Another iOS update has come and gone. This year Apple has made changes to many of their devices, including the Apple TV, Apple Watch, Mac, iPad, the new HomePod, and most importantly, iOS 11.
Why, you ask should you care so much about this software update? Well, the answer is pretty simple: with every release of a new operating system, Apple gives special attention to apps that are updated for the new iOS. Whether you're building a new app or updating an existing one, knowing the changes made to iOS 11 and how you can incorporate them into your app can give you a huge leg up. So, without further adieu, here are some of the most important things to keep in mind when building, or updating your app.
The all-new App Store
A fully re-vamped app store has been released with a bunch of changes and updates which you can get a comprehensive overview of on Apple's All New App Store page. For our purposes, I'll just cover some of the most significant changes:
Apple has updated the design of the App Store significantly, but one of the most important changes for app developers is the updated product pages. You can now feature new text fields, such as subtitles and promotional text, giving you more places to convey your apps qualities. You also now have the option to incorporate three app previews, rather than just one, so you can more comprehensively showcase your app to potential users.
Another huge update is that users can now start in-app purchases from the App Store. You have the opportunity to promote up to 20 in-app purchases, which can appear in search results and will get their own promotional image and description. This can bring your app additional find-ability, as users will be prompted to download or purchase your app if they have not already.
This leads into the final App Store update worth mentioning, which is the enhanced search. This will help make your app more discoverable by including developers, in-app purchases, categories and editorial stories in the search results.
Native Augmented Reality with ARKit
One of the biggest new developments announced by Apple is the introduction of ARKit. This new framework provides a platform for Native Augmented Reality for both the iPhone and iPad, which will transform many apps.
Augmented Reality (AR) goes way beyond games like Pokémon Go, so don't count yourself out of this new iOS 11 feature if you aren't developing a gaming app. ARKit brings huge opportunities for increased use of AR, and you'd be surprised how many apps can incorporate AR into their design. A few examples of everyday, non-game apps which have already incorporated ARKit include: Strava, the social fitness-tracking app, IKEA Place app, and AR MeasureKit which can measure almost anything using just an iPhone or iPad camera. Could your app or business incorporate AR? Its time to start thinking about it.
Apple introduced machine learning in iOS 10, and has now extended that functionality with Core ML in iOS 11. Core ML enables you to incorporate intelligent new features to your app much more easily. Apple points to two main uses initially: computer vision machine learning and natural language for text analysis. The iOS 11 Vision framework supports features such as face tracking, face detection, landmarks, text detection, rectangle detection, barcode detection, object tracking, and image registration. The natural language processing APIs use machine learning to gain a deeper understanding of text.
So, how and why could this be integrated into an app? Machine learning can help to enhance your user experience greatly. For example, using a model that has been trained on a certain city's house prices over time could be able to accurately predict a house’s price when it comes to market. This will become particularly useful for industries including property, financial, sports and general business management.
Phased releases for App Store Updates
Along with the other App Store updates, Apple has changed it's update system. While you used to have to release you app's update to all the users simultaneously, new "phased releases" allow developers to release updates to only a specific subset of users before releasing it to everyone.
This can be a game-changer in several ways. First, if your app has a backend, it could potentially stagger updates to ensure your server infrastructure isn’t impacted all at once. Second, it will allow you to test new features on a smaller, more specific audience before it is available to all users. And Lastly, from a marketing standpoint it may be helpful to be able to release an update to specific regions or avoid certain times.
One of the largest complaints with Apple's ecosystem, is the lack of customer access for businesses and developers. Apple's new Business Chat might start to change that by providing a way for customers and businesses to connect directly in Messages. Business Chat enables customers to get answers to questions, resolve issues, and complete transactions on any Apple device by simply looking up your business and starting a conversation from Safari, Maps, Spotlight, and Siri. Check out Apple's WWDC session on Business Chat to learn more.
As a developer or business owner it is vitally important to stay aware of the changing tech environment. Knowing these updates, and understanding how they could impact your business or app could put you ahead of competitors. At the very least, you should ensure your app runs smoothly and does not have any compatibility issues. However, implementing one or more of these changes could give you a big leg up. Let us know your thoughts in a comment below, and contact us for help with implementing any of these changes!