Swift, Material Design, Wearables and More – Google I/O and WWDC
This week we asked the Mobile Team:
What are you most excited about from Apple’s WWDC 2014 or Google I/O and why?
|I am very excited to see the new Material design. It literally adds a new dimension to the UI – elevation. Elevation determines the size of shadows, and leads to very natural animations. Another great addition is color accents. Developers no longer need to customize every single widget to brand the app. Just specify a color palette in the theme, and voila, the whole app is tinted accordingly. Material design comes with a comprehensive guide on the thinking behind the design, implementation dos and don’ts, and lots of visual examples. It looks beautiful.
Google I/O is stuffed with announcements beyond Material design, and believe it or not, the next thing that got me excited was Cardboard. Yup, it is a piece of cardboard, with lens, magnets and NFC tag. Add a phone, and you get a virtual reality viewer. The magnets are especially ingenious: one magnet is inside the box, to hold the outside magnet within a groove. Pull the outside one down, and the magnetometer on the phone detects the change in magnetic field to trigger a button event. This is how you select an item on the phone while it is trapped inside the cardboard box. Clever, isn’t it? I don’t really have any particular use for a VR viewer, but Cardboard is really fun!
|There were so many great new API’s announced at WWDC 2014, it really opens up so many new opportunities for developers. I can already see us taking advantage of Handoff and App Extensions in both Clear and Ember. For example, we could now write a widget for Notification Centre that shows your most recent tasks from Clear – This is something users have been asking for and we’ve never been able to offer before.
As a user I’m probably most looking forward to the new cleaner look in OS X Yosemite. I’m also very excited for HomeKit and HealthKit, the possibilities for both of these are mind blowing.
|Apple’s new Continuity features of OS X Yosemite and iOS are extremely exciting. The free interchange of information between Mobile, Tablet, Desktop, and TV only further bolsters Apple’s position as a truly unique cross platform ecosystem. There are some fantastic new use cases that will come out of this and we’re really looking forward to including some of this advanced functionality in our apps to make software even easier to use.
|The keynote announcements from these events are always a mix of exciting and scary. New things are exciting! Doubly so for developers and others working in technology, because new things change our direction, for better or for worse. That’s the scary part, because you don’t know.
Even now, a month later, with the new ideas in grasp, and the new betas installed, I’m not sure. It takes time to see how things pan out. Exciting! Scary!
We make technology because we get bored and dissatisfied with the old stuff, because we like the challenge of being kept on our toes, of not knowing whether we’re getting in on the ground floor, or wasting our time while the competition laps us.
|Apple has begun to make great strides towards unifying iOS and Mac not just from a design standpoint but with functionality like Handoff and Continuity. This feels like a level of maturity on both platforms that will usher in a new wave of exciting use cases. Thinking of all your technology as a single continuous device is definitely where the future is heading and it is very refreshing to see a company like Apple getting behind that drive.
|The Wear products are fascinating. It’s most of the value of Google Glass, but delivered in a way that harmonizes with social norms instead of disrupting them. I’m wearing one now and it’s still a little too intrusive, but unlike Glass, that’s a software problem, not a hardware one.
|There were a lot of awesome things announced during WWDC. iOS 8 is really a developer release. But the thing I’m most excited about is the changes we are starting to see from Apple; they are starting to open up more. We don’t have a WWDC-specific NDA this year. The Developer Forums will be index by search engines. When we are more free to talk and write about the new frameworks and APIs, everyone wins.
|From a pure developer perspective, Apple’s announcement of the Swift programming language is one of the most exciting things to happen the platform in years. The opportunity for existing and new developers who learn the language is immense. Apple might be talking a big game about supporting Objective-C and C long term but there should be no doubt that the future of the platform is Swift. Already we have seen a number of the new features of iOS and Xcode tied intrinsically to Swift.
In theory, a new language built from the ground up for iOS and the associated hardware is an incredibly powerful proposition. Apple will be able to do things that nobody else can even dream of, and we as developers have the chance to take that journey with them. From a more realistic perspective of course, we won’t really get to use Swift in anger for a year or two anyway, but it sure will be fun when we can.
What excites you the most from this year’s WWDC and Google I/O? Share your questions and comments below or by using #MobileTeam on Twitter.