Recent Changes for Apple Developers

While it is possible that Apple makes changes for developers outside of their World Wide Developer Conference, it does happen. Apple has made a few changes over the past two weeks that directly affect developers. These revolve around TestFlight, Search Ads, and Photos.

Test Flight Changes

Test Flight was acquired by Apple in February of 2014. Prior to purchase, Test Flight was capable of testing both iOS and Android applications. To no one’s surprise, Apple quickly removed support for Android. As of February 2015, Test Flight, in its standalone capacity, was shutdown. Since then, Apple has slowly added some new features, but they have been modest. The most recent changes expand the service’s capabilities.

One of the downsides that many developers have brought forth include the limitation of only allowing one build to be available to testers. While this approach may work well for testers outside of a company, inside the company it is often more beneficial to be able to test more than one build at a time. Test Flight now supports multiple builds, for both internal and external testers. When this is enabled, testers will be presented with multiple builds. The testers will need to choose which build to test, but the option is now available.

The second change for Test Flight revolves around testers, specifically grouping testers. As mentioned above, there are often times when a developer would like to be able to test multiple features. With the new multiple builds option, it is possible to test multiple builds, however each user who wants to test a specific build would need to be manually selected each time that a new build is to go live. This is no longer the case. Test Flight now supports grouping testers.

The grouping of testers now means that when there is a new build of an application, the developer can simply assign that build to a specific group. This streamlines the process that developers must go through when they wish to submit a specific build to a set of users.

The primary function of Test Flight is to allow developing of an application. Once an application has gone through the testing phase, the final step is to release the build into the App Store. When this step occurs, the test build that was running no longer runs. This behavior has changed. Now, when an application that was being used with Test Flight goes live in the App Store, the Test Flight build can continue to be used. The primary benefit of this change means that there should now be minimal interruption when an application goes live.

These are all of the changes that have been made to Test Flight, but these are not on the only changes that have been made. Next let us look at Search Ads.

Search Ads

Search Ads were introduced last June, the week before Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference. Search Ads are advertisements that developers can purchase and appear within the App Store application. At their launch, Search Ads was available only in the United States. As of Tuesday, April 25th, Search Ads will be available in a few more countries. These countries are the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand.

While the number of countries that are included is still small, being able to work out the bugs in the system, before doing a wider roll out makes sense. It is entirely possible that this is Apple’s strategy. Alongside this, different countries will possible require different layouts given the difference in character types, as well as widths. This is a good start for future expansion.

Live Photos

At their September 2015 event for the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, Apple introduced a new feature, Live Photos. Live Photos are photos that allow motion. In reality, these are quick movies that have some photos on each end of the movie. One of the issues with Live Photos is that they do not work on anything other than iOS and macOS. This is no longer the case. Apple has released a new Javascript Framework, LivePhotoKitJS. This framework allows any website to be able to load and play Live Photos.

What this ultimately means that sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram can all display any Live Photos that have been taken to other users. Once these sites do add this ability, it will go a long way to do making Live Photos available for everyone. Besides having big developers implement the feature, this is a way for other non-Apple developers to be able to display Live Photos within their applications as well.

If you go to developer.apple.com/live-photos/ you can see an example of the Live Photos Javascript framework in action. Apple has used it on their own website to show off a couple of Live Photos. Full documentation is also available at developer.apple.com.

Final Thoughts

While these changes only affect developers directly, there will be some smaller benefits to all users. With the Test Flight changes, this means that developers can focus on more than just one feature or update at the same time. With Search Ads, more developers will be able to get their applications in front of more users. With Live Photos Framework, the richness of the web has been expanded to allow an even better experience for everyone.