Apple platform updates during a global pandemic
It’s fair to say that the iOS 14 updates feel a little light this year, likely due to the global disruption and competing priorities falling out of the Covid-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, updates have been made, and provide interesting opportunities for mobile developers like ourselves. Let’s take a look at some of the key new features and updates.
Home screen upgrade
Widget functionality enables users to view timely information at a glance. The widgets are typically based around time, location or activity, and personalised to users. Using Swift UI, this relatively new technology keeps improving.
iOS 14 has introduced customisable widgets to our iPhone and iPad homescreens, which has enabled new categories in the Apple App Store. Customer feedback has clearly played a major role in ensuring that incoming calls and Siri no longer take over your entire screen, but are unobtrusive banners.
iOS 14 app clips deliver a small part of the app experience, designed to be discovered in the moment it is needed. App clips are likely to be launched by NFC tags, QR codes or within Messages or Safari. Typical usage would be for cafes, parking, scooters etc. They deliver small pieces of functionality from an app to you when you need them without forcing you to download the entire app.
Transparency and control is a key theme with iOS 14 updates around privacy. Camera and mic usage have been updated, and App Store changes have ensured that all developers list aspects of privacy and customer data in relation to the apps they’re selling.
Key for the iPad this year has been updates to the Pencil Kit API, with text fields able to be written in, including handwriting recognition, for free. The LIDAR sensor has provided users with new opportunities for 3D scanning of physical spaces and immersive AR experiences.
More of an impact for developers, than users, the Mac is transitioning to Apple’s own ARM chips, allowing all iOS apps to be available on Apple Silicon Macs unless developers opt out. This is a sign of wider convergence across Apple’s platforms.
What next for Apple’s iOS?
We believe AR is just around the corner for Apple platforms. App Clips and Widget development are an important part of setting the scene for AR experiences in the future. We also suspect next generation iPhones will include a LIDAR scanner for 3D applications too.
At PaperKite, we work with our clients everyday to explore how innovative technologies such as AR, VR and chatbot solutions can take ordinary customer experiences and make them extraordinary. Swift UI and ongoing privacy improvements all help to convince our clients that these new technologies are no longer the new frontier, but useful, secure technology solutions.
It appears that Apple are moving towards a unified application development structure – in other words, iOS developers are becoming Apple developers.
Android updates for 2020
Similar to iOS 14, we suspect the global pandemic has had an impact on the depth of Android 11 updates this year. Let’s take a look at the updates, that largely focus on communication and communication tools, that did make the cut for this latest update.
One time permissions
Great to see one time permissions coming through in this update – letting us give apps permissions only when they actually need it. Good news for users too, as this is another good step towards improved security and privacy.
Notifications from peer-to-peer Bluetooth contact tracing make the cut in this update, although they were originally announced in April 2020.
PaperKite has been trialling our own take on Bluetooth contact tracing. Rather than peer-to-peer tracking, we’ve developed an iBeacon based approach which we think has great value for our privacy-first app, Rippl.
Similar to Facebook Messenger bubbles, the new chat bubbles allow users to have one tap chat bubble launch, and one tap chat minimisation. You’ll see chat bubbles across all chat apps, not just Facebook Messenger.
In-built screen recorder
No need for third party apps, with the Android 11 screen recorder. One less app to download, the native recorder lives in the Quick Settings tiles.
Smart device controls
Now control your smart home tech devices without opening an app. Controlling your home lighting and other iOT devices can now all be managed from your Android Power Menu, rather than opening multiple apps to manage this.
Good win for users who use their phones in their vehicles – wireless Android Auto connections now mean that you don’t have to have your phone plugged in to enjoy these features.
Developer tools and libraries
There hasn’t been as much progress made in this area as we’d hope, but we wanted to mention a few of the best:
1. Hilt – introduced a simplified version of the Dagger dependency injection library.
2. Compose – this UI framework has had an alpha version for a while and we’re looking forward to a full release.
What next for Android 11?
Much like Apple’s recent release updates, our developer team and clients are pleased to see privacy and security improvements, as well as next generation communication features, making interactions with your Android 11 that much simpler for users, and more standardised across common apps. Simplicity seem to be a key theme in this Android 11 release, which is good news for clients wanting to utilise Android apps as part of their overall digital activity.