At its World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) this week, Apple announced updates to all of its software platforms: iOS, OS X, watchOS, and tvOS. While all are getting new features, communication between all of them and more access to integral pieces are the big takeaways for developers.

Apple CEO Tim Cook discusses apps at WWDC 2016

Apple’s software is famously closed off, only running on Apple’s own hardware and offering limited pathways into core functionality for third-party apps. That restricted access is starting to be peeled away, now that the company is allowing developers to hook more deeply into iOS notifications, Maps, Messages, and even Apple’s voice assistant, Siri.

Put Siri in (Almost) Any App

Siri’s capabilities have gradually expanded since its introduction in iOS 5. With iOS 10, any developer can take advantage of Siri’s voice interface – but only for certain types of services.

The SiriKit API enables services in apps that provide:

  • Audio or video calling
  • Messaging
  • Sending or receiving payments
  • Searching photos
  • Booking a ride
  • Managing workouts

So you can’t have Siri take control of your fantasy RPG character, but you might be able to buy new armor or talk to in-game friends. The same Intents framework within SiriKit handles services from within Maps, too.

iMessage, You Message

iMessage - Messages communication app is open to developers in iOS 10

Apple is adding its own animations and Apple Pay support to the Messages communication

app in iOS 10, and developers can contribute as well. Users can search a miniature version of the App Store with apps supporting extra functionality without leaving Messages.

App extensions show content within Messages and can even present a custom user interface. App developers can also add stickers to their apps that are available within Messages.

Notifications Get Fancier

User notifications can be more interactive in iOS 10, making launching a full app unnecessary. As Apple’s developer documentation puts it, an app extension “receives the notification data and provides the corresponding visual representation. Your extension can also respond to custom actions associated with those notifications.”

In other words, notifications can show images and other live content, along with buttons for users to press. Rather than tapping the notification to enter the full app, users can access that specific bit of app functionality right away.

Everybody Gets an Update

Cross-functionality between platforms was another signature theme in the WWDC 2016 keynote. Apple’s desktop operating system, OS X, was rebranded as “macOS” – similar to its name in the 1990s and pretty much what everyone called it anyway. Its latest version is called Sierra, and aside from the integration of Siri, the biggest news had to be the expansion of Continuity features.

  • Universal Clipboard enables copying and pasting between macOS and iOS devices signed into the same account.
  • iCloud Drive automatically synchronizes Documents and Desktop folders between Macs, iPhones, and iPads.
  • Auto Unlock uses an Apple Watch (running watchOS 3) to authenticate a Mac user, removing the need to type a password.
  • Apple Pay in Safari is authorized by the Touch ID sensor on a linked iPhone.

Both tvOS and watchOS are allowing more direct control by third-party apps as well. It all adds up to an even more expansive landscape for app entrepreneurs to take advantage of. Have an idea? Get in touch by emailing us or calling 603.881.9200.