Apple’s iOS 8 pushes app interoperability for enhanced experiences
By Chantal Tode
June 3, 2014
Apple’s opening day for its annual Worldwide Developer Conference failed to generate the kind of excitement the brand needs but still included some noteworthy enhancements for applications, such as video walk-thrus in the App Store and better interoperability between apps.
The focus was on iOS 8, the latest release of Apple’s mobile operating system, which the company is hailing as its biggest iOS release since the launch of the App Store. It includes more than 4,000 new APIs, enabling developers to further customize their app experiences with extensions such as Notification Center widgets and third-party keyboards.
“A lot of stuff that was expected you didn’t get,” said Todd Drake, chief technology officer at Organic. “What you got was a lot of enhancements, tweaks and feature catch ups.
“Extensions is huge and it is going to allow a lot more plug-and-play between a bunch of apps,” he said.
“I think that is the most radical change in iOS 8. It opens up the device to be a real seamless, powerful piece of machinery that I think will continually update with new features and capabilities.”
Apple has been suffering from a growing perception that the brand has lost some of its innovative edge. Yesterday’s keynote speech at the developer’s conference did little to dispel this notion.
The keynote was notable for what it did not include: a more comprehensive payments solution, which had been expected.
However, Apple did introduce some new purchasing capabilities, such as voice command for digital content purchases via Siri and extending its TouchID fingerprint authentication system to third-party developers.
Also, Family Sharing is a new feature in iOS 8 that enables users to share credit card account among up to six family members so they can share content purchases across devices.
Managing health and fitness
The iOS 8 update, which will be released to the public later this year, includes HealthKit APIs, enabling health and fitness apps to communicate with each other.
For example, with a user’s permission, a user’s blood pressure app could share data with a physician’s app, laying the groundwork for a more comprehensive way to manage health and fitness via mobile.
“HealthKit is a big thing,” Mr. Drake said. “I work with a health nonprofit on compliance and cancer survivorship and this thing that can passively gather telemetry from people and notify doctors and give you visibility into it is going to have a huge impact in long-term health management issues.”
HomeKit enables home accessories to connect so that consumers can manage their home. For example, users could tell Apple’s voice command service Siri that they are going to bed and it could dim the lights, lock doors, close the garage door and set the thermostat.
The update also addresses in-app messaging with new capabilities.
"Developers and brands concerned with driving greater mobile app engagement should take note of Apple’s announcements around Interactive Notifications as well as the ability to develop a widget for the Notification Center’s today view," said Brent Hieggelke, chief marketing officer at Urban Airship.
"Getting users to complete tasks with a single-click within the message itself and top-level visibility within the Notification Center will be extremely powerful tools,” he said.
“In addition Apple has improved app discoverability with Spotlight suggesting apps you don’t have and App Store enhancements including continuously scrolling app search results, app bundles, Editor’s Choice labeling and app preview videos will make it easier to reach new users."
The opening keynote also highlighted new App store features such as app reviews and app bundles.
Such features could help developers drive downloads.
“App bundles and video marketing on the store, that’s huge for app store marketing that gives developers a few more tools in trying to differentiate themselves from the other apps on the market,” Organic’s Mr. Drake said.
“One of our clients could build a bundle of things that could help kids with potty training, for example,” he said. “You get incremental sales that way.
“Being able to do video walk –thrus on the app store is going to build engagement on the app store as well as engagement with your app. Small little videos that get people excited about your apps I believe are going to drive more downloads.”
IOS 8 brings Apple to parity with Android's KitKat but because there is less fragmentation on iOS, adoption will be faster, making it easier for developers to embrace an integrated experience across devices.
“ [IOS 8} will elevate consumers' already high expectations of marketers to respect and tailor content while being appropriate for each screen, ” said Doug Rozen, chief innovation officer at Meredith Xcelerated Marketing. “Of all the announcements, HealthKit and HomeKit will have the greatest longer term implication to marketers.
“The key will be how we as marketers can develop strong content driven engagement based on someone sharing their health and/or home information, ” he said. “It's got to be of enough value to overcome any privacy consumers.
“That said, it seems that both HealthKit and HomeKit take the underlying fundamentals of iBeacon to a new level of sophistication for narrow, Health & Home, uses. In the end, what makes Apple great is this focus on unparalleled seamlessness of a user's experience – across and within devices.”
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York
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