One week after WWDC, I’m still struggling to come up with talking points about how my experience with iOS 8 has changed how I use my phone. Frankly, the announcements this year were more exciting as a developer than as a user. Rather than just parroting some features that others have already covered better than I could, I’ll share some thoughts about the path that iOS 8 might be laying out for the future.
Given so many new updates for developers: extensions, widgets, full camera access, custom keyboards, continuity, iCloud Drive, HealthKit, and more, there is an overwhelming sense that the biggest changes we’ll see in iOS 8 are likely to come from third parties. It’s been hard to use my iPhone without imagining how current apps could take advantage of these new features, or what new categories of apps are possible for the first time.
One big rumor that we didn’t see addressed on stage was any mention of the oft-rumored iWatch. But after considering a number of the changes to iOS 8, I think the iWatch did make its mark on WWDC. The rumor of an Apple watch always seemed a little peculiar to me. What value could we really get out of a wrist device in a world where we already have an iPhone in our pocket?
An all new App Store, just for watch apps, seems unlikely, and a very limited environment for making valuable experiences. Notification Center widgets however are extending apps beyond the iOS fullscreen experience in a way that feels like a very nice fit for a notification driven device. Developers are being encouraged to fit their apps most critical information and functionality into much smaller constraints than they’re used to dealing with. This seems like an effort that could translate directly or indirectly to extending features to a watch.
On the surface, the tap-to-talk functionality of the Messages app seems like Apple admitting the value from transient messaging apps like Snapchat. However, it’s also a strikingly simple way to send a message from a device that has no keyboard for text input, a valuable feature to have on a watch.
Along with the push for continuity, carrying information and workflows between your connected devices, improvements to Siri, such as a hands-free way to engage with the assistant: “Hey, Siri,” and the potential of a wrist bound device to input valuable data to HealthKit, there is a compelling picture forming of what the rumored device could deliver in Apple’s forthcoming ecosystem. The rumored iWatch hasn’t been at the top of my wishlist, but I’m finally beginning to see some strong potential for what kind of features a wearable device could bring to the table.
I think we still have a lot to see from Apple this year.