Apple Watch SDK and More Great App Developer News

App developers heard some great news today when Tim Cook announced that WatchKit, the software development kit for building apps for the upcoming Apple Watch will be released next month (November)!

As I discussed previously in my Developing Next-Generation Apps for the Apple Watch post, this provides a great opportunity for app developers to get in the ground floor of a new technology and get noticed.

Apple reiterated that Apple Watch will be available in early 2015, so this gives developers a few months to work with Watch Kit and create apps on this new platform.

Adopting Apple's New Swift Language

Back in June, Apple announced their new Swift programming language, which was officially released in September. Apps created using Swift can only run on iOS 7 and newer operating systems, so it was great to hear Apple's Craig Federighi announce that 94 percent of iOS users have upgraded to iOS 7 and iOS 8.

Federighi quoted Wired magazine saying, "...its impact could be greater than any other language that has sprung up in recent years, and it may achieve mass adoption faster than any language in modern history.

In addition, the following universities have begun offering Swift classes to their students:

  • California Polytechnic
  • Drexel University
  • Ingèsup (the Graduate School of Engineering, France)
  • University of Missouri, Plymouth University
  • RMIT University (Australia)
  • Stanford University
  • University of California Santa Cruz
  • Southern Methodist University
  • Universidad de Monterrey (Mexico)

Release of iOS 8.1

If you are signed up for Apple's Developer Program, you have had access to iOS 8.1 since the end of September. Apple is officially releasing iOS 8.1 on October 20, 2014. 

This is great news for developers because iOS 8 has had relatively low adoption rates due to major bugs including problems with HealthKit apps, the built-in Apple Maps, Touch ID, and cellular service. 

An official release of a new version of iOS is always accompanied by a new release of Xcode. Right now you can get the Xcode 6.1 Gold Master release on the iOS Dev Center. Based on my testing so far, it's far more stable than Xcode 6.

Some of the new iOS 8 functionality you can implement in your own custom apps includes:

  • Touch ID Authentication
  • PassKit, for integrating with ApplePay
  • Metal, providing direct access to the A7/A8 GPUs for high-performance graphics
  • Cloud Kit
  • Home Kit
  • Health Kit
  • Photos Framework
  • Manual Camera Controls
  • Handoff from one device to another
  • App Extensions that allow your app to: share content, perform a simple task with content, provide updates for the Today view of Notification Center, provide document storage that other apps can access, photo editing in the Photo app, custom keyboards.

You can learn more about each of these on the iOS Dev Center.

Creating Apps for the iPad

For most apps, it's best to create a version for the iPhone and the iPad to widen your audience. Apple gave lots of incentive to app developers, announcing they have sold 225 million iPads to date!

The following new features on the iPad Air 2 allow you to create even more compelling apps: 

  • 8MP iSight Camera
  • Camera burst mode
  • Large panoramic photos
  • Timelapse video
  • Slow motion video
  • Dual microphones for better audio
  • Barometer, which senses air pressure, allowing you to determine relative elevation 
  • Improved front-facing camera with burst mode, HDR stills and video

Don't Have a Mac? Try the New Mac mini

For some, one of the biggest obstacles to getting into iOS app development is owning a Mac! The lowest entry point has always been the Mac mini. Fortunately, Apple has released an all-new version for just $499—that's $100 cheaper than the previous Mac mini!

The new Mac mini includes the following upgrades:

  • 4th-generation Intel Core processors
  • Two Thunderbolt 2 ports
  • Faster Flash storage
  • Faster Intel Iris and HD Graphics 5000
  • Faster 802.11ac Wi-Fi

Apple also describes it as "the world's most energy efficient desktop".

The Mac mini doesn't come with a display or keyboard, but you can use your existing Mac/PC keyboard and displays with it.

The $499 Mac mini includes:

  • 1.4GHz dual-core Intel Core i5
  • 4GB memory
  • 500 GB hard drive
  • Intel HD Graphics 5000
  • OS X Yosemite

To find out more about the other Mac mini configurations and upgrades, check out Apple's Mac mini page.

Follow My Column To Learn to Create iOS Apps!

As usual, there is lots of great news for app developers in every new announcement from Apple. Stay tuned to my regular column to learn how you can build your own custom iOS apps!

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Author Details

Kevin McNeish's picture

Author Details

Kevin McNeish

Kevin McNeish is author of the new book “Learn to Code in Swift” as well as the “iOS App Development for Non-Programmers” book series (, winner of the Publishing Innovation Award. Kevin is also an award-winning app developer, software architect, and conference speaker in the U.S. and abroad. He has spent much of his career making difficult concepts easy to understand. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @kjmcneish.