The Future Is Already Here: iOS 8’s Potential in the iWatch

Written by Nik on June 12th, 2014. Posted in News

To say we’re excited about the announcements from WWDC last week would be something of an understatement. The iOS and OS X ecosystems have a fantastic summer of development and great app releases ahead of them, and we’re looking forward to being a part of it!

Watching the WWDC sessions, there’s lots of subtle hints at where iOS is going: talk of responsive simulators suggest that we’ll see some variation from the existing iPhone (or iPad) screen sizes. But today, I want to talk not just about bigger iOS devices but smaller ones. See, all this talk of wearable technology (and rumours of an Apple TV) has made us wonder how iOS might adapt to being on these different devices - and how the technologies announced at WWDC might help with this.

A Few Square Inches

The new Message features (tap & swipe to record a voice message, or shoot a video) are pretty great for quick-fire replies to friends and family. These two new additions to Messages not only seem like a huge enhancement, but they’d also work on a much, much smaller device screen (say, a couple of inches square, and lacking a keyboard).

Made for iPhone Lightning Audio

Lots has been made of the new Lightning Cable Audio Spec, but in some ways it’s being looked at in the wrong way… Instead of being a lock-in for a new headphone company purchase, what if instead it was a way to getting headphones to connect to a small new device with nothing but a Lightning port? We’re having a hard time agreeing on the primary aim for this (Beats going Lightning is a popular option) but the death - or perhaps non-appearance - of the traditional headphone port on a small wearable device makes a lot more sense.

App Extensions

Extensions are something we’re really looking forward to experimenting with in Clear and Ember along with Handoff, but we’re also curious to see whether something such as Extensions help to bring “Apps” to the iWatch in some form. The idea being that there’s no need to manually download and install apps - your favourite apps, that are already on your iOS devices, provide extensions that seamlessly appear on your wearable device.

“Connected Like Never Before”

One user-facing feature that we’re particularly excited about is what we’ve nick-named the “Calling Dre” feature. That is, the tying together of an Apple ID with your phone calls and SMS. Being able to interact with phonecalls and messages on your Mac and iPad via Bluetooth is neat - and we can’t help but feel this would be a fantastic feature in any hypothetical wearable device.

Metal

Several of us here at Realmac have Apple TV boxes - and we’re all big fans of the device. But some of the stuff in iOS 8 leaves us with tantalising ideas of Apple TV nirvana: for example, Metal. Metal is Apple’s custom graphics API for games. Unsurprisingly, it’s designed specifically for the hardware it’ll be running on:

With extremely low-overhead access to the A7 GPU, Metal enables incredibly high performance for sophisticated graphics rendering and computational tasks

Metal + A7 (or A8)-based Apple TV Refresh + Your iPhone + Made for iPhone Games Controller, anyone?

Home Kit

The potential for HomeKit seems limitless, particular when you combine it with possible Apple hardware. Here’s how Apple describes HomeKit:

HomeKit is a new framework for communicating with and controlling connected devices in a user’s home. Apps can enable users to discover devices in their home and configure them, or you can create actions to control those devices. Users can group actions together and trigger them using Siri.

We’re looking forward to being able to ask our iWatch: “Hey Siri, turn on my Apple TV and play Monument Valley”. :-)

The Element of Surprise

The announcement and launch of technologies that seem destined to be a part of secret new products, but arrive in plain sight, is something we’ve always admired about Apple. We’re very much grasping at straws here, trying to read some tea leaves where there may be nothing - and we’re hoping that whatever does launch (this year, next year - who knows) blows away our own tea-leaf reading.

But in the mean time, if you’ll excuse us, we’ve got work to do