App Development

Apple, Let Me In!!!

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For years we in the developer community have felt like Rick Moranis in Ghost Busters when it came to getting access to Siri, the Apple Watch, and a variety of other functionality. Finally, at WWDC, Apple opened the door and we expect app functionality to explode.

Watch The Apple Watch

Apple isn’t walking away from a lukewarm launch of the Watch, it’s doubling down. Satisfaction with the Watch has alway been high, e.g. 97% in this study , but the apps have been weak in terms of functionality and speed. In every part of the presentation, Apple mentioned how the watch could also accomplish a given task.

The biggest announcement is that application launch time on the watch has been greatly improved. One of the most common complaints about the watch and native apps has been that they take an extremely long time to load. Apple has improved this greatly and has changed the side button on the watch to act as a quick app switcher. This makes the case for creating a native watch app much more compelling, as frequently used apps will be much more accessible for an Apple Watch owner.

Recommendation:

If your app has information that can be seen and interacted with at a glance, take a look at building a native watch app. Apple is clearly putting a lot of its resources into this platform and is continuing to refine the user experience - and will likely reward apps that include Watch functionality with more app store promotion vs. apps that do not.

You can learn more about the latest Apple Watch updates in these blog posts from our developers:

Enhanced Notifications

We all know notifications are one of the prime arrows in any marketer’s quiver: Push notifications are interacted with a mind-blowing 6+% of the time, according to Adweek.

Developers can now add a widget to a notification that is displayed when a user taps from the lock screen. These new widgets allow for features like quick-reply to messages, displaying sports scores, and even playing live video.

Recommendation:

Having a clear notifications strategy has never been more important. Immediately begin working on a strategy to make full use of the new notifications features and how they can drive traffic to your app. Check out our blog post Rich Notifications in iOS 10 to gain a deeper understanding of how you can work images, sound, video, and even custom content into your app’s notifications. You can also join our iOS developers, Ben and Andrew, as they tackle the User Notifications Framework in WWDC Greatest Hits #2 of their ** WillowTalk series.**

Map Extensions

Another system that Apple has opened to third-party developers is Map Extensions. These new extensions allow for applications to add support for restaurant and ride-booking directly from the Apple Maps application.

Recommendation:

Apps that are local by nature (e.g. retail, hotel, local entertainment venue) should look at building a map extension. Users can then instantly hop from the app to get a ride to the location or book a restaurant. Not earth shattering for sure, but every little piece of friction that gets eliminated helps the user experience.

Messaging Extensions

For developers, we now have access to two types of iMessage apps that can be sold in the new Messages App Store: sticker packs and iMessage apps. Sticker packs allow a user to send custom images and gifs through iMessage. iMessage apps are full-fledged extensions that can be used to create custom, interactive messages and to present custom UI in the Message interface, enabling powerful new functionality within the Messages app such as peer-to-peer payments, editing photos, playing games, and working with friends.

Recommendation:

Consumer-facing brands will want to look at creating (i) sticker packs that engage users and (ii) look at creating iMessage apps that include functionality such as peer-to-peer payments and customer service improvements that use step-by-step directions to resolve user problems.

The Big One (Kind Of): Siri

With the release of SiriKit Apple also finally opened Siri up to developers, allowing us to plug directly into Siri and have apps respond to verbal requests by the user. That said, we are limited to only launching the following types of apps:

  • Audio or video calling
  • Messaging
  • Payments
  • Photo search
  • Workouts
  • Ride booking

While SiriKit is still fairly limited in scope, the APIs are designed in a way that makes it very quick and easy for developers to get started with adding voice integration into their app. The big news is that Apple will be adding categories rapidly - over the next 12 months we hope to be able to support the majority of apps with queries like, “Look for hotels on the Wyndham app,” or “Show me today’s movie showtimes on the Regal app,” or “What are the Fox News headlines?”

Recommendation:

If your app falls in any of the above categories, adding Siri support is a no-brainer. If not, keep your eye on future categories (or feel free to periodically check in with us) as to when your app may be able to benefit from Siri integration.

To learn even more about SiriKit, take a look at these blog posts from our iOS developers:

On Another Note: Swiftly Moving to Swift (Who Writes this Stuff)?

Swift was all over WWDC, from the Swift themed attendee badges to the signs and banners covered with Swift.

Recommendation:

Swift is going to be the primary language for iOS apps in the next few years. Full Stop.

Objective-C isn’t going away for a long time, but Apple is no longer talking about it and at some point we know Apple will start pulling back support and force full migration. WillowTree has already made the switch and we have seen great improvements in app development speed and testability. If you have an app that is primarily Objective-C, this is the year to start refactoring using Swift.

Additional Reading:

I would be remiss in not mentioning how proud we are of the team for being listed #29 on Fortune’s Top 50 companies in the US for Millennials. At the end of the day, a digital agency is the aggregation of talented, focused and dedicated team members.

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