Top 10 iOS 8 Features

By J Schwan, Founder & CEO, Solstice Mobile — June 02, 2014

During the Apple WWDC Keynote there was a slew of new features presented for OS X and iOS 8. For those without the "developer" gene, here is some actionable information you can use to start seeding your product backlog with new iOS 8 features.

  1. Interactive Notifications and Widgets: iOS 8 brings long awaited interactive notifications (and Notification Center widgets) to the platform. This means a user can act on a notification without having to launch the corresponding app. For example, if you're a financial services app and you push a "fraud" alert to a user, a user could choose to ignore or act on that fraud alert from the lock screen. Notifications can also be interacted with, from the Notification Center. If you're creating a truly contextual experience (i.e. pushing information the user needs to know before they ask for it) this makes those apps even more efficient.

  2. Handoff and AirDrop between iOS devices (and Macs): The new "Handoff" capability allows you to start a task on one iOS or Mac device and finish that task on another. This includes everything from writing emails to taking phone calls. It also could expand to compatible third-party apps (we're still researching). So, for example, if a user were looking up an ATM or store location on your iPad, you could handoff the location to your iPhone. Theirs improved AirDrop capability as well, allowing for easier wireless file transfer between iOS devices and Macs.

  3. Inter App Communication with "Extensions": It's here! Apps can now interact with one another through secure "extensions". In this model one app can share data and even a user experience with another app on the device. This will be great for embedding functionality from one app into another app. Great for enterprises that are creating suites of apps for their remote workforce (imagine being able to embed a customer lookup utility into all relevant client servicing applications).

  4. Touch ID Authentication: You can now authenticate your own app (or it's relevant activities) using Touch ID (fingerprint scanning). This is incredibly exciting for those apps requiring authentication each time their used (i.e. financial services apps). It also could serve as a form of two-factor authentication for apps that require an additional layer of security.

  5. Health and Home: For those in relevant industries, iOS 8 provides new standard ways of sharing information from third party apps and device manufacturers for health and wellness. Apple's HealthKit API will allow different health-related apps to send information to one another in a common format (i.e. passing your weight from your connected scale to your activity tracker). iOS 8 will include a new app, coined "Health," that will show consolidated information from all compatible HealthKit powered apps. There was also a brief mention of future integration with Epic (one of the largest electronic medical records companies). That could be huge in bridging the gap between wellness and health care.                                                                                                                           

    Similarly, the HomeKit API will allow for standard integration between home automation apps and devices (appliances, security, thermostats). So you can tell Siri you're going to bed and your lights, thermostat and garage door opener will all behave accordingly. Look for a ton of new and reimagined products in this space.

  6. Improved App Store Find-ability: Look for better  ways for users to find your app with a new "Explore" feature in the App Store including more well defined categorization. You can also include videos in your app's description. Finally, you can bundle suites of apps for a discounted price (if you're in the $0.99 game).

  7. Beta Testing With TestFlight: Apple purchased TestFlight a few months ago and has officially integrated it into the developer ecosystem, allowing product managers to send their app out to beta testers to get feedback without launching to the App Store. This is awesome for those product owners taking Test and Learn or Rapid Experimentation approach to their product development.

  8. Cloud Kit - Apple Enters the Mobile Backend as a Service (mBaas) market: For marketing or other greenfield apps that don't require a lot of integration with existing data sources, Apple will be introducing it's own cloud hosted database as part of their iCloud infrastructure (competing with new mBaaS providers like Parse or Kinvey). The interesting part, it's free to use (within limits).

  9. Gaming Improvements: Apple Launched improvements to it's casual gaming SDK (SpriteKit) while really moving the needle for 3D/OpenGL games by introducing an order of magnitude faster processing game engine called "Metal."  Awesome news for any game developers out there.

  10. New iOS Programming Language – Swift: To further confused the developer community (although it was warranted) Apple has developed a new programming language called Swift as an alternative to developing in Objective-C. From a product management standpoint this doesn't matter much, outside that Swift promises to be easier to use, thereby increasing developer velocity. It also works alongside Objective-C, so you don't have a rewrite an app to use it.

There are a ton of other exciting announcements but, on the surface, these are the biggest from an enterprise and product management standpoint.


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