActivity: the documentation for this API is still in the development process, but it is the interface that will give apps a memory. If the user has engaged in a specific activity on an app, this information is saved and can be recovered on the same device or on another like a cellphone or tablet. This type of activity may involve anything from editing a document, visualizing a web page or playing a video.
A practical example would be a user who is editing a document on a Mac and –after a break– decides to continue with that activity on an iPhone or iPad at the same point without any interruptions.
3. The API package for games
For some time now Apple has been introducing changes to improve the gaming experience in iOS: These include SceneKit, a framework in Objective-C for the creation of 3D apps and videogames; SpriteKit, used for processing graphics and creating animation with images; and Metal, which optimizes the CPU overload and maximizes the performance of graphics on devices.
Now with the launch of iOS 9 come three new developments:
– GameplayKit: a tool for the design, mechanics and modular architecture of the videogame. GameplayKit is equipped with predefined algorithms that allow the developers to concentrate on the game’s features and forget about preparing the actual algorithms that allow the game’s mechanics.
– ReplayKit: this is an API that enables developers to offer recordings of what happens on the iPhone screen. The ultimate aim is for users to be able to record their games, edit them on the phone itself, and then share them on the social networks.
– Model I/O: it provides infrastructure to access, manage and light 3-D models. It comes as part of SceneKit, GameplayKit and Metal.
4. HomeKit, MapKit and CloudKit
iOS 9 will also include several new benefits for developers in some of the tools already existing in previous versions of the operating system: this is the case of HomeKit, the connected device center; MapKit, the development framework for Apple maps; and CloudKit, the tool that maintains the iOS and Mac apps connected via the cloud.
The most important new development has been in HomeKit, launched for iOS 8. The tool previously worked as a connector for the company’s devices (iPhone, iPad and iPod) via Apple TV. Now the devices can be connected via the iCloud, with a special mention for the Apple Watch.
What’s more, the developers will be able to configure devices so they are activated depending on the time or the user’s location. HomeKit will have three predetermined modes, compatible with all their products, that can be activated through Siri. Can you imagine turning on the lights in your home from the iPhone?
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