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Apple dev roundup: Weather data meets privacy, and other good stuff
No AR/VR glasses but at least RoomPlan will let you make rapid 3D room maps
WWDC Apple this week at its Worldwide Developer Conference delivered software development kits (SDKs) for beta versions of its iOS 16, iPadOS 16, macOS 13, tvOS 16, and watchOS 9 platforms.
For developers sold on seeking permission from Apple to distribute their software and paying a portion of revenue for the privilege, it's a time to celebrate and harken to the message from the mothership.
While the consumer-facing features in the company's various operating systems consist largely of incremental improvements like aesthetic and workflow enhancements, the developer APIs in the underlying code should prove more significant because they will allow programmers to build apps and functions that weren't previously possible. Many of the new capabilities are touched on in Apple's Platforms State of the Union presentation.
Apple's Xcode Cloud CI/CD system has emerged from beta testing and is now available to Apple Developer Program members. It provides a way to build app code, in conjunction with build status, reports, and automatic build distribution to testers and users.
Eligible devs get 25 hours of free time through December. Thereafter prices start at $14.99/month for 25 hours.
All the user-facing updates from Apple's 2022 WWDCREAD MORE
SwiftUI, Apple's framework for user interfaces on its various operating systems, has a new stateful navigation API called
NavigationStack, for UI screen navigation based on data, and a way to insert a
TextField in an Alert. It also incorporates Swift Charts, a data visualization framework, among other enhancements.
Developers may wish to review the recent changes to Apple's Swift programming language, including improvements in Swift Concurrency, Swift Async Algorithms, Swift Regex, and Swift Package plugins.
Apple's WidgetKit has been extended to allow devs to build complications for watchOS 9 and widgets for the iOS 16 Lock Screen for iPhone. And later this year, following a planned iOS 16 update, the Live Activities API should be available to create real-time widgets.
The App Intents API simplifies the process of integrating third-party apps with Siri. It works with App Shortcuts, a visual scripting application for iOS, iPadOS, macOS, and watchOS apps.
Then there's WeatherKit, a framework for fetching data from the new Apple Weather service via Swift or REST API. Apple claims the service respects user privacy by using location data only for weather forecasts, without associating coordinates with personal information and without tracking requests.
This could be a significant improvement to the data-snarfing status quo. IBM's The Weather Channel in 2019 was sued by the City of Los Angeles for allegedly tricking users of its mobile app into providing location data that was sold for unrelated commercial purposes. IBM denied the allegations but agreed to settle the case by informing users of the app about how it is using location data and voluntarily donated $1 million in technology to Los Angeles city agencies.
Apple's MapKit framework, which allows the display of map data or satellite imagery in apps, has been renovated. There's also a Maps Server API for reducing API calls and preserving power, always a concern on mobile devices.
Metal, Apple's hardware acceleration framework, has advanced to version 3, bringing with it MetalFX Upscaling for faster upscaling and anti-aliasing, and a variety of other tricks.
ARKit 6, Apple's augmented reality framework, now supports 4K video, Scene Geometry, Motion Capture, and People Occlusion, among other things. There's also a related framework called RoomPlan, a Swift API that allows iPhones and iPads to create a rapid 3D floor plan of a room using the device camera and LiDAR Scanner. It has elicited a fair amount of developer enthusiasm.
SharePlay, the consumer-facing name for the Group Activities framework, was created for sharing content within FaceTime. It now works with Messages, too. There's also a confusing similar framework called Shared With You, which can be used with the Collaboration API to integrate app collaboration experiences into FaceTime and Messages.
macOS 13, aka Ventura, has gained a capability called Continuity Camera that lets a user's iPhone take on the role of a built-in or attached webcam. The API handles camera input switching, access to the Desk View, and those sorts of things.
Arguably the most meaningful new API is Passkeys, a way to use device biometric sensors (Touch ID, Face ID) to generate iCloud Keychain public key credentials for authentication, instead of using a password. While it may take time for the technology to be adopted, the ability to log in to services securely without worrying about passwords promises to significantly improve online security.
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Apple's in-app purchase APIs (StoreKit 2, App Store Server API, etc) have been expanded to make the transaction process easier. The Wallet app has also seen improvements to its ID card handling and order tracking support, as well as a delayed payment system called Apple Pay Later.
The Live Text API offers a way to identify text in images. The Focus system – for silencing alerts and notifications – has been augmented with the Focus filter API, to make app data presentation conform with Focus settings.
There are some new Mac Catalyst APIs to make iPadOS 16 features available on macOS 13 apps. Meanwhile, Apple's Game Center has a redesigned dashboard and supports push notifications for leaderboard activity – so players can be informed when they no longer have the high score, for example. And App Clips, a mechanism for providing people with a lightweight preview of an app, has also been polished up a bit.
In all, these changes should keep Apple acolytes busy revising and enhancing their native platform apps until the anticipated public operating system releases in a few months. ®