Why I care more about iOS 8 than iOS 7

Last year’s iOS 7 update was the big update for designers. This year’s iOS 8 update is the big one for developers.

That’s probably why I wasn’t that excited / dazzled / worried last year when everyone was awestruck by Apple’s big iOS 7 update. It had changes, huge changes. But most of those changes were on the aesthetic level.

This year in iOS 8, there are multiple big core frameworks that will bring a level of innovation to companies and apps at a rate that we haven’t seen since the iPhone was first released in 2008.

Here are my tweets summed up in Storify, as I was watching Monday’s keynote live.

I know it’s easy for people to say "this is the biggest change in iOS yet", every single year. But I never say this. So this year I mean it.

Objectively, this really is the biggest year of changes!

I’m going to make a distinction between what’s new in iOS on a consumer level, and on a development level. By the consumer level I mean stuff that Apple is providing in iOS 8 by default - nothing to do with 3rd party apps. I’m not going to get much in to the consumer level stuff, but it mainly includes:

  • Photo editing;
  • Voice iMessages;
  • A predictor keyboard;
  • Apps within the notifications menu;
  • iCloud drive;
  • A built in activity & sleep tracker;
  • A more searchable App Store

On a developer level, here’s where 3rd party apps can really come in and improve or create new apps that take advantage of the new technologies available in iOS 8. Here’s where imagination takes over.

Even though I want to highlight the more developer centric advances that are coming out in iOS 8, I like to keep very user centric descriptions. How are these new frameworks going to benefit users? That’s what it comes down to…

Listed in no specific order of importance, all equally as awesome as each other are:

  • HealthKit
  • HomeKit
  • CloudKit
  • TouchID
  • Extenstions

Let me expand on the above…

HealthKit

Wearables are exploding. Devices that measure your sleep, steps, fitness, lactic acid build up, etc. Some wearables have embraced having the smartphone as a central device, such as the Pebble.

But why do most of these devices have to be managed individually from each other? Why can’t they talk to your iPhone, and why can’t they share data?

Now they can with iOS 8.

A framework called HealthKit makes it possible for developers to leverage data easily between devices. Even without using a different device, your iPhone is probably the best case of an activity tracker out there anyway because it’s on you all the time.

This doesn’t have to be a device-to-device solution though. Even between apps - fitness, health, and activity data can be shared.

HomeKit

Similar to HealthKit, but for devices around the home like lights, thermostats, security alarms, etc.

Any manufacturer or company that doesn’t make it possible for the iPhone to control their device is going to be left behind.

Think about it. This is the first time that Apple have completely opened up their platform to control external devices. None of this is going to be obvious until at least 5 years from now, when we realize that everything we use in our lives can be controlled by one single device.

CloudKit

Problem: When a developer or a company are creating their apps for the first time, they usually decide to go lean. At least until the market is tested out. Build small, progress gradually through iterations. That kind of thing.

One of these things that keeps it lean is to not integrate functionality that relies on any servers / backend. Keep in mind I’m talking in the context of mobile apps. A web app depends on servers. But for a mobile app, you don’t need to use any servers, all data can be stored on the device.

But eventually (usually very soon in an app’s lifespan actually) you need to leverage the power of a server. Either for having users being able to login, back up or share their data, talk to friends, or whatever the use case is in your app that a server would need to provide. Common API’s like Facebook or Foursquare can ease some of this time and money cost, by offering their existing data to new apps through their API’s. But this comes with it’s own issues and limitations.

So every developer or company want their own backend - it’s more flexible this way. For the past couple of years Parse have been filling this need nicely, and have been rapidly expanding because of this. Parse provide backend capabilities to app developers, and they offer a common login platform.

Almost every app creates a login. Almost every app stores their data on a backend server. This is redundant code that has to get repeated over and over again, for every single app that is made. Parse have solved this problem.

Solution: Now Apple have solved this, and hence, making it easier for iPhone apps. CloudKit makes it possible, for the first time, to store app data seamlessly on their backend.

This also eliminates the need for apps to ask you for that annoying email and password on logging into their app. Apple are now providing the ability to integrate logins behind the scenes in apps! There’s no good reason why iPhone apps would need to do this anymore.

TouchID

Last year Apple released the iPhone 5S with the ability to unlock the phone with a thumb scan. This is made possible with TouchID, and it hasn’t been available for developers to integrate into their apps.

With iOS 8, TouchID can be leveraged in any app! No more pass codes needed.

With this and CloudKit, logging in and authentication just got a whole lot easier for developers and users alike.

Extensions

Big move here. Ok what hasn’t been big so far? Apple are making their platform more open between apps, and the way we share data.

Picture this: in my fitness app for example, FitFriend, you can export a photo with your workout data printed on top. But I haven’t bothered implementing filters within the app, because that’s already been done 100’s of times before - if you really want a filter, you can create it in another app.

But now…I can easily import filters from another app, say from Instagram or VSCOcam, and the user can now add a filter right from within FitFriend.

This is all made possible now with Extensions in iOS 8.

Now you might be thinking, “hold up there, I don’t want my data being floated about from app to app”. Although the concept is open in nature, this is the same hyper security conscious Apple here.

We’re still working within a sandboxed environment, and any data that’s shared is dependent upon what each user, or each app, only allows to share. It’s not like sharing your data with Facebook, where it’s just a free-for-all of embarrassing wall postings.

But wait…

Then of course there’s Swift, a whole new programming language!

This is big enough on its own…factor in the above new core technologies in addition to this, and developers have a very busy but exciting next few months in their lives!

Apple have made a Swift iBook available to developers of over 800 pages, to ease in the process of learning.

I’ve been an iOS developer for over 4 years now, and it’s never been boring. This is not half-assed new technology - when Apple releases something, it’s usually well thought out, and you know it’s going to be widely adopted.

iOS 8 is no different. It always keeps you guessing, it always keeps you learning.

American snobs like to trace their high-born descent from the pilgrims, or the Revolutionary War heroes. Australian snobs trace their low-born descent from the British underclass sent here for stealing underwear. That, in a nutshell, describes the essential difference between the two countries.

As an Australian I’d have to say pretty much. For every American who worships the hero, there’s an Australian who worships the anti-hero :)

Dr Garry’s Place: Tips and Advice for Americans Moving or Relocating to Australia

This is very funny.

(via caro)

(via caro)

Optimism isn’t about pretending to be happy in a bad situation. Optimism is about confronting a bad situation and turning it around!

Blogging is boring

I just can’t update on this blog right now, and if I was to be real I’d say I can’t even see the point.

This is my outlet for startup and tech related blogging. But running is taking up all of my passion for blogging.

I have a lot more experience with running (since 1996) than running a startup (since 2013…if you can even call a party of 1 a startup). Yes, this is part of the drive I have to do something running related for a living. That’s the dream.

So it’s natural that the FitFriend blog - the blog I’ve decided to be my personal outlet for all things running related - is taking up all of my blogging time and energy.

While the rest of my time is taken up with:

1) A real job from an actual employer, of which I’ve had to go back to. Luckily, I took my time and for once I haven’t found a trainwreck of a company. It’s actually a place where I can learn a shitload!

2) Running training. I’m currently on the crux on being in the form of my life. Good things happen I guess when you don’t rush so much that your body breaks down after 3 months of training (I see the value in applying this mindset to building products too).

3) Maintaining and moving forward with the FitFriend app. There is still so much more I want to do there. So much that I won’t be able to get to do this year, but I will get to a few things.

Excluding relaxation time with my wife, and any family and friends here in Toronto.

I’d love to update this blog with startup insights from the bottom, work-life balance when you’ve gone back to the grind, future insights on what’s next, and even tech tutorials (must’ve been at least a year since I’ve done one of those!).

But for now I’ve fallen out of love with blogging for anything non-running related.

Blogging on FitFriend is a fun outlet for me, and is needed. Blogging here, isn’t either one of those right now.