The latest from Apple and Google in mobile APIs for developing native applications
Apple and Google have launched a number of interesting new developments for their latest operating systems (iOS 10 and Nougat 7.1) through new software development kits (SDKs) and specific APIs for services such as Siri, iMessage, Maps and Android features.
Apple and Google are the two towering giants of mobile software –the first with its iOS software and the second with Android. The rest of the competitors are light years away, at least in most of the market. Although there are other players such as Windows Phone, Blackberry or some Chinese operating systems, there is no doubt that iOS and Android have enormous penetration. What's more, both of them keep on coming up with new channels for connecting with the community of developers, with mobile APIs that allow the inclusion of attractive resources for the apps or the integration of these products within the core applications of both companies.
Today, the undisputed number one in terms of the percentage of penetration of its operating system is Google. Android is present in a large number of mobile device brands, but it is highly fragmented. Samsung, one of the world’s leading smartphone and tablet vendors, has chosen the search engine’s operating system for its products. Android has a penetration of over 85%, iOS over 10%, while the rest is distributed among the other competitors. This is a graph showing the distribution of the pie, with data from IDC.
Google and Apple have recently launched or improved several of their application programming interfaces with some of their products –either the actual operating system or its components– which could be useful for allowing app developers to provide added value to their launches and to the end users. Apple’s SDK for its new iOS 10 contains new developments for Siri, its personal assistant; iMessage, its messaging app; and Apple Maps, its digital map service. Google has done the same with the application programming interface for its Android 7 operating system, better known as Nougat.
New developments in the iOS 10 SDK
One of the major novelties at the 2016 Apple Developers Conference in San Francisco in June was the incorporation of the concept of extensions (widgets launched in iOS for shortcuts to its apps), and the end to attempts to hold back the tide by the company from Cupertino: from now on developers can access Apple's apps and incorporate their features into third products. This affects the Siri API known as Sirikit, with VoIP-type features, as well as iMessage or Maps.
- Sirikit: the launch of an API to integrate Siri into third party apps was not an innovative move by Apple –the company’s decision was prompted by prior moves by competitors such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft. Amazon launched Amazon Echo, a voice command device that answers questions, operates as a music player and has over 1,000 services integrated with third parties. Microsoft has already incorporated Cortana into its latest operating system. What’s more, Google has done some very substantial work in the field of natural language processing.
This work into processing natural language is what Siri uses to respond to users’ requests. Today, the Siri API has different commands that affect several different fields of action:
- Audio and video calls: not only does it start audio or video conversations, but can also search the history.
- Instant messaging: the apps that offer messaging services can use the Siri SDK to make searches.
- Sending and receiving payments: apps offering mobile payment services can use Siri to send and request payments through VoIP-type features.
- Photo search: you can use Siri to search and display images contained within a photo management app.
- Make travel or restaurant bookings.
- Manage services within a car: Siri’s features can be used to control aspects of an automobile.
- Physical activity management.
- iMessage: instant messaging apps have become one of the battlegrounds of the technology world. WhatsApp, Telegram, Snapchat (with some of that platform’s specific added value), WeChat, Kik… The success of a large number of tools has led Apple to take the initiative as well: for the moment it will allow third-party apps to be incorporated into the core of iMessage so users can use these apps within the Apple product. This is a major step forward.
iMessage has also incorporated what other messaging apps have been using for some time now: brand stickers. This allows third-party brands to develop special stickers for users to download and use in their conversations with family and friends. Some brands have already developed their own stickers: Disney and Nintendo, for example. The idea is for users not to have to exit iMessage when they want to use some of the features offered by third party apps.
- Apple Maps: just as in the case of iMessage, Apple wants its mobile map service to offer users everything they need and want from a service of this type, so they can satisfy all their requirements with a single app. They also want this app to be Apple Maps. Third-party developers who have apps that use location for whatever purpose (for example, making restaurant bookings, searching rentals…) can incorporate their features within Apple Maps with the new API.
New developments in Android Nougat 7.1
Google recently launched the developers’ preview of Android Nougat 7.1, which includes certain new and interesting features compared to the previous version of Nougat: the 7.0. Some of these key features are:
- Special shortcut icons: the shortcut icons to apps in Android previously took users to the apps, whereas now they enable specific features of this app to be launched directly from the icon itself. For example the icon for an app like YouTube allows you to access trends, subscriptions or the search engine without having to launch the whole app. A click on the icon produces drop-down menus with a range of options.
- Shortcut to phone settings: the Android operating system always includes a shortcut bar at the top to the telephone settings. Android Nougat version 7.1 has new changes to this bar.
- Space-saving: the new version of Google’s operating system includes an option for smart storage in the storage section, which allows space to be released each time the phone is started. It can automatically delete old videos and photos. If the user activates this space-saving option, the operating system will automatically eliminate all files older than 30 days.
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