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From performance boosts to a smarter Siri, the next iOS will transform apps on iPhone and iPad alike

Millions eagerly watched Apple’s latest flashy WWDC keynote, awaiting glimpses of what’s in store for Apple hardware and software. But when you’re glued to the screen, it’s easy to forget WWDC is a developer conference, and that the keynote is primarily for developers.

With that in mind, we spoke to app and game creators, to find out their highlights from WWDC 2018, and how Apple’s announcements will make your iPhone and iPad even better.

Up to speed: iOS 12’s performance boost

Developers were particularly happy to see Apple doubling down on performance. “This was very welcome,” says Sean Heber of The Iconfactory, “because Apple’s work in this area makes all our apps faster – and better – by proxy.” Orangepixel’s Pascal Bestebroer adds: “Apple said this will also make older devices run smoother and faster. Not everyone can upgrade their hardware often, and so this is great if you want to run newer games.”

Iris Health CTO Agisilaos Tsaraboulidis believes this means Apple is “paying attention to what customers and developers have been saying about devices getting slower and slower,” but notes iOS 12 has “enough features to encourage customers to upgrade, even though it’s focused on performance”. He calls this “a win-win”.

Hey Siri: do anything I desire

Arguably the biggest of these new features is Siri Shortcuts, which lets developers create hooks into their apps that can then be triggered by user-created actions. “What Apple’s done is really quite clever,” thinks Dave Nott. “Amazon and Google are almost brute-forcing AI smarts, but their efforts can feel like a verbal command line. I rarely see friends and family move beyond the basics.” But because Siri Shortcuts has people create custom commands, Nott says it’s “about crafting your own experiences – you tell Siri what’s important and choose how to activate actions using your own vocabulary”.

Unsurprisingly, this caught the imagination of other app makers. CARROT Weather creator Brian Mueller agrees it’s “clever that the user isn’t forced to adhere to a rigid way of speaking,” and being able to chain multiple commands makes the system powerful: “I’ll be able to define different interactions, so someone can ask Siri for the forecast without opening my app, or use more in-depth commands if they want more detail.”

Command center: Siri to the rescue

In fact, almost every developer has an idea about how this new technology can radically change how people communicate with their apps. Max Steelmann of Ulysses looks forward to Siri Shortcut workflows “ensuring people don’t forget their daily writing routine”, and Open Planet Software’s Gordon Murrison is excited about people kicking off a memo in Just Press Record without touching their iPhone: “This has been one of our most popular feature requests, but wasn’t possible until now.”

PCalc creator James Thomson hopes workflows within the Shortcuts app will “allow for getting a result from PCalc, passing that to another app, doing something with it, and putting it back again”, saying this would “let us extend app functionalities into other apps”. Meanwhile, Hopster’s Chris Brooke reckons Siri could be a hit with parents: “Imagine being able to say to Siri it’s time for bed, and that dim the lights, have Hopster launch a soothing lullaby, and load your little one’s favorite book, ready to read.”

Back to the Mac

Another major feature that caught the eye of developers is the long-rumored ‘project Marzipan’. Although people had guessed this was a project to merge macOS and iOS, the end result is more nuanced, making it easier to bring iPad apps to the Mac by baking some iOS user interface frameworks into macOS. PSPDFKit’s Peter Steinberger reckons this could be revolutionary: “I ported PDF Viewer to the Mac in half a day. If I had to use the Mac’s current frameworks, this would have taken our team a year to reach a similar level of polish and user experience.”

Nott reasonably says “you might wonder how this will improve iPhone apps,” and explains that as a one-man shop, resources are tight: “So being able to create Mac and iOS apps from the same code base will afford me the time to create better apps for everyone.” In similar territory, Landlordy creator Jurgis Kirsakmens suspects developers with an eye on the Mac will now improve iPad takes on their apps through more thought going into “better support for larger screens, keyboards, drag and drop and sharing”. And Heber wonders whether “Apple will bring features that only exist on the Mac to iOS, to make their own porting efforts more seamless, which could mean far richer iOS apps being possible in the future”.

App to the future

Beyond these standouts, developers found other things to cheer about in Apple’s announcements. Retrospecs creator John Parker liked the look of ARKit 2: “the shared experiences aspect could lead to some interesting applications.” Brooke agrees: “The ability to create persistent, shared AR environments is really exciting – there are so many opportunities for engaging educational and entertaining experiences”.

At the more technical end of the scale, Christoph Wagner of Scanbot fame is enthusiastic about improvements to CoreML and the launch of CreateML: “Machine learning is now more accessible than ever. This means we can deal with your documents more efficiently, and add smarter features”. Obscura creator Ben McCarthy is also intrigued by improvements in this field: “It’s more approachable, and I think we’ll see big leaps in how we edit photos, with the extra context that can be gleaned from images – like adjusting lighting based on a scene, or removing spots from a portrait based on other shots of that person.”

Finally, Screen Time came in for praise. “It’s great to see Apple enabling parents to track children’s screen time and get activity reports,” says Brooke. And Ben McCarthy is grateful for these features, too – but for himself: “Sometimes I struggle with staying focused, and so it’ll be great to know if I’m spending too much time on Twitter. I don’t expect my phone to solve all my problems for me, but having more detail on how I’m using my devices can only help!”

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