At its 27th Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) keynote, Apple previewed iOS 10 and watchOS 3 platforms, announced that for the first time Siri is opening up to developers and revealed how it has spruced up iMessage with “emojification”.
Tim Cook also announced some key figures: the App Store now has two million apps, downloaded 130 billion times.
He said there are now 13 million registered developers building for Apple’s platforms, with 2 million added in the last year, and that Apple has paid out a total of $50 billion directly to developers.
The announcements showed a willingness to allow outside developers to get involved in services like Messages, Maps and Siri, reflecting an emphasis on its services business at a time when hardware sales are shrinking.
“iOS 10 is our biggest release ever, with delightful new ways to express yourself in Messages, a native app for home automation and beautifully redesigned apps for Music, Maps, and News that are more intuitive and more powerful,” said Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering.
The new Home app will deliver a secure way to manage home automation products.
A new feature called “Differential Privacy” will help developers discover the usage patterns of a large number of users to improve QuickType and emoji suggestions as well as Spotlight deep link suggestions.
iOS 10 also “brings the power of the App Store to Messages”, opening up opportunities for developers to create new ways for users to communicate in a thread, including stickers, the ability to quickly personalise GIFs or edit photos and send payments from within Messages.
Apple also introduced the “emojification” of iMessage – iMessage now includes animations, such as balloons, confetti or fireworks that can take over an entire screen, invisible ink to send a message only revealed after the recipient swipes over it, and handwritten notes.
Describing iPhone’s texting experience as “a little staid” compared with rivals like WeChat and Facebook Messenger, the Financial Times said “Apple may have overcompensated” with iOS 10.
Siri for developers
For the first time, developers can build on the intelligence Siri offers and let users interact directly with apps using just their voice.
SiriKit is limited to those working with apps for messaging, phone calls, photo search, ride booking, personal payments and workouts, and they can also use Siri to control CarPlay apps, access climate controls or adjust radio settings within automakers’ apps.
The developer preview of iOS 10 is available to members starting today, and a public beta programme will be available in July.
Watch OS 3
Apple previewed watchOS 3, which will be available this fall as a free update to Apple Watch.
“Apple Watch is the ultimate companion for a healthy life and with watchOS 3, there’s now even more to love,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer.
“Favourite apps launch instantly and are simple to access, and the breakthrough new fitness and health features like the Breathe app make it feel like a whole new watch,” he added.
Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of internet software and services, said there are over 6,000 apps on Apple TV, which is getting new Siri features and a single sign-on.
With single sign-on customers can authenticate video channels from their pay-TV providers by signing in once to watch all of their network TV apps.
New tvOS APIs and tools available for developers include ReplayKit to enable them to record and live broadcast from their apps; PhotoKit to allow third-party app access to photos and videos in iCloud Photo Library and iCloud Shared Stream; and HomeKit to create apps to control HomeKit devices from Apple TV.
The tvOS developer preview is available immediately for developer programme members and available this fall as a software update for Apple TV.
Apple also introduced Swift Playgrounds, an app for iPad that encourages young people to work with Swift, Apple’s programming language.
Just last week, Apple had announced a number of changes to its App Store, including new promotion and monetisation options.
The biggest news at the time was that developers will be able to purchase App Store ads.