Apple Will Open More iOS APIs to Developers in the ‘Future’

| Analysis

iPhone APIs OpeningThe most surprising news to come out of Apple CEO Tim Cook's keynote appearance at this year's D conference is that Apple will be opening up more APIs in iOS to developers. Walt Mossberg asked Mr. Cook about the ability for Android users to choose their keyboard, their home screen, and lock screens, and Mr. Cook said flat out that Apple will be opening more of iOS sometime in the future.

Walt Mossberg raised the question by bringing up Facebook Home, an Android app from Facebook that takes over one's smartphone. Noting that Facebook Home hasn't done well, he said that there are a number of options available on Android that aren't available on iOS.

"Let's talk about control," Mr. Mossberg said, according to The Verge's live blogging. "Your keyboard and your recognition, predictive typing and all that stuff, hasn't kept pace with Android. [Google] allow[s] other people to make that technology, third parties can give you a choice. Have you given any thought to a little bit less control?"

"Yeah, of course," Mr. Cook said. "On the general topic of opening up APIs, I think you'll see us open up more in the future, but not to the degree that we put the customer at risk of having a bad experience. So there's always a fine line to walk there, or maybe not so fine."

What he's referring to is anyone's guess, though he specifically said that Facebook's Chat Heads weren't something you should expect throughout iOS. It doesn't seem likely that Apple would allow apps to take over iPhone or iPad's home screen—though we note that Google Now is the single most compelling feature of Android in part because it can take over the Android home screen.

Third party keyboards, however, have been all the rage on Android, and we can easily see Apple opening up that sort of thing. The question is when.

Mr. Cook also said, "We think the customer pays us to make choices on their behalf. I've see some of these settings screens, and I don't think that's what customers want. Do some want it? Yes."

This is essentially the crux of many Apple haters argument. They don't want Apple making those decisions—which is perfectly fine—but they get lost by denying the value of Apple's whole widget/walled garden approach for others.

"But," Mr. Cook said. "You'll see us open up more."

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7 Comments Leave Your Own

wab95

Bryan:

This is an important development, and beyond providing a richer app experience on the iPhone, could truly open up and expand the power and utility of Siri.

Bryan Chaffin

I think opening up Siri is an absolute must, but I’ve also assumed that would come with time.

I’ve always been a bit more mixed on, say, the keyboard front. Doing that iin a way that keeps things from being tricky for most users is just that, tricky.

But, I bet that is something Apple does open up. Will be iOS 7? I would guess that his use of the word “future” means it’s further out than that.

wab95

I think opening up Siri is an absolute must, but I’ve also assumed that would come with time.

I’ve always been a bit more mixed on, say, the keyboard front…

Agreed on all of the above. Regarding richer app experience, I’m thinking specifically of iOS apps like Smile’s Text Expander, perhaps even OnePass that could unlock with passwords from within other apps (although that might be pushing Apple a bit).

As for Siri, to the extent that APIs tap into it, and enable it to be a truly robust personal assistant across OS, it could become a real differentiator.

While I concur that some of this opening up may come later, I’m hoping that the Siri access at least comes sooner.

skipaq

This was among the most significant things revealed; but not too unexpected. Smartphones and tablets are computers. Opening more API’s makes sense. Siri could be very useful in this regard. Personally, I don’t like talking to my phone or iPad.

Andhaka

iOS does not really nedd a better keyboard, but it needs a better system for word completion, suggestions and so on.
On the Android side there’s solutions lightyears ahead of iOS (and when using non english languages the situation is even worse).

Cheers

Lee Dronick

Andhaka, I turned off auto completion on my iOS devices because they got in the way of my typing. Instead I set up some shortcuts in Settings, in particular contractions “dont” becomes “don’t”, but also some codes “omw” becomes “On my way home.”

Dan Warne

The single most important thing Apple could do to make iOS -SO- much more useful for end users would be to allow third-party password managers that sync to desktop Macs and PCs to fill passwords in iOS Safari.

I can’t believe Apple hasn’t addressed that problem yet—logging in to websites via iOS Safari is a complete PITA, even with a top-of-the-line password manager like 1Password installed, since Apple won’t allow it to interact with iOS Safari.

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