Apple releases iOS 11: What developers need to know

We have three months to go before Apple's new operating system hits the market. To get the development process off on the right foot, let’s break down some of the biggest changes and challenges with iOS 11 that are putting devops teams to the test

wwdc 2017 tim cook
Credit: Stephen Lam/Reuters

As Apple laid the groundwork for iOS 11 at WWDC this week, developers approached the start line of a long summer ahead. The preview of iOS 11 sets the bar high for development teams across the board, and is pushing iOS developers to experiment with emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR) unlike ever before.

We have three months to go before the new operating system hits the market. To get the development process off on the right foot, let’s break down some of the biggest changes and challenges with iOS 11 that are putting devops teams to the test. 

Popular devices dropped from iOS 11

With the introduction of iOS 11, addressing changes in supported devices is a crucial first step. With the upcoming launch of iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPad Pro 10.5, these new devices will push the iPhone 5, iPhone 5C, and iPad Mini off the list of iOS 11-supported devices.

These changes make things complicated for two reasons. First, the market is already split between iOS 9.3.5-supported devices (like iPhone 4S, iPad Mini, and iPad 2) along with iOS 10 devices. This in mind, developers and testers will need to support three device families all at once. Second, this will have an immediate impact on the size of your test lab, which ultimately could slow down your app release cycle. While there’s nothing new about the need to automate the release process from build through deployment, these new developments will make automation that much more essential for keeping pace in a growing market. 

Complex software changes ahead

With AI-driven personal assistants dominating the industry, it’s no surprise that updates to Siri were high on Apple’s to-do list. Bringing a “smarter” Siri to the iPhone means voice will become a crucial means of communicating with a device, and ultimately with an app. With Siri’s improved functionality, developers are in a strategic position to deliver audio-enabled mobile experiences, so getting ahead of this trend should be a top priority for staying connected with users across channels.

To mirror the launch of Google Lens, Apple is including AR capabilities into the iPhone camera. By pointing the camera at different objects, the user can get smart insights about what’s in front of them. This should get developers thinking about how they can use the camera to enhance the user experience of their app. As teams start to kick off this process, note that this new capability requires an array of environmental considerations, from device location, locale and language, to incoming notifications while using this feature and more. Testing across these different factors sooner rather than later will ensure that your app is embracing the latest technology without sacrificing the end user experience.

UI changes boost user engagement

New capabilities aside, iOS 11 users will get a new re-designed homepage and notification bar. The update should make engaging with apps and moving between them more intuitive for the user. From a developer's perspective, the only way to be sure these changes won’t throw off your UX is by getting hands on experience with the developer preview as soon as possible. This will allow you to identify and fix any glitches from the UI changes, and give you a chance to make the required updates to meet compliance with both iOS 11 UI, along with the older iOS 10 and iOS 9 families.

On top of these UI changes, Apple is enabling users to type faster with a new finger detecting typing keyboard. It will be exciting to see how apps that typically engage with users via input fields will adapt with this new functionality. This also raises some questions around how the new keyboard will work across different languages, screen sizes, and while transitioning between apps. The answers to these questions will only surface through testing, but have potential to offer a really unique user experience for text-driven apps.

Embracing the next gen OS

WWDC has unlocked a whole new arena for iOS developers, and R&D teams have three months to make the most of it. As soon as they can, teams need to get their hands dirty with the iOS 11 developer preview to assess the new opportunities and challenges that lay ahead. Apple gives the iOS community a lengthy heads up to prepare for the new platform to go public, so a fast reaction once it hits the market is essential for staying afloat in a competitive iOS app landscape.

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