It’s been nearly a decade since the launch of the iPhone and it is fair to say that Apple has transformed the mobile industry. The arrival of iOS, the App Store and the emergence of a global market of device users has made the app economy a key driver of the mobile revolution.
But despite its constant presence, iOS is an ever changing operating system. Updating every year to meet user demands, fix bugs and to outsmart rivals, getting your head around iOS’ role in the mobile industry remains as important as ever.
Kieran Gutteridge, founder and CTO of IntoHand, is running a session at The Mobile Academy about iOS development. And to give us a taster of what to expect, here are four trends for companies running apps or servicing businesses that use iOS to look out for.
1) Privacy is a big concern
For a number of years, privacy has become an area of increasing concern in the mobile space. Whether it is app companies falling foul to the American Federal Trade Commission’s regulations on mobile privacy or Spotify’s terms and conditions PR disaster, users care more than ever about their data.
And Apple is responding in kind to secure their ecosystem. According to Kieran, “Privacy is an area that Apple are really concentrating on. There’s going be some interesting developments. They’re obviously playing to their own strengths, which is being a hardware manufacturer, and looking at things like privacy, like SSL.”
App developers and services providing tools for developers need to spend time securing their users’ data sooner rather than later. And crucially, they need to take responsibility for it, even if they’re using a third party tool.
“If you make the choice as a developer to integrate a third-party SDK you really need to take responsibility for what the third-party SDK is doing with your consumers’ data” warned Kieran. “Within iOS 9, things are going to tighten up because of the security and privacy concerns.”
2) Ad blocking as OS feature
A controversial report into ad blocking suggested that the practice was costing publishers $22bn across the world. And while this is a huge number (perhaps too large), this could potentially get larger as a result of Apple’s latest software update.
“They’re introducing ad blockers into Safari, which is playing to Apple’s strengths”, Kieran told us. “They’re not an advertising company but some of their competitors’ primary source of revenue is advertising.”
Under the cloak of securing user data from unscrupulous mobile web adverts and improving performance, Apple is forcing businesses to reconsider how they advertise to help the Cupertino giants achieve a commercial aim.
So iOS developers may come under pressure to improve advertising SDK integration into apps, code in feed native advertising and work out cross promotion solutions to counter balance the block effect in the future.
3) iOS to extend into cars, watches and beyond
The past two years has seen the iOS tent expand to cover a wide variety of new technologies.
Since the announcement of iOS 8, Apple’s OS tendrils has crept into the home via HomeKit, onto your wrist with the Apple Watch and more recently into your TV with the most recent Apple TV announcement.
And generally, we can expect to see mobile operating systems powering more devices in the future.
“What’s exciting is actually augmenting with other things, such as automotive”, Kieran explained. “So, Intohand were lucky enough to work with JustPark and do their BMW and Mini integration, and I think going forward we’ll see far more opportunities where the phone becomes just the intelligence for another device – whether that’s TVs, cars, wearables or whatever.”
And the good news is that it’s an exciting space to enter. “There’s quite a lot of opportunity coming forward in the next one to five years” Kieran reckons, which means there is plenty of time to clamber aboard the mobile powered band wagon.
4) Testing will remain as important as ever
And finally, you’ll be pleased to hear that testing and iterating within an iOS app will remain more important than ever.
At the most basic level, it remains essential to test whether people actually want to download your app. As Kieran told us “I’ve always recommended if people are bootstrapping a project is actually to do simple things and see whether it moves the needle.”
“A simple example that I’ve done for the last five courses at The Mobile Academy is just translate the App Store description of your application before you translate the entire application. It’s usually a lot easier to do, and you can just see whether actually people want a localised version of your application.”
From a technical perspective, testing is more important than ever for avoiding those unforgiveable user experience no nos. Whether it is too many pop ups, crashes or user interface design that doesn’t allow users to find what they want, testing is still the simplest way to make the most of your mobile app.
And fortunately it is getting easier than ever in iOS. “The fact that they [Apple] do give you access to the betas for things like iOS 9 does mean you can stay slightly ahead of the curve” said Kieran. “And they announced that you would be able to get the hardware before the users which, again, is really useful.”
So by using a service like TestFlight or Hockey, building a good group of beta testers and by building analytics into your final app, you’ll help future proof your app with the help of the timeless trend of testing.
Kieran will be running a full session about iOS development at The Mobile Academy. Covering the frameworks available, how to use Apple’s tooling, advice for using tools such as Unity or Corona and general tips, it’s an essential starting point for anyone interested in honing or developing iOS skills.
Tickets for the next course, which starts 1st October, are available here, with discounts for start-ups and students.