Mobile devices are rapidly becoming the professional tool of choice for workers, and IT administrators are finding themselves paying closer attention to mobile operating system (OS) updates. Few are more anxiously anticipated than those of Apple’s iOS, which is widely expected to be released at some point over the coming weeks.
Only months after its last update, Apple’s iOS 8 presents a host of new features that will once again redefine how consumers and enterprises use iOS devices. Based on our initial hands-on experience, we believe this is the most fundamental update to iOS for enterprises and developers to date, and as a result, organisations will need a clear strategy to get the most out of the changes.
iOS 7’s most substantial advances arose from its aesthetic and user experience changes. The shift to iOS 8 will be less immediately felt by end users, but the update represents a much more significant development. We believe there are three aspects organisations should consider:
• Openness: the update introduces over 4,000 APIs that expand how apps work and what they can do. Some of these have the potential to be disruptive to whole industries.
• Security: many new features make iOS 8 more enterprise-ready, and a new development language, Swift, will make desktop and mobile development more straightforward.
• Execution: getting the most out of iOS 8 will require organisations to think through the apps that currently exist, as well as how to build for new demand.
Creating an open ecosystem
iOS 8 marks a significant change in Apple’s approach to the platform. It opens up new capabilities for developers and allows smoother development of existing functionalities across applications.
For example, iOS 8 introduces a range of productivity enhancements, including an adaptive user interface for better usability across different device screens. It also introduces geo-location improvements for more accurate indoor location mapping, allowing enterprises to market to in-store shoppers more effectively. Feature enhancements include Handoff – part of Apple’s Continuity feature set – which allows for more seamless integration between devices, and Extensions, which allows integration between applications. The update also introduces interactive notifications, which may improve engagement by keeping users up-to-date when not in your application.
The majority of these developments are small but significant enhancements. However, two new features foreshadow iOS eventually becoming a platform that extends beyond mobile devices:
• HomeKit, a framework for APIs that facilitates connectivity between home devices
• HealthKit, a framework for APIs that makes it simpler to share health-related information, and may be useful in healthcare as well as the burgeoning wearables market.
If Apple successfully creates ecosystems around these new features, they may be significant for the healthcare, smart home and wearable technology industries.
The launch of iOS 8 will introduce a range of updates that are likely to be welcomed by enterprises using applications to connect with staff and customers.
For example, new mobile device management (MDM) tools allow administrators to monitor iCloud backups for individual devices and prevent users from adding restrictions or erasing services. This will have an impact on how enterprises think about MDM and accelerate the commoditisation of this market.
Touch ID authentication enables administrators to establish new levels of granular personal security with biometric fingerprinting at the app level. Similarly, the operating system’s expanded data protection gives administrators the ability to build passcode entry into all applications for enhanced data security. This will allow enterprises to mobilise a greater range of corporate applications at lower cost. It may also create a new set of headaches for administrators who find themselves managing another passcode set.
The new Swift programming language accelerates app development and is simpler to use than the alternative, Objective-C. This will reduce the cost of development and make the platform more attractive to developers.
TestFlight Integration now allows developers to more easily distribute beta apps to employees via the cloud for crowd testing.
In addition, the update has made virtual private network (VPN) connections more practical, enabling greater employee productivity. Previously, a VPN connection would quickly drain the batteries of iOS devices. iOS 8 manages VPN connections more efficiently and selectively, allowing devices to be constantly connected without taxing battery life.
The cumulative impact of these changes is to make the platform easier to develop on, easier to secure and more ready to support enterprise deployments.
Getting the most out of iOS 8
The launch of iOS 8 presents many opportunities for more efficient application development and operation. If your company is yet to adapt to Apple’s changes, now is the time to act. We suggest following six key steps when modifying apps for Apple’s new operating system:
1. Examine each new feature offered in the iOS 8 update and identify those that could make life easier for your developers, employees and customers.
2. Train your development team to account for the new features and languages, or engage a development team with the requisite skills.
3. Embark on a planning and design phase to harness new features and identify fixes found during regression testing.
4. Review the functionality, codes and features of current applications to determine whether the iOS 8 updates present any obstacles to use. Also run regression tests to ensure your existing apps continue to work on relevant devices and systems after upgrading. For example, organisations running existing MDM platforms may need to update and test their version of the application to account for iOS 8’s new MDM features.
5. Run through an interactive cycle of building and testing new applications to adapt to the changes and ensure the best user experience possible for new features.
6. Release your updated applications to the market and promote the benefits of the upgrade to allow users to get more out of your app and your organisation.