WWDC 2020 Recap: Here’s What’s Pertinent for iPhone apps and iOS developers

Following Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC 2020) last week, it was abundantly clear that while Apple’s manufacturing activity may have slowed due to the ongoing pandemic, Apple hasn’t exactly let up on the software development side of its business.

One highly-anticipated but nonetheless substantial announcement coming out of this year’s conference was that Apple has decided to begin using its own ARM processors instead of Intel processors in Mac products going forward, beginning with new Macs arriving later this year. While at a glance this may seem to be purely a hardware change, the decision does have important software implications (including for iOS developers), which I’ll explain in a bit.

On the topic of iOS 14, Apple announced that it will be implementing a number of iPhone features that should be very familiar to Android users (but may present an initial learning curve for long-time iPhone users).

Without further ado, here are some of the WWDC highlights you should be aware of, particularly if your business has an iOS mobile app or is planning to build one.


iPhone and iPad apps will be able to run natively on ARM-powered Macs

The decision to move away from Intel CPUs in its Mac products (desktop and laptop computers) is anticipated to give Apple more control over release schedules, quality control, and performance customization. While the full migration over to Apple-designed ARM chips will take an estimated two years, new Macs and Macbooks are expected to be released on the ARM platform as early as this year.

Importantly, Macs on the ARM platform will be able to run iOS and iPad apps, natively. This potentially means an expanded audience for iOS apps, as well as the potential need to optimize iOS apps for desktop/laptop screen sizes.


Home Screen Widgets

Widgets have long existed for Android devices and to a lesser extent, on the iPhone’s Today screen, but with iOS 14 they’ll finally be arriving to iPhone’s home screen. If your app presents information that is dynamic – weather, stock prices, times, for example – Apple’s new widget feature could be an ideal way to make your app more usable by removing barriers to access information.

app widgets
App widgets are coming to the iPhone home screen in iOS 14.

Widgets allow users to view information from your app without having to open the app. Typically, pressing on a widget will open the app, so widgets can actually increase engagement with your app by serving as a more engaging app tile, if you will. The key, of course, will be balancing the amount of information to display in the widget — just enough to be of value, but not so much that users no longer want to engage with your actual app.

Note: If your app already has a widget for the iPhone’s Today screen, you’ll need to have it recoded to work on a home screen.


App Clips

For businesses that see apps purely as a means to an end, Apple’s new “App Clips” feature could provide an abbreviated and frictionless way for users to transact with their phones.

App Clips
App Clips allow users to perform basic functions of a 3rd party app without downloading a standalone app.

App clips, much like Android’s Instant Apps, will allow users to use your app in a basic way, including performing purchase or rental transactions, without having to download a separate app. Consider all the services out there – Uber, Bird/Lime Scooter Rentals, Starbucks, etc. With App clips, a user can purchase or rent from you upon scanning a UPC code or clicking a link on a webpage, initiating a transaction using Apple Pay. This can reduce the friction between buyers (them) and sellers (you), enabling more business transactions as a result.

Importantly, App Clips will offer the option to use Apple Sign in, whereby your Apple account will allow you to quickly and automatically create 3rd party accounts using your stored credentials, billing info, and other required data. While some have noted the similarity with Google’s own “sign in with Google” flows, it’s expected that Apple will differentiate itself from Google and others by focusing on user privacy — for example, by providing the option to obfuscate your real email address, which prevents email access or abuse by 3rd party services.


Sound Recognition

New to iOS 14, sound recognition capabilities will allow iPhones to listen for and notify users when specific sounds are detected, such as a baby crying, running water, or the sound of a smoke alarm.

App Library

The App Library is essentially Apple’s take on what Android users know as an app drawer. It’s a place where all your apps live and can be organized, not just the ones you want on your home screen. Because installed apps have had to live on the home screen till now, home screen clutter has traditionally been an impediment to installing more 3rd party apps. With the App Library about to arrive, users are free to download and use as many apps as they want, knowing they can curate which apps deserve to appear on their home screens.

App Library
The new App Library is Apple’s updated take on Android’s App Drawer.

Picture-in-Picture (PIP) is coming to iOS 14

If your app uses video content, you’ll stand to benefit from the addition of PIP to iPhones via iOS 14. The new PIP feature is similar to what Androids and even iPads already have, allowing you to swipe a video into a small video thumbnail, but it goes one step further. In the event that you need to view the whole screen, you can minimize the PIP thumbnail into a single dot until you’re ready to begin viewing again.


Planning Ahead

As is typical of new iOS releases, we won’t see iOS 14 released for some time, as Apple wants to ensure developers have enough prep time before the bright lights come on. Based on past release dates, we expect to see iOS 14 released between Sept 14-18, 2020.

Got questions for CitrusBits about how to get the most from iOS 14? Get in touch today.


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