Every year, Apple impresses at the Worldwide Developer Conference with new innovations and updates for developers. This year, Apple unveiled software updates for all of its new devices, as well as the new Mac Pro—a hefty desktop computer targeted toward enterprise users. Apple also revealed a new operating system for the iPad: iPadOS. However, the most impressive part of the conference were the significant improvements in developer tools and APIs, including massive improvements to Machine Learning capabilities, the new SwiftUI, and the new RealityKit. Throughout the presentations, Apple consistently emphasized its focus on privacy, clearly seeking to establish itself as a privacy powerhouse in the midst of data breaches and privacy compromises. There were a number of exciting updates that developers can add to their toolbox.
SwiftUI Updates for GUI
SwiftUI was one of the most impressive technologies Apple has released in recent memory, as it completely overhauls the graphical user interface (GUI) development process for iOS and iPadOS devices. Gone are the days of opaque Xibs and Storyboards tied to code. Now, the entire interface is presented cleanly in Swift.
However, the usability that Xibs and Storyboards provided, including the ability to visually assemble a GUI by dragging and dropping components, is not gone. Rather, the new version of Xcode is able to dynamically present the interface your code describes right next to it. When you update the code, the interface updates automatically to reflect the changes. Furthermore, you can still drag and drop onto the visual interface, and Xcode will automatically update your code to match! This unprecedented capability allows for much faster development of GUIs, and allows developers to see their interfaces in a variety of different configurations while prototyping. This setting ensures that interfaces look good in all circumstances.
On top of that, the new declarative style of SwiftUI code means that programs can be written with a fraction of the code. Essentially, what used to take hundreds of lines of code can now be done in twenty. Features that used to be difficult, like presenting a dynamically generated list and letting the user edit it, can now be done in less than ten lines of code. The resulting code is easy to read and understand.
Finally, the SwiftUI interface provides much tighter integration with the operating system, providing features like Night Mode automatically. Ultimately, the new SwiftUI will completely change how developers make iOS GUI’s, thereby making it easier, safer, and more featureful.
Augmented Reality and Machine Learning
Apple unveiled impressive new software for working with Augmented Reality and Machine Learning at WWDC 2019. The new Reality Composer lets developers create AR applications using a What You See is What You Get (WYSIWYG) interface. Now, creating the application is as simple as laying out a text document in word. This makes augmented reality vastly more approachable and easier to work with. As augmented reality becomes more accessible, more organizations are implementing the technology into strategy and products.
The underlying AR technology has also been improved. The new RealityKit allows for augmented reality displays to be much more seamlessly integrated into the real world by matching the environment’s lighting and shadows. The lower level ARKit has also received significant improvements. Now, through using advanced machine learning, it can identify other people and accurately place the embedded 3D models in front or behind them. In addition, ARKit can motion track people. Combined, these technologies can lead to an impressive AR experience on Apple devices, as demonstrated by an AR Minecraft application.
With respect to Machine Learning, Apple has revealed impressive capabilities for on-device computation, as well as substantial improvements to Siri’s voice generation. However, Machine Learning capabilities are not limited to the operating system. The significantly broadened MLKit API allows developers to also utilize these abilities to great effect. Improvements to out-of-the-box modules make standard machine learning tasks like facial recognition and sentiment analysis incredibly easy. Finally, the new CreateML app allows developers to set up machine learning models from a graphical interface that makes the process much easier to get started.
Apple Puts an Emphasis on Privacy
Privacy was one of the biggest themes emphasized by Apple at WWDC19. Apple demonstrated this emphasis by introducing new services and features across its devices, which support these values. Apple stands apart from Google, Facebook, and, to a lesser extent, Amazon, in that Apple’s business model does not revolve around selling users’ data. Although Google has also unveiled privacy features in its newest version of Android.
One privacy-focused service Apple unveiled is their new Single Sign-On based on Apple ID. You can soon expect to see “Sign in with Apple” next to “Sign in with Facebook” and “Sign in with Google.” However, unlike the existing SSO options, Apple’s SSO will only share your name and email. Furthermore, you can opt to not even share your email—instead, Apple will share a fake email address with the site you are logging into, and automatically forward messages from it to your real address.
On iOS and the new iPadOS, Apple is introducing more fine-grained access controls, including a new one-time permission option for location. Many apps which seemingly have a legitimate use for your location data occasionally, like the weather app, have been shown to continuously record your location after being given access. This new feature will combat this by only letting the app get your information once. So the weather app will be able to know you are in Chicago and provide local weather, but it will no longer be able to track everywhere you go.
An analogous change will be made on macOS, where apps will now need explicit permission to access iCloud Drive, Documents, Desktop, and external volumes.
General Updates with iOS 13
On top of the new ability to sign in with Apple, there were a number of updates that will impact developers, product teams, and users. Among these updates is new location privacy options. Coupled with WiFi and Bluetooth protections, this update ensures that users will only have to opt-in once, while also implementing background tracking alerts.
There is also a new Dark Mode being introduced. At first, this will apply to Apple apps only, but there will be an update to include 3rd party apps soon. Another exciting feature is the improvements to speed. App launch speed is expected to double, while FaceID launch speed will increase by 30%. On top of that, downloads from the App Store will see a removal of the limit to download apps more than 200mb over the Air, with a new capability to decrease download size by 50%. All of these updates are expected to increase the functionality of usage in iOS 13, while making the platform easier to work with for developers. New updates means new possibilities.
The team at Productive Edge is particularly excited about the new Machine Learning and Augmented Reality (AR) capabilities released by Apple. These advances will let the team bring unparalleled features and usability to our mobile apps, increasing productivity, and providing users with new possibilities.
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