Apple’s iOS is set to explode to every corner of computing. iOS 8 has within it the making of an entirely new app economy, centered not on the phone, but every aspect of computing you can imagine
But how did we get here? Let’s take a look.
In 2013 Apple unleashed a new design language into the world with the release of iOS 7. The “flattening” and layering of user interface elements and death of skeuomorphism (incorporating design cues from the physical world into the virtual world) signalled Apple’s acknowledgement that the iPhone’s role has departed from its chunky ancestor.
In 2007, Apple launched the mobile revolution with the original iPhone (followed shortly by Android from Google in 2008). The iPhone set a new standard for what a “smartphone” could be. A smartphone made it possible to take elements of the real world and bring them into your hand, straight into your pocket. The role of these pioneering smartphones was to educate the people on how to use them. To inform users of this new paradigm, Apple chose real world objects (book shelves, note pads etc.) and integrated them into the user experience. Part of Apple’s success in mobile has been in how it held users hands as they adapted to this new form of computing.
Come 2013, Apple didn’t need to be hand holders any longer. The change in design language to a flat theme showed that today’s users didn’t need those cues to interact with their phones any more, it had become a natural action.
Similarly, the “smartphones” before the original iPhone were simple companion devices. Most had to be tethered to a computer to gain any real functionality. Want your music? Plug it in. Want an app? Plug it in. Want your pics? Plug it in. In 2007, the PC was very much the hub of our digital lives. You used your smartphone in conjunction with your PC. Today our smartphones fill that role, guided by the apps that make them useful. They’re with us every minute of the day, they control our schedules, connect with our clouds, interact with the environment around us.
Enter iOS 8
Apple will unleash the latest version of its mobile operating system soon, likely a week after it announces the iPhone 6 due September 9th. Apple is looking to do for developers what it did for users in iOS 7. It is moving the smartphone from beyond a companion device to a hub that developers can build towards integrated, robust and immersive experiences. In short, Apple is opening the door to the Apps Economy 2.0.
What Is The Apps Economy 2.0?
What exactly does this new iteration of the app economy look like? Tight integration of vast ecosystems. And Apple isn’t the only one working toward this. For the past few years Google has been rolling out various initiatives such as Android @ Home, the Android Auto, Android Wear and the upcoming Google Fit API. Now, Apple is making their stand with over 4,000 new APIs aimed at developer efficiency, cross-app communication and building out ecosystems of apps in healthcare/fitness, home automation and the car. At the same time, Apple is brining a developer favourite into play, with extensibility, or the ability to leverage elements of one app in another app.
That being said, all of the new capabilities baked into iOS 8 won’t be taken advantage of overnight.
In talking with iOS developers, about half say they feel unprepared for the new iOS even though betas have been available throughout the summer. If developer behaviour mimics the last major iOS release, we’ll see a sizeable stable of app providers with updated experience at launch this fall, with the bulk of the development community to follow in one to two quarters.
Users should expect only slight changes from app makers this coming autumn. But as developers grow more comfortable with the new options in front of them, users will begin to benefit from new functionality in their apps, such as App Extensions and Continuity (also known as Handoff). More importantly, entire new app experiences with access to information and influence over their people’s lives that has not been present before.
Move Fast, Break Things … Then Fix Them
As with any new endeavour, ensuring quality will be key. As developers rush to add in functionality and communicate across apps, they’ll have to be cautious. APIs such as HealthKit provide users and apps to sensitive medical and fitness data that needs to be treated and protected. Integrating with HomeKit and home automation developers will give unprecedented access to peoples’ homes and devices. Developers will need to test connections between these devices to ensure a seamless user flow.
Testing the new App Extensions in iOS 8 will also be incredibly important, both for the developer publishing the extension and the developer implementing it into their own app. The importance of ensuring compatibility will be tantamount. The user won’t care that your app fails because of somebody else’s extension … you will get the blame.
The opportunity for developers to create new experiences and connect their users to the world around them is at an inflection point for software and mobile computing. Maintaining quality and thinking of the entire user experience will be a necessary to grow and enter new markets, create happy and loyal followers and generate new revenue streams.