Apple’s iOS is about to go through some major changes. The operating system, which has led to the sales of millions of iOS-based devices, is undergoing a dramatic overhaul for version 7. As part of this overhaul, developers at Apple have given the user interface a simpler, “flatter” look. They’ve also incorporated changes into features such as Control Center, overall multitasking, Notification Center, Safari, camera and App Store elements, and have claimed improved battery efficiency.
In short, Apple is swinging for the fences, and with the first iOS 7 SDKs out the door (the second and most recent one having been released on June 24) and an anticipated release date for the fall, members of the developer community are weighing in on the tool set that Apple has released, as well as its support of it.
“One of the things that made the biggest difference is, honestly, the tool set,” said Jason Titus CTO of Shazam. “They’ve made Xcode and instruments and the ability to debug your apps and understand what’s going on under the hood. It made that much, much easier, and that makes a big difference for all developers and definitely for us.
“They’ve spent a lot of time and effort on making sure things are fast and efficient, which may in and of itself not seem that sexy, make you either happy with your phone or unhappy with your phone every day. It’s good that they found the time to perform some housekeeping, and to make sure that there are things that’ll make the battery last longer and make the trip.”
Titus went on to say that Shazam was looking to incorporate additional music-purchasing and push-notification features into future versions of its iOS app, something the iOS 7 SDK allows it to do (albeit without the level of specificity to the notification system as his company would like).
“It’s a little bit of a challenge that all that is hooked up to overall user notifications,” said Titus. “So if a user says they don’t want to have in-your-face push notifications, then they currently won’t be able to have behind-the-scenes silent updates either, which isn’t ideal.”
Even with these caveats, Titus stated that his developers were able to get a working build of its updated app up on literally the same day that the SDK was released at this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference. And his team is looking forward to improved multitasking in the upcoming operating system. “We had our app built in iOS 7, and could see what worked well and what didn’t the day it was out, which was great,” he said.
In other cases, developers got what they needed right off the bat with the SDKs as well as some of the items on their wish lists.
“I just wanted things to be faster,” said Bruce Morrison, CEO of Man Up Time. “I’ve yet to run into an issue where iOS can’t do what I need it to do. So for iOS 7, my biggest hope was just increased performance and speed.”
Morrison went on to admit that his apps didn’t require any of iOS 7’s key features and improvements, but he was impressed with what there was to work with and that Apple’s been responsive to his needs as a developer.
One common sentiment expressed by developers was happiness over Apple’s developer support, which seemed able to address issues as quickly as they surfaced.
“So far it’s been great, although that’s speaking from the standpoint of a developer that was lucky enough to get to WWDC, so I could access that support first-hand,” said Aaron Fothergill, CEO and lead coder at Strange Flavour. “They work on bug lists. If it’s something you need fixing or think could be improved, file a bug report. That’s the best way to get it in front of someone who can sort it.”
Fothergill said that the worst issue he’d seen with the iOS 7 SDK to date was in connecting to a motel’s Wi-Fi system when he traveled for a business conference. “But that’s normal for an early beta,” he joked. “I also don’t like the space bar position when entering search terms in Safari. I keep tapping the ‘.co.uk’ button that’s been added where the right side of the space bar used to be.
“Remember, it’s a work in progress and you’re testing it,” said Fothergill, advising new developers and hobbyists looking to break into iOS 7 coding. “This also means stuff will break, and it’s better to contact the dev (or Apple) through their support link on the App Store.”
It’s still a long road to the fall, before iOS 7’s anticipated September release date, and a massive number of changes are still in the works for iOS 7 and its SDK. Even so, Apple seems to have sent out a good, robust SDK without too many glaring bugs, as well as a support team that’s both listening to its community as well as putting out fires and suggesting workarounds without too much delay.