Recap: Key Take-Aways from Worldwide Developers Conference 2016

Written by: Reinder de Vries, June 14 2016, in App Development

The “Special Event” opening keynote isn’t a day away yet and the Worldwide Developers Conference is already jam-packed with goodies for app developers. Didn’t see the keynote? Here’s what you need to know.

This article reflects my personal and professional take-aways from WWDC 2016, in a spirit which I think is beneficial for indie app developers, marketers and publishers. I’d like to point out opportunities for new app technology, based on what Apple presented, and dive into business potential the App Store now yields for aspiring and experienced app makers.

Accessibility and cultural diversity were definitely a theme this WWDC 2016, and although Apple is a monopolist consumer company, it’s got the betterment of all people in mind – and that’s awesome.

Want to watch the keynote yourself? Click here.

Ready? Let’s hear it!

Siri is Back!

Siri was bound to chase up on Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Cortana, and it did:

  • Siri is now available for developers as SiriKit. During the keynote it was specifically mentioned as an extension, so I’m unsure how much access developers get to the artificial intelligence technology. Nevertheless, this definitely opens up possibilities for connecting your app directly to one of the smartest personal assisants available.
  • Siri is also coming to macOS (formerly, Mac OS X) and is tightly integrated with the operating system.

watchOS is pretty cool

I haven’t been a fan of Apple’s wearables, but the latest change from watchOS 1 to 2, and now to watchOS 3 shows a promising future for the platform. Highlights for watchOS 3:

  • The UI got a major overhaul, and it looks slick!
  • Apps start lightning fast now
  • The OS now features a native “draw letters to type” input method
  • You can unlock your Mac with your Apple Watch
  • The Watch has a strong focus on health and accessibility, now offering a special Breathe app for mindfulness breathing exercises

iOS 10 is moving forward

iOS, one of Apple’s flagships is making leaps forward with iOS 10. The highlights:

  • It’s got AI for Photos, lifting the Photos app right up with Google Photos, with a feature that automatically builds video presentations from your photos by figuring out which memories matter – including video bites. Awesome!
  • Apple Music is turning into a social media platform. Apple tried this before, and I don’t know if it’ll work, but the new Music app surely has a great UI overhaul (the current version sucks, to say the least).
  • Yay! HomeKit now has its own Home app. This is what Apple does: watch the home automation market closely, letting everyone else figure out what works best, and then swoops in by integrating their one Home app with pretty much all home automation providers and builders to create a unified experience. Oh, and as a developer you can of course tap into that.
  • The iMessage app has a ton of awesome features: direct emoji responses on messages, cute background and bubble animations. Not to mention this: iMessage is now open for developers, allowing you to make bots and third-party integrations right out of the native iMessage app. Again, Apple is late to the direct messaging revolution, but these changes look promising and definitely bring the app up to speed with recent advances in Telegram, Facebook Messenger and WeChat.
  • QuickType brings Siri technology to typing, basically meaning contextual suggestions from what you type. Awesome!
  • Interactive notifications. I had to type that in bold. If it’s up to Apple, you don’t have to unlock your phone anymore to use it. Interactive notifications allow you to integrate with messages on the lock screen, again with the possibility for third-party developers to build their own integrations, complete with 3D Touch gestures. This is a big step forward and definitely a business opportunity for app developers.

Most Noteworthy and Mentionable

Get a load of this:

  • Swift Playgrounds is coming to iPad! Yeah, you read that right: you can now learn beginner and advanced Swift right on your iPad with the Playgrounds app. This opens up the learn-how-to-build-apps for pretty much anyone, especially kids, and it’s extremely accessible.
  • Apple’s making a move when it comes to privacy. Many of the mentioned features work with some kind of collective artificial intelligence, which introduces privacy challenges to the system. Apple is very clear about it: they’ll keep your data private. They’re working with leading experts on a principle called “differential privacy”, which basically means your data stays private although it’s used as an aggregate in machine learning models.
  • Apple Pay is coming to macOS. (The online payments race is not over, yet. No comments here.)

App Store

The keynote didn’t specifically mention any changes to the App Store. The Worldwide Developers Conference is for developers though, and Apple mentioned there are now over 2.000.000 apps in the App Store and Apple has paid out a couple billion to developers worldwide.

Noteworthy changes:

  • In-app subscriptions are now open to all app categories, and the coming weeks will tell if that’s good for app developers. I think so!
  • Apple is experimenting with featured ads in the App Store, and promises to make these viable and accessible for small indie app developers too.
  • Apple secretly rewrote the App Store Review Guidelines, making them less guideline-y and more common-sense-y. Although the guidelines themselves didn’t change, they got clearer in some cases less open to interpretation, in some cases more open to interpretation. The latter is very good for app developers. Read the Guidelines here.

Tim Cook closed the keynote with this super awesome video (“We made you a video”, he said. Ahhh, Tim, you shouldn’t have!) about developers from all around the world. Are you thinking about building your own app, or do you need a little inspiration on your journey of becoming an app developer – watch this:

Reinder de Vries

Reinder de Vries is a professional iOS developer. He teaches app developers how to build their own apps at Since 2009 he has developed a few dozen apps for iOS, worked for global brands and lead development at several startups. When he’s not coding, he enjoys strong espresso and traveling.

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