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TechnologyJun 29, 2021

Key Takeaways From WWDC 2021

Kevin Avila, Natasha Solanki, and Logan Parmeter

Apple’s WWDC 2021 was packed full of exciting announcements for users, developers, and organizations. These announcements include: iOS 15’s new features and updates, the ability for organizations to extend their reach and optimize their app’s product page, and advancements to app development and team productivity with Swift, XCode 13, and XCode Cloud. 

We’ll discuss how these changes can help your organization develop modern and engaging mobile applications for your users. To learn more about the specific privacy implications shared at WWDC 2021, check out our blog post on new privacy impacts for marketers

Change in iOS 15 Mobile Development

Here’s an overview of coming changes with iOS 15:

SharePlay and SharePlay API

One of the most emphasized announcements to come out of the conference is SharePlay. Shareplay is a new shared experience within FaceTime that allows users to share media and partake in group activities with third-party apps that support it. 

For example, a media-focused app could be used to stream music and high-quality video simultaneously among users in the session, while a drawing app could offer a draw-together experience between the participants. Integrating with SharePlay can be achieved using the `GroupActivity` framework and `GroupSessionMessenger` API, which abstracts out a lot of the complexity around managing and syncing the connection.  

For users to share content among themselves, all users must have the app installed on their devices. Any users who do not have the app are automatically directed to the AppStore and prompted to download it. Therefore, adopting this new engagement strategy could potentially increase usage and sales for your organization.

Notifications and Focus

Apple has redesigned the way users receive notifications with the introduction of Focus, where users can activate focus modes that determine which notifications are prioritized and displayed. Since notifications are an extremely significant part of an app’s experience, it's important to ensure notification delivery matches expectation

Developers can now use the new `UNNotificationInterruptionLevel` enum as part of the existing user notifications framework to set accurate notification types for their users. Organizations should also be wary of any changes they may need to make in configuring their third-party push notification management tools. Airship has already announced they will be making changes to support iOS 15’s new capabilities, but it will require developers to update their existing SDK.

StoreKit 2

If your business model and app rely heavily on Apple’s in-app purchases (e.g., subscriptions), then you may have noticed the decoupling between your app’s user experience and the transactions that fuel revenue. While in-app purchases have made it easy for developers to sell digital goods and services using users’ existing Apple ID and payment methods, managing those transactions and subscriptions has historically been ambiguous. Any further management of those purchases occurs outside the app in app settings. 

With StoreKit 2, Apple has put a bit more freedom in the hands of developers by providing new APIs that will allow customers to easily manage refunds, cancellations, and purchase history directly within the app. We strongly urge organizations to utilize these APIs so users no longer have to dig through their iPhone settings to view their subscriptions. 

Increased Adoption of Apple’s UWB Technology and Nearby Interaction

With ultra wideband (UWB) technology, users can enjoy location- or direction-based experiences by interacting with nearby compatible devices.  This technology serves as the foundation for the recently announced AirTags. Now Apple is providing resources for developers to incorporate this technology into their own products. 

In addition to developers being able to leverage the nearby interaction framework in their apps, Apple is working with chip vendors to share a protocol to allow third-party hardware accessories to support UWB. This could directly translate to revenue with new software and hardware players using UWB. 

For example, stores can leverage this functionality with App Clips to allow nearby customers to experience a cut down version of their app as they shop. 

App Store Improvements and Discovery

Apple has introduced some new powerful features to the App Store centered around product pages that can enhance your app’s presence on the App Store. Overall, users have the opportunity to get a better idea of an app’s value at a glance while marketers are equipped with new tools to increase conversion and downloads.

  • In-app events

    • Businesses can now extend their reach to their users through new in-app events that display on an app’s product page in the AppStore. This could look like anything from a restaurant promoting a one-day in-app deal to a business hosting a live Q&A session. By implementing in-app events, more users could discover an organization’s app through the AppStore’s new personalized event recommendations feature. Developers can leverage App Store Connect and App Analytics to easily manage and monitor their in-app events to increase user engagement.

  • Custom product pages

    • Increased customization has come to the app product pages. You can now take advantage of custom layouts with various user interface elements (text, screenshots, app previews) and make multiple variations of your page for different audiences, once again leveraging App Analytics to monitor performance of each variation.

  • Product page optimization

    • Once you’ve experimented with different product pages, you can put your pages to the test using App Store Connect’s new product page optimization capabilities. This feature allows developers to perform A/B testing on different pages to improve SEO for your app. App Analytics has been enhanced with a new dashboard and metrics such as conversion rate and viewing impressions for each page to help guide you to the most effective result.

Mobile Development Updates in SwiftUI

SwiftUI, Apple’s framework geared toward quick development of apps with less code, has some new features that continue to make it an appealing option for user interface development. Some of the highlights include:

  • `searchable` - a modifier which creates a searchbar for lists.

  • `AsyncImage` - a view that asynchronously loads and displays an image.

  • `swipeActions` - a method for custom swipe actions on list rows.

  • `refreshable` - a method to make views refreshable complete with a callback.

As SwiftUI begins to mature, we anticipate this framework will become the industry norm.

XCode Cloud and Xcode 13

The introduction of XCode 13 and XCode Cloud has notable impacts on team productivity, quality assurance, and release management for Apple developers.

XCode 13 is jam-packed with new team development updates. Review and merge pull requests, view team member comments, and compare any two files to point out differences right within the integrated development environment. If your app also uses TestFlight for beta testing, crash reports viewed in the Xcode Organizer will take you directly to the line of code where the crash occurred for quicker debugging. 

Release distribution has also become easier with cloud signing, in which distribution certificates can be securely stored on Apple’s cloud infrastructure and developers on a team will be authenticated when distributing the app based on their role and permissions. This means no more local storing of distribution certifications and private keys when using automatic and cloud signing.

XCode Cloud offers a cloud-based continuous integration and deployment (CI/CD) service for use within XCode, meaning your team can create workflows that integrate with your source code host (e.g., Github, GitLab, or BitBucket). It can also trigger start conditions (e.g., changes to branch), initiate actions like archiving a build and running automated tests, and carry out post-actions like sending notifications for successes or failures.

Optimizing Your Mobile Development Process With WWDC 2021 Updates

While these are just a few of the many announcements that Apple made this year, there are a multitude of other features and tools your organization can utilize to create new and engaging mobile app experiences for your users. Developers are already able to download the XCode 13 beta software and begin experimenting with the iOS 15 SDK and XCode Cloud.

iOS 15 is intended to help individuals use their iPhone to stay connected, find focus, use intelligence, and explore the world. If you’re excited to begin implementing these features into your organization’s mobile applications, reach out to our mobile experts at findoutmore@credera.com.

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