At the company's World Wide Developer Conference in San Francisco this week, Apple helped move the goal posts for mobile app development by announcing Swift 2, with a host of new features. Not only are there the usual performance increases, there are also new error-checking APIs and exception-based handling. The compiler can also detect pieces of code that won't run on older devices, allowing coders to tag them to only run on newer hardware. Since the compiler outputs machine code, it produces faster results than many older compilers and is becoming increasingly adopted by the development community.
The biggest piece of news is that Swift 2 is being open-sourced, with versions for OS-X, iOS and Linux coming from Apple under an OSI-approved permissive license. Community contributions will help improve the platform and help make it easier for the coding community to provide support, refinements and fixes. If coders create versions of Swift 2 that support Android or Windows Phone devices, then mobile app developers could more easily convert apps to different platforms.
Also on show at WWDC was the updated operating system for Apple's Watch range, which will launch this autumn. WatchOS 2 adds new faces, faster apps thanks to native performance, new communication options and access to the watch's functions. These include the accelerometer, heart rate sensor, speaker and microphone, plus the Taptic Engine and Digital Crown. This increased functionality should allow a range of apps to better understand the owner's movements and help developers of health or motion-based apps get more data from the Watch.
With Apple Pay also coming to the UK this Autumn, supported by the majority of leading banks, the combination of iPhone and Watch apps will become more useful to owners, and encourage app developers to add transaction functions to simplify shopping experiences. Of course, Apple's rivals and other development systems won't be standing still, and we hope greater integration between them and the likes of Magento and other systems will make it easier for all developers to create code for a range of mobile devices with the minimum of hoop jumping and interference from proprietary systems.