Will Apple’s iOS 5 bear fruit with developers?

Victoria Reitano
September 20, 2011 —  (Page 1 of 3)
Amid all the suspicions of what is going to be available to developers in iOS 5, there are a few confirmed additions that have developers buzzing. Among these are a new notification center, an over-the-air sync feature, and the ability to continue to create hybrid mobile/Web applications.

Other additions, according to the company, include Newsstand, iMessage, and new features in Safari, such as the Safari Reader.

“The new notification center is the most significant because it lets developers communicate with their users when the application isn’t open,” said Ryan Engle, senior iOS developer at Mutual Mobile.

Henry Balanon, cofounder and director of mobile at Detroit Labs, viewed the inclusion of automatic reference counting as the most significant new feature. “It is basically the convenience of garbage collection with the speed of using retain/release. Developers are used to explicitly doing retain/releases, and now we don’t have to do that,” he said.

Joe Pezzillo, cofounder of Push IO (a cloud service provider for mobile devices), said that he is impressed with the changes. He believed this shows that Apple is beginning to understand the pain points felt by developers, and it is interested in making significant changes to ease them.
“Apple is using their position to improve its platform for developers too, which most competitors don’t do," he said. "Apple is providing better tools for the planning and development stage of the process."

One such example is Joseph Lewis’ most awaited feature: location simulation. Lewis, chief Web architect at Sandia National Laboratories, explained that although location simulation is a simple addition, it’s a necessary one.

“We have a lot of location-aware app development going on, and it is going to be useful to have that instead of hard-coding location in,” he said.

iCloud also seems to be a favorite addition. According to several developers, it will significantly change how they create applications that go beyond the iOS device hardware.

“I’m interested to see how iCloud will sync information between devices; the information [available online] makes it seem like iCloud will just work, which is a scary concept for developers,” Engle said.

“Being able to synchronize data between multiple devices silently over the air is going to be so ridiculously cool in so many ways that none of us has even thought of yet," said Jonathan Saggau, founder and CEO of Sound Broken, a Mac OS X and iPhone software contracting shop. "I'm constantly thinking of things I can do with iCloud, and I'm certain fellow developers feel the same. We are going to see a lot of innovation here, and it really will seem like magic at first."

Beyond the notification center, the ability to perform updates in the back via the over-the-air updates seems to be something developers are excited about.

“Wireless sync will help developers, because right now many applications need an external management system," said Engle. "If iCloud works, updates should happen for free, in the background."

“I'm most excited about the over-the-air updates to iOS 5 and later," said Balanon. "This will encourage more people to update to the latest version of the OS and we don't have to support legacy OS versions for too long."

The unknown factors of iOS 5 may perhaps be the most eagerly anticipated. Facial recognition is a feature many are talking about.

“Facial recognition [functionality] opens up doors in augmented reality applications. It is a big leap toward the future,” Engle said.

Related Search Term(s): Apple, iOS

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09/22/2011 02:43:19 PM EST

Reading about the iPhone 5's new features is a great way to pass time while waiting for it to hit the shelves:

United StatesJ. Douglas Harrington

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