If you’re an iOS developer, you’ll soon be building apps that feel a lot less like apps.
Last week, Apple introduced iOS 8 at its Worldwide Developer Conference, touting it as the largest iOS release since the unveiling of the App Store in 2008. Through several major new features, Apple has exposed a host of new channels, notably extensions and interactive notifications, through which users can interact with their apps without actually requiring the app to be open.
Previous versions of iOS imposed heavy restrictions on the ways in which apps could integrate with both iOS and other apps. While some apps allowed you to do things such as listen to music or navigate while in the background, the only way to interact with most apps was through the app itself. In its latest release, Apple has loosened these restrictions by allowing apps to integrate more deeply with both iOS and other apps through new app extensions and notification capabilities.
Extensions allow apps to interact with one another
App extensions are one of the most important features in iOS 8. App extensions allow apps to interact with each other through a set of secure, controlled touch points.App extensions enable apps to share and display content within other apps, allow for third-party keyboards, pluggable file sharing, photo editing and storage provider capabilities. Perhaps most notably, extensions allow apps to create widgets in the Today view in Notification Center. This means apps such as ESPN can now display the latest scores in a quick, lightweight widget. This is a great new channel for delivering dynamic, targeted information directly to your users.
Notifications enable interactions between app owners and users
With iOS 8, the notification will now be interactive. Rather than just sending purely informational notifications to your users, you can send interactive messages that allow your users to interact with the app through the notification itself. For example, you can now decline or accept a calendar invite without ever needing to open the app.
Similarly, you can reply to messages in line within an actual notification, without ever needing to switch away from what you were doing. These quick, low-friction interactions are significantly less intrusive than requiring your users to open your app to complete an action and are certain to drive much more engagement than traditional push messages.
Extensions and interactive notifications are exciting enhancements that are likely to be quickly adopted by industry leaders. With these changes, Apple is maturing its definition of an app, allowing the app to start acting more like a platform and creating new interaction models that put your app in front of the user at the right time.