Apple Courts Developers With iOS 8 SDK Featuring 4,000 New APIs

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Apple provides developers with ability to access Touch ID, control connected devices and new programming tools with iOS 8 SDK

Apple has detailed a number of new developer tools included in iOS 8, including an SDK featuring 4,000 new APIs, app extensions, new frameworks for health, cloud and connected devices and programming tools that allow app creators to integrate their software more deeply within the mobile platform.

Speaking at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco, Apple CEO Tim Cook said the software development kit (SDK) is the biggest it has released since the introduction of the App Store and claims that it will permit developers to extend the reach of their app and create things they’ve “only dreamed of doing until now.”

Extensions and new APIs

iOS 8 (4)App extensions allow developers to extend functionality beyond their own applications and make it available to other apps. For example, custom actions, such as translation, or sharing options, can be applied in other software, or custom keyboards could replace the standard Apple interface.

Extensions also allow for custom widgets, such as sports scores, to be built into the notification centre’s ‘Today’ screen.

Developers now have access to the Touch ID fingerprint sensor to authenticate users, paving the way for mobile payment and banking services, while new APIs for the camera and Photos app should please imaging specialists.

Happy, healthy home

Health and fitness features were one of the most expected features of iOS 8 and HealthKit provides a repository of health information for developers to include in their own apps, however users have the ability to choose which software has access to this information.

The new HomeKit framework provides a framework for communicating with a connected device in a user’s home. Devices connected to a home network can be discovered and controlled, even through Siri. This raises the possibility that lights, smart meters and garage doors can be controlled via an iOS app.

A new framework aims to simplify integrating iCloud functionality into applications by taking care of the server-side application logic, while another lets developers make their apps compatible with Handoff, a new feature which allows users to start an activity on one Apple device and resume it on another.

Swift programming

Game developers are set to benefit from new frameworks that make it possible to create more advanced 3D graphics and more battery efficient high quality 2D graphics such as SceneKit and SpriteKit, while Metal provides better access to the iPhone’s 64-bit A7 processor.

Apple has even created a brand new programming language called Swift that aims to make it easier to write code. Based on the Objective-C programming language, the company says Swift is the result of research into the most recent programming languages combined with its decades of experience in creating Macs.

Many Objective-C parameters have been incorporated into Swift and made easier to read. Swift also eliminates entire classes of unsafe code and is built to be fast, with developers able to write a piece of code and immediately preview it in Playground.

Apps written using Swift can be submitted when iOS and OS X Yosemite are released as free updates later this year, while a guide to the language is now available in the iBook Store.

App Store changes

iOS Health (1)Cook was full of praise for Apple’s development community on the 25th anniversary of the first WWDC, boasting that developers from 69 countries were attending this year’s conference and that 70 percent were present for the first time – a long way from the first ever show in 1990.

“Now WWDC is a huge conference for Apple,” he said. “The developer community is incredibly vibrant.”

The Apple CEO added that there were now nine million registered Apple developers, a year on year increase of 47 percent, and 1.2 million apps on the App Store, making it harder to stand out. To help this community, Apple has made a number of changes to the App Store.

These include a new explore tab which better organises applications, shows relevant and trending searches and continuous scrolling within results. Apple now highlights ‘Editors’ Choice’ apps and allows app creators to publish videos on their listings.

App bundles can be created for the first time, and virtual currencies such as Bitcoin can be accepted in countries where it is legal, while integrated support for Testflight will make it easier to beta test software.

“I do read your emails,” said Craig Federighi, vice president of software engineering at Apple.

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iOS 8

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