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New iOS 9 features : a developer’s perspective

Apple’s iOS 9 and the discerning developer


By Laura Shumaker

iOS 9, Apple’s new mobile operating system, was released last month, and it seems that users and critics are pleased. In addition, says Apple Insider Neil Hughes, iOS 9 adoption was Apple’s fastest ever. Just days after the release, the new operating system was installed on more than half of all iPhone, iPad and iPod touch units.

“iOS 9 delivers on the attributes Apple is already well known for: innovation, solid design, stability and performance,” says Computerworld’s Michael deAgonia, “Given all of the welcome additions, what is most remarkable is how fluid and responsive the OS remains. The fact that it works on devices that are now several years old is a boon, and for those with newer hardware, it’s a clear winner.”

Developers are happy about iOS 9 as well. Of the long list of improvements, here are 9 of the most significant:

1) Search extensibility

Developers can now search content inside applications from spotlight. When a user clicks on any of the search results, the app will be opened and can be redirected to the location where the search keyword is present.

Apple has said that iOS 9 will automatically monitor how frequently users interact with your search results, and if you consistently serve up unhelpful results because you indexed your data badly then your results may stop appearing. Index only what’s important!

Paul Hudson of Hacking with Swift 

2) App Thinning

Until now, developers have been uploading a single APK file which contains both 2X images for retina and 3X for Retina HD. Using app thinning, Apple’s new concept of making a new binary based on a device, developers can upload Bitcode to iTunes to generate an optimized version for the device while the user is downloading an app from iTunes. With i0S9, developers can create apps that use the most device features, occupy minimum disk space, and accommodate future updates that can be applied by Apple. Faster downloads and more space for other apps and content provides a better user experience.

3) Exception handling and defer

Introduced in Swift 2.0, developers can use do-try-catch blocks for handling errors. This is pretty similar to what exists in other programming languages such as Java and .Net, providing a welcome step closer towards conventional coding. It’s also easy for developers to create their own custom error types to describe error cases with clear, meaningful names.

Speaking of Swift 2.0, Apple says that it will be released as open source later this year.

4) SFSafariViewController

This new feature is much better than iOS8’s WKWebView. With SFSafariViewController, developers can use nearly all of the benefits of viewing web content inside Safari without forcing users to leave an app. As of iOS 9.0, Apple allows developers to embed Safari right into an app. Developers get Safari’s great user interface, access to stored user data, and Reader Mode right out of the box.

5) UIStackView

This is a new controller added in iOS 9 that behaves just like LinearLayout in Android(where developers can add views to a super view that automatically get placed either beneath each other or side by side). For views embedded in a stack view, developers no longer need to define auto layout constraints. UIStackViews doesn’t scroll, but act as containers that automatically fit their content.

6) UICollectionViews

With this new feature on iOS 9 users have the ability to re-order items in collection view. Developers can now add a series of views to a superview, specify how much spacing between them, and Auto Layout does the rest. This new feature will behave more like UITableViews. Developers can also choose whether they want the subviews to fill horizontally or vertically. UIStackViews don’t scroll, they just act as containers that automatically fit their content.

7) MKMapView

This is a tiny change that makes a big difference. When Traffic is set to true, it shows traffic on maps. How about that? This just one example of numerous small changes that are characteristic of iOS that make legacy apps work great and look better.

8) Multitasking Enhancements for iPad

Supports Slide Over, Split View, and Picture in Picture. Despite all these new ways for users to interact with your app, participating in iOS 9 multitasking is straightforward when you’ve adopted Apple’s best-practice recommendations for iOS 8. And starting in Xcode 7, each iOS app template is preconfigured to support Slide Over and Split View. Learn more here.

9) 3D Touch

With iOS 9, new iPhone models add a third dimension to the user interface. A user can now press the Home screen icon to immediately access functionality provided by your app. Within your app, a user can now press views to see previews of additional content and gain accelerated access to features.

The bottom line:

With major improvements to familiar built-in apps and increased performance on a range of hardware, iOS 9 is a significant evolution of Apple’s already winning mobile operating system, especially for iPad users. iOS 9 is faster and easier to use, and while the new features that users are talking about work well, it’s the small core elements that make it a winner from the development side.


Laura Shumaker is a Staff Writer on the Menlo Technologies Marketing team. Laura is an award winning writer and content strategist. 

 

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