Apple is opening up Siri, iMessage and Maps - here's why that's a great thing


The biggest news at WWDC 2016 wasn't what was launched but what was opened up. We have heard about iOS 10, watchOS 3, macOS Sierra and other software refinements, but the big thing you need to know about is that Apple just opened up its iOS system.

A number of the app announcements tonight were followed by news of Apple handing over the keys to developers. Maps, Phone, iMessage and even Siri were opened to devs so they can develop tools to make them sing with other apps and services.

Craig Federighi even said on stage, "iOS 10 is a fantastic release for our users, it's also a gigantic release for our developers… notifications, the phone, Maps, Messages, every major area of iOS now open to developers."

This wasn't a mistake, this is a big step - bringing Apple closer to the open platform that Google provides with Android.

Traditionally, Apple has been a closed garden. Opening its apps up is an impressive turn that many didn't see coming.

A big step

Developers can now pair their apps with Siri to allow you to speak into your normal assistant and let it do the talking to third-party apps.

This means that one day you may be able to ask Siri to message someone within your WhatsApp conversation and not even enter the app itself.

Developers will now be able to create apps that work alongside Maps' software. An example given in the Apple conference was Uber working within Maps.

If this takes off, it may mean you won't need to have the Uber app downloaded to your phone to make use of the company's services. You will use the functionality within Maps, instead of having the Uber app taking up space on your phone.

Apple's end game is unclear right now, but it could be looking to emulate Android's new Instant Apps feature, which Google revealed at I/O last month. Instant Apps allows you to use apps without having to download anything and this could eventually be how Apple tackles the problem of people not wanting one-time use apps downloaded to their phone.

Better for the user

For example, you could use Uber on Instant Apps once and forget all about it again afterward as you haven't needed to download an app. Using a service within Siri or Maps could work the same way.

Apple's own Phone app being opened to developers is also another step toward a more open Apple.

A WhatsApp phonecall could theoretically be made to appear within the Phone app itself, looking like a normal phone call that would come through to your iPad or iPhone. An unfamiliar UI is one thing that puts people off using apps like WhatsApp to make phone calls - Apple is now giving third party developers the ability to fix this.

If that's using your Wi-Fi, why would you ever use your minutes again? Making it fit inside the Phone app software is a great idea and developers will be sure to make use out of it now it's open to them.

Opening up iOS marks a great step for Apple. We are witnessing a traditionally closed platform allowing third-party developers to make use of some of the most regularly used apps on the planet.

Apple has made some solidly built services but opening each of its app up is only going to help the experience of being an iOS user.

This is Apple finally realising that its apps aren't perfect, but they are good. Together with third-party services, the Apple apps you know and love could well become the best of the best.

James Peckham

James is Managing Editor for Android Police. Previously, he was Senior Phones Editor for TechRadar, and he has covered smartphones and the mobile space for the best part of a decade bringing you news on all the big announcements from top manufacturers making mobile phones and other portable gadgets. James is often testing out and reviewing the latest and greatest mobile phones, smartwatches, tablets, virtual reality headsets, fitness trackers and more. He once fell over.