I had the opportunity to attend Apple’s iOS 5 Tech Talks on January 23rd in Austin, TX. This was an event that provided access to Apple’s engineers and subject matter experts over the course of a day. It was a great way to gain some insight into what the iOS 5 SDK offers to developers to produce great apps for the iPhone and iPad.
The day began with a keynote address in which Apple updated developers on the growth of the app store to its current mark of 500,000 apps and 18 billion (with a B) downloads. One of the key points in this address was that 8 of those 18 billion downloads have come in the last few months. So, the market for apps is accelerating. In addition this is happening world-wide. A good way to realize more value from an app is to localize it for other countries.
After this presentation, the breakout sessions offered some depth on a number of different topics.
Modern UI tools
Xcode 4.2.1 and the iOS 5 SDK offer new features for developers. Storyboarding allows for more rapid construction of user interfaces. The new UIAppearance API allows easy customization of on screen controls so apps can distinguish themselves through graphical design.
iCloud Storage enables your apps to keep user documents and data in iCloud, so your users can access the same content from all their computers and iOS devices. This session gave a practical understanding of how iCloud Storage works and how to take advantage of it in an app. iCloud allows an app to store key-value data, UIDocuments, CoreData, and even individual files. Adoption of iCloud storage is not difficult and in many cases can be accomplished in a short time.
The AV Foundation session was a practical introduction to the core concepts of this high-performance audio and video playback, editing, and recording API. This API offers tremendous low level control over presentation of media assets form within an application. For example it is possible to merge two videos with an application at runtime to offer seamless playback as though the two videos were in a single file.
Geofencing enables pinpointed geographical context within an app. The Core Location framework by using region monitoring and geocoding to create a narrowed location-relevant experience for users. In iOS 5, the Core Location now adds the ability to do forward geocoding (translating a street address to a latitude/longitude coordinate). Previously an application had to rely on external web services to do this. The newest development tools also allow developers to test an application as though it was in any part of the world to anticipate scenarios users will encounter.
iOS has an advanced printing system that’s designed for easy adoption by developers. This session covered the architecture of AirPrint, guidelines for print layout, simple printing of images and text, and advanced techniques for apps with sophisticated printing requirements. Printing capabilities can be added to an app with very few lines of code. Applications with rigorous printing needs will require more, obviously, but the use Page Renderers allow an app tight control of what is committed to paper.