WWDC is almost like a yearly holiday event for developers. This year, there are new features that could massively impact their apps for the better alongside new hardware, such as an M2 chip or a headset, could make their apps available to other devices.
With this in mind, we spoke to three developers about what they want to see most from Apple at WWDC.
Short for ‘Application Programming Interface’, this is what developers use to create features for their applications. For example, a MapsKit API can let someone display points of interest for their app, or a GameKit API could allow players to compete against each other on a leaderboard.
Becky Hansmeyer, the developer of YarnBuddy and Scribblet, tells us that stability and unity are what she hopes for this year. "My biggest wish for Apple’s developer APIs this year is for stability and unification. Currently, things like animations, transitions, and layout spacing break in SwiftUI apps with each iOS point release." Hansmeyer explains. "There are also multiple paths to building a Mac app (AppKit, UIKit + Catalyst, SwiftUI, SwiftUI + Catalyst) that unexpectedly produce different results. If each code path was equally consistent and capable, it would significantly improve the developer experience."
David Wood is a podcaster and developer, as well as a coach to iOS devs starting out. He wants to see an even bigger focus on privacy. "I’d like to see Apple remove any identifying information from the metadata, such as the location from photos, unless the user is specifically asked." Wood continues, "Every time you upload a photo to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc, chances are you’re sending them the location of that photo even if they’re not displaying that to everyone else. I think this is a great opportunity for Apple to help users maintain control over their privacy."
James Thomson, the developer of PCalc, Dice and others, would like to see improvements in Catalyst, the tool that enables iOS and iPadOS apps to be used on a Mac. "I've been using Catalyst recently, and the biggest missing piece is that there's currently no way to resize or position a window at a certain point on the screen, from within your code," Thomson explains. "I'd love to see that get added alongside proper window management on the iPad."
For the next big update to the iPhone, Hansmeyer would like to see the search function in Mail finally work as intended. "I can consistently go to Gmail on the web and find what I’m looking for in less than 30 seconds, whereas Mail’s search is mostly useless, turning up either zero results or completely unrelated messages." More options to customize the Home Screen is another hope. "I’d love to see fully interactive widgets and the ability to add spaces to the app grid layout," Hansmeyer explains.
For Wood, it's a small request, but with big potential. "I want to be able to use my phone’s camera as a webcam for my Mac. When I was on a Mac Mini last year, it frustrated me having to jump to an iOS."
Widgets have made a comeback in recent years, with iOS 14 letting users place different-sized widgets onto their home screens. But Thomson wants to see an evolution of these. "It's been requested before, but interactive widgets would be very useful - I want to be able to create a proper PCalc calculator widget, or have a Dice widget that can actually roll dice without opening the main app."
macOS 12 Monterey wasn't a significant update, but it brought some features that focused on productivity, which were welcomed by most of its users. However, widgets have been falling behind, which is something Hansmeyer wants to see change.
"macOS is in a pretty good place right now, but I’d still love to see a reimagining of desktop widgets (let us put them anywhere!) and the Notification Center, which continues to be a strange jumble of information I rarely remember to check."
Wood agrees on the widgets side, wanting to use the same widgets across a macOS desktop. "I really want to be able to use all the widgets I love on iOS and iPadOS over on my Mac." Wood continues, "I’m a user that tends to launch apps and locate files via Spotlight, rather than icons on my desktop, so I just want to fill that space with my favorite widgets so I can really customize it!"
On the other side of macOS, Thomson wants to see virtualization made easier for both users and developers. "I want macOS to add support for virtualization as a user feature so that you could run an older version of macOS – or maybe even iOS – in a window on top of your current OS." Thomson explains, "I often need to test something on an earlier system or open old documents."
While the Apple Watch Series 7 saw a slight redesign with a bigger screen, watchOS has been muted in recent years, something that Hansmeyer wants to see change. "I think it’s time for third-party watch faces on watchOS. I was an early adopter of the Pebble watch years ago and loading custom faces onto it was an absolute joy." Hansmeyer explains. "The explosion of creativity that would follow the announcement of a watch face marketplace would definitely inject new life into the Apple Watch experience."
While Wood is content with watchOS for now, Thomson wants to see better automation when working out. "The main thing that bugs me about watchOS is that it can detect that I'm working out (or, more likely, going for a walk), but it still asks me if I want to start and stop the workouts manually. Just do it for me!"
iPadOS saw a muted release in 2021, with most features being a catch-up of what came before in iOS 14, such as widgets.
However, Hansmeyer wants to see better management solutions for icons and more in iPadOS 16. "In addition to my unfulfilled wish from last year (the ability to create Time Machine backups to an external drive), I'd like to be able to organize app windows on-screen in even more ways, such as in a 2x2 grid, or three apps side-by-side, or even floating windows of some kind," Hansmeyer hopes. "It would also be great to organize my open app arrangements into permanent spaces, perhaps linked to Focus modes."
As Wood is a podcaster (with his Waiting for Review podcast), he wants to see easier ways to create an episode on the tablet. "As a podcaster, I want iPadOS to become the super mobile OS that it was in my dreams. Audio on iPadOS is a poor experience for anyone wanting to do things like podcasting, though." Wood explains. "I’d love to be able to speak to someone on Discord or Skype, at the same time as being able to record my mic feed for editing later on."
Thomson would love to see a new way of using apps in a windowed view. "I touched on it before, but I want the iPad to be able to display more apps at once, with a full windowing system, particularly when connected to an external display." He adds, "There's no good reason why an M1 iPad Pro can't be every bit as useful as an M1 Mac!"
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Daryl had been freelancing for 3 years before joining TechRadar, now reporting on everything software-related. In his spare time he's written a book, 'The Making of Tomb Raider', alongside podcasting and usually found playing games old and new on his PC and MacBook Pro. If you have a story about an updated app, one that's about to launch, or just anything Software-related, drop him a line.