Looking Forward to iOS 6

The Apple World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) has come and gone for another year and, as expected, there’s lots to look forward to in iOS 6. If iOS 5 is anything to go by, we can expect this to be released around September/October time. Here are some of the new features of interest to us as iPhone and iPad developers:

Passbook

A new feature with iOS 6 that collects boarding passes, loyalty cards and similar. Passes can be tied to a location or time period and distributed via email, web site or live via a web service. This looks like it will be of great interest to e-commerce app development, something that a lot of Learning Tree students are attending courses to prepare for.

Mapping

As expected, the map tiles will change with iOS 6, with Apple moving away from Google as the mapping provider. The good news is that the new maps are fully backward compatible with the old map frameworks. I’ve run the mapping exercises that we do on Learning Tree’s Building iPhone® and iPad® Applications: Extended Features course and they work without modification.

A side-effect of the new map offering is that turn by turn navigation in apps will be more flexible. The licensing relationship with Google meant that turn-by-turn directions had to be displayed on Google Maps, but that looks as though it’s no longer the case. There’s also better integration between our apps and the maps application itself.

Facebook

Twitter integration came with iOS 5 via the Twitter framework and that is already deprecated! iOS 6 will provide a single social networking framework for Twitter, Facebook and Sina Weibo that generalises and expands on the ideas in iOS 5.

Objective-C

Something that didn’t make the post-WWDC headlines was the syntax improvements in Objective-C. I’ve not explored these fully yet, but the new developer kit has a conversion tool that converts existing code to “modern” Objective-C syntax. Most of the changes seem to be in the area of array and dictionary access and the “modern” style is quite similar to Python. Not as elegant, it has to be said, but quite similar.

General Framework

Following some adverse publicity earlier in the year about access to data like contacts via APIs and subsequent misuse, there is an expansion of the user-permission idea that currently only exists with location services. So we will see “XYZ would like to access your contacts” and so on. As developers we will need to build our applications to handle denial of permission, just as we currently do with location services.

There is a new control that I can best describe as a table-view organised as a grid. I’ve had a play around with it using the beta version of Xcode and it looks promising. I have a great idea for making use of it in the iPhone® and iPad® Programming: A Comprehensive Hands-On Introduction course!

For those of you already registered in the Apple Developer Programme, the WWDC session videos are now online and you can watch the videos and see the slides from all of the key presentations. I’m in for a busy couple of weeks watching these and planning an upcoming revision to my Learning Tree course to include the iOS 6 changes!

Richard Senior

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