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Apple’s New iOS 16: What Developers Need to Know

On June 6, Apple provided us with our first look at iOS 16. So what's new? And what should developers know?

With over 1 billion active iPhones across the world accessing over 4.79 million App Store apps, any announcement regarding a new iOS version is worthy of close attention from developers. 

Hot on the heels of Google’s Android 13 Beta 2, WWDC 2022 arrived on Monday with significant news about Apple’s new mobile operating system, the upcoming iOS 16. So far this time we’re seeing a particularly strong emphasis on the intersection of lock screen interfaces, widget capabilities, and notifications, alongside a variety of other interesting updates and introductions. 

With a close eye on what this means for developers in particular, let’s take a look at some of the new features Apple has in store for us this time around. 

Please note: The present article is not an exhaustive account of everything Apple announced at WWDC 2022, but instead consists of items we at Sofy deem particularly worthy of highlighting. 

Major lock screen and widgets changes

With iOS 16, Apple will introduce a variety of interesting new features aimed at the lock screen. This includes an intricate new element-based lock screen editor and features such as the ability to save different lock screens for later use, alongside a new wallpaper gallery. 

This new lock screen editor allows users to place formerly fixed and unalterable elements, like the lock screen clock (or widgets), behind image components (like an individual’s head, simulating image depth). It also provides users with the ability to select fonts and colors, and users may now also apply image filters directly to the lock screen. 

Particularly notable for app developers here is that the editor allows users to easily place monochrome representations of widgets on the lock screen, increasing their visibility and potentially increasing user-widget interaction. Widgets, such as Weather, also appear to be able to perform custom animations and will impact wallpaper, but it’s unclear if this will be available for third party apps. 

iOS 16’s much-expanded lock screen options certainly appear to provide far more user customizability than we’ve seen to date, and it’ll be interesting to see exactly what new options WidgetKit provides for app developers. 

Accompanying app notification and Focus changes

Apple’s mobile operating systems have long allowed notifications to almost entirely cover iPhone lock screen displays, but with upcoming changes to the lock screen come a variety of changes in how iOS displays notifications.

For one, app notifications and messages will now appear at the bottom of the screen, and iOS 16 will bundle notifications that appear on the lock screen together in a new ‘roll in’ manner. Users can also more easily hide notifications with a single press of the lock screen. 

Other changes to app notifications include Live Activities, a new feature that allows developers to pipe in direct updates to their lock screen via a new Live Activities API. For example, a football game’s score updates can appear in real time through a custom, widget-like display, and users will be able to follow a Lyft request without unlocking their phones. 

Finally, Apple is tying Focus more closely to lock screen notification settings, allowing users to save custom focus settings based on specific Focus needs. The display of specific widgets, too, can be specified by users in their saved Focus profiles. To assist developers with this new emphasis on Focus, Apple will be rolling out a new Focus API. 

Messages, Shared with You, SharePlay, dictation, and Live Text

iMessage will allow users to edit sent messages, ‘undo send’ messages, and mark messages and unread, features that many users will undoubtedly be happy to see.  

Additionally, Apple indicated that it will soon release a new Shared with You API for developers to better utilize this feature, which was released with iOS 15, and apps utilizing SharePlay will now be integrated into Facetime and—quite notably—Messages, potentially opening the door to many new possibilities for app developers. 

iOS 16 brings with it a variety of new dictation improvements, now entirely on-device. For example, users will be able to correct text by selecting it and vocally dictating the correction. Apple also mentioned a new API for better integration with Siri. 

Finally, Live Text will now also apply to video, and Apple announced a new Live Text API, allowing developers to better utilize this feature. 

Wallet and Apple Pay Later

Pushing forward Apple’s stated goal of replacing your physical wallet, Wallet will allow for in-app user ID verification. For example, when purchasing alcohol through an online food ordering app, users can confirm their age with their on-system government-issued ID information.

An interesting new feature announced alongside changes to Wallet and Keys is Apple Pay Later. This feature allows users to break up payments they make through Apple Pay into installments. According to Apple, Apple Pay Later enters into standard Apple Pay integration without the need for developer action, but this looks like something to at the very least be aware of. 

Other changes

Apple’s ever-growing Map app sees a variety of changes and updates with iOS 13, including the ability to add transit cards to Wallet. Developers can expect major changes to MapKit, such as the ability to integrate some of Apple’s new terrain details into apps and Look Around. Apple also briefly mentioned the introduction of brand-new, server-side APIs later this year. 

Parental controls will see changes with iOS 16. For one, this update introduces a new age appropriateness slider that impacts which apps kids can use. 

Another feature new to Apple devices is a shared library. With this feature, users can add, remove, or modify items in the shared folder, and with equal permissions. How this feature may interact with apps and Apple’s user-based permissions system remains unclear. 

iOS 16 Beta now available

With these announcements, Apple has made its first iOS 16 beta available for download, but you’ll need to be part of the company’s Apple Developer Program to access it. For information on downloading the iOS 16 Beta, see this article. 

Ultimately, Apple’s WWDC 2022 announcements add up to some interesting new possibilities for developers, with a particularly strong emphasis on the lock screen, widgets, messages, and notifications. Keep an eye on the Sofy blog further reports on Apple announcements for iOS 16. 

Sofy and iOS 16

As always, the Sofy team is excited about this latest evolution of iOS. In fact, we’re currently preparing support for the operating system on a variety of devices in the Sofy device lab. For all your current and future no-code automated mobile app testing needs, we invite you to save your team time and resources by giving Sofy a try today!