Swift Wasn’t the Coolest Feature Announced at WWDC 2014

WWDC 2014 - Swift and other iOS8 features

Swift, Apple’s new programming language, made waves at WWDC 2014. But there were other new iOS 8 features announced that every developer should know about.
Image source: AppOSX.

At last month’s 2014 Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Apple made a number of huge announcements. Among the biggest news was Apple unveiling Swift, a new programming language for writing iOS and OS X apps.

Heralded for its speed, efficiency and ease-of-use, Swift seems to be generating more buzz than any other feature or tool revealed at the event. We’ll talk more about Swift in future blog posts – it very well might have the potential to spur a new generation of innovative applications – but in the meantime, we want to make sure you heard about all of the exciting features that came out of WWDC.

Here are the 3 coolest, non-Swift features from WWDC that developers need to know about – and that might make you re-think your entire app:

iOS 8 – a far more open platform for developers

  • The gist: Developers now have the ability to build custom apps that can communicate with default iOS apps.

Historically, iOS applications have been unable to share data and features with third-party apps. But in iOS 8, Apple will now let developers create extensions so that applications can talk to one another. This suite of APIs opens a range of new possibilities that could include everything from social sharing widgets to default storage locations that are accessible to outside apps.

As a security measure, iOS 8 will act as a middleman when it comes to sending data between apps, rather than letting applications chat directly with each other. So while two, third-party apps can’t talk to each other, developers can still make use of new data that’s available to be shared through integrations with built-in iOS 8 apps.

TouchID API – apps can now leverage password-less authentication

  • The gist: Applications soon might be able to use fingerprints, rather than passwords.

Touch ID is a fingerprint recognition feature. Right now, its uses are limited to unlocking iPhones and downloading apps from iTunes. Luckily for developers, this list is about to grow.

At WWDC, Apple announced the debut of an API for Touch ID, opening the door for other apps to use the fingerprint scanner for authentication. Apple has stated that the actual fingerprint data will remain stored on the iPhone and never relayed to third-party developers, making this a remarkably secure yet easy-to-use form of authentication.

HomeKit – a standardized structure for smart devices and “The Internet of Things”

  • The gist: HomeKit could be the glue that connects different smart home devices into a single mobile platform.

As the market for “smart” devices grows – that is, devices with automated features and companion mobile apps – so too has the disconnect between the different mobile platforms, apps and features these devices support. To bridge these gaps, Apple unveiled HomeKit, a toolkit for iOS 8 developers, which will create a standard for the mobile management components of smart home devices.

Essentially, HomeKit will make it simpler to provide secure access to smart devices. But not only can the HomeKit API create a secure structure that allows users to control devices in the home, but it also can group these devices together. So as smart thermostats, smart locks, smart lights, smart refrigerators and the lot become common in our homes, HomeKit will help developers bundle all of these features together in more user-friendly applications.

What it all means

It’s truly a great time to be an iOS developer. Never before has there been a greater opportunity to connect data and features across apps, phones, tablets and even brick-and-mortar homes.

The applications are the stuff of science fiction. For example, if you combine a third-party app built with HomeKit with the extension of Touch ID, you could open your garage and preheat the oven with the swipe of a finger.

What do you think? Did any of these announcements (or perhaps a different one) from WWDC excite you? Have you already dove into the Beta version of iOS 8 for Developers?

Let us know in the comments below!

The primary sources we followed for WWDC coverage were Engaget and TechCrunch.

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