Apple's iOS 8 SDK adds 4,000-plus new developer APIs

The biggest developer release in the history of iOS features support for health and home app support and increased customisation

Apple has released the iOS 8 SDK for developers, claiming it's the most extensive developer release in iOS' history.

The new SDK features more than 4,000 APIs, it was revealed during the opening WWDC keynote hosted by CEO Tim Cook. Most notable additions include a brand new programming language called Swift and HealthKit, HomeKit, TouchID and customisation APIs that make the developer platform more flexible.

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This is the biggest iOS release since the launch of the App Store. The iOS 8 SDK delivers more than 4,000 new APIs including amazing new frameworks, greater extensibility and a revolutionary new programming language.

Swift makes it easier for developers to create more immersive, secure and reliable apps. It's designed for Cocoa and Cocoa Touch and merges compiled languages with scripted languages to help developers write more reliable code that is less likely to have bugs. It works alongside Objective-C code so existing apps can use it and Xcode Playgrounds make for a more interactive environment.

Apple also demoed new graphics technology called Metal, which takes advantage of the performance benefits of the A7 chip and is ideally placed to maximise the user gaming experience among other things, the firm said. 

"With more than 800 million iOS devices sold worldwide, the opportunity for developers is huge," said Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of software engineering, who helped Cook go through the announcements during the keynote.

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"This is the biggest iOS release since the launch of the App Store. The iOS 8 SDK delivers more than 4,000 new APIs including amazing new frameworks, greater extensibility and a revolutionary new programming language."

The HealthKit API allows apps to communicate with each other. For example, health monitoring tools are able to share their data with a medical app, allowing your doctor to track any changes in your heart rate or blood pressure and assess your condition from home.

Similarly, HomeKit allows apps to interact with each other at home. You may have a range of equipment at home that can be controlled by your iOS device, such as a Sonos system, your lighting or your burglar alarm. HomeKit allows you to control these apps either individually or all at once using a common protocol and secure pairing API.

For example, you can tell Siri you're going to bed and it will dim or turn off all the lights in your house, lock the front door, close the garage and adjust the thermostat for the night.

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Apple has opened up the TouchID APIs, allowing a wider range of developers to use the feature in their apps. Whether developers want to introduce the ability to securely authenticate users within apps, protect logins and user data or unlock keychain items, they can now do so using the fingerprint reader built into the iPhone 5S.

iOS 8 will be the most customisable iOS version yet, Apple claimed, with a wider range of iOS extensions, including new sharing options, custom photo filters, custom actions and document APIs. Developers can add their own widgets into Notification Centre and use third-party keyboards in their apps.

Other APIs included in the update are PhotoKit, enabling developers to use much of the existing built-in Photos app framework, new Camera APIs giving developers access to fine grain control over focus, white balance and exposure and new App Store features including app previews and app bundles, the new iTunes Connect with free analytics and TestFlight for beta testing pre-release apps.

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Developers welcomed the news. 

"WWDC this year was huge for developers... Being sat in the Keynote in San Francisco you could feel just how much of a big deal iOS 8 and OS X will be for developers. Ever since TouchID was announced, we have been wanting to access it to help enhance the enterprise apps we create. We have clients wanting their apps' data to be encrypted, but this is only easily achievable when a device has a passcode set (which an app cannot enforce). The only choice has been to use MDM to enforce passcodes for the entire device. With TouchID API it looks like we can create encryption on a per-app basis, secured with Touch ID. This will be great for enterprise apps," said James Frost, aenior iOS developer at mobile app development specialist firm Mubaloo. 

"With the release of the new developer tools, and the Swift language in particular, Apple has just completely changed the game. I can't wait to get back and share what I've learnt with the rest of the team at Mubaloo. We are going to be able to create new types of apps that are more powerful than ever. We will be able to help solve problems and help people in ways that until recently wasn't possible."

Both the SDK and Swift are available in beta now to select developers as part of the iOS Developer Programme. Final versions will appear this fall, Apple confirmed.  

You can follow the full WWDC keynote stream of announcements by visiting our iOS 8 live blog from the event.

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