iOS 7 brings with it some of the most exciting changes since the App Store first made its debut five years ago. Not only has the design completely changed, but it also offers some brand new functionality that will radically change how we approach building an app.
Here are the top three things developers should be paying attention to when moving to an iOS 7 app.
1. Content is Always Ready
Most of the apps we build rely on data in order to get something on screen, and often this comes from a web server. One problem we've always had with iOS is that when an app is closed, it stops updating data, leaving users with stale information when they next open it up.
With iOS 7 we now have new functionality that enables us to briefly update data, even when an app isn't running. The iPhone will also intelligently decide when an app should or shouldn’t perform these background updates. So for example, if you have a news app that you check every morning, your iPhone will recognise that and refresh the app’s content before you access it.
This is fantastic for developers. It means we no longer have to build in ‘work-arounds’ that only do half the job and can focus on building great experiences for our users.
2. Flexible Layouts.
With the iPhone 5, Apple showed us that they're not afraid to change their conventions, and they've done it again with iOS 7’s entirely new UI.
Previously introduced with the launch of iOS 6, Auto Layout was built to enable designs to react according to the amount of content on the screen. Unfortunately it proved too complicated for many developers, so the majority have stuck with the original layout system.
Now with iOS 7, we have a much more simplified approach to setting up auto layout interfaces. But while Apple claims that its new OS will make it easier for developers to build for both iOS 6 and iOS 7, we're not convinced. Our experience still shows that there is significant overhead associated with supporting both platforms despite Apple's best intentions.
3. Effortless Transitions.
iOS has always been a great platform for innovative UI patterns so we're constantly looking to come up with something interesting and intuitive in our apps. This often means building something completely custom which can take a lot of time, skill, and patience.
With iOS 7, we now have a new piece of API that gives us a head start with these custom interfaces. Apple has provided a way for us to easily animate between screens, and have those animations be completely gesture driven if needs be. You can see this at work in the new Photos and Calendar apps on the iPhone, whose smooth transitions between the months and years would take weeks to implement without iOS 7.
This brings us huge savings in development time, and any app that doesn't follow iOS 7's conventions for this kind of seamless UI is quickly going to get left behind.
These are just three of the features we recommend getting to grips with to take advantage of iOS 7. It's certainly one of the most exciting times to be building apps and from what we've seen so far, iOS 7 is really starting to pave the way for the next five years of the App Store.
What impact is iOS 7 having on the future of app design? Check out The App Business journal entry on it here.