WWDC 2014: Apple has changed

There is so much that was announced at this WWDC, including an OSX refresh, many more iOS8 features, a new programming language called Swift for iOS and OSX development, loads more new developer centric features - which I'm super interested in, but this post is more about some specific requests I had of Apple and how Apple has probably changed as a company in order to make these changes.

About this time 2 years ago, I had decided to make the move to Android on the phone. I had decided that if Apple don't make certain changes to iOS, then I don't think I could go on using it, at least not for my main phone.

There were many changes I wanted, but the primary one, that would keep me from moving was to significantly improve app-to-app and app-to-system functionality. Android has a great system for passing data between apps, and for apps to extend or change system functionality. It is a brilliant system.

It didn't come and my decision had been made, I moved to Android - you can see my progress and reasons at the time here:

So, two years on, WWDC 2014 - something has changed at Apple and I'm seriously considering going back to the iPhone. Apple have not only finally brought so many of the features I have been wanting iOS to get for years, we're seeing a significant shift in philosophy at Apple, without compromising on its core product design values.

Apple is opening up iOS and it's the best thing to happen to the platform since the App Store in iOS 2.0. Applications can now extend system functionality, applications can now talk to each other without a system of hard-coded URI schemes that are dependant on application developers manually writing in functionality for other specific apps. This isn't only a significant improvement for usability of the system, it gives the massive iOS development community a chance to be significant source of innovation in changing how people use their devices - just like they are on Android.

My biggest problem with Apple's old ways was the assumption that if Apple hadn't done it, then it wasn't worth doing anyway. Until they inevitably did it themselves. It didn't give anyone else the chance to provide extra system functionality, Apple would define which services you could share your data to, Apple would decide what system functionality you needed and if you didn't agree - there wasn't much you could do outside of jailbreaking your device, which is not a good solution. On top of this, something I never imagined Apple doing - is allowing third party keyboards!

These changes will allow for a much more custom experience, I should be able to go on using Google's services in a similar way I use them on Android - because most of Google's services - I believe are better than most of what Apple offer in iCloud. I want to keep using them, and now it should be possible.

But more importantly, new services that I may want to use will be able to easily integrate into the workflow of the operating system. That's exciting!

Some of the most impressive announcements at WWDC were those that brought probably an unprecedented level of integration between a mobile & desktop platform, but those aren't the most exciting for me. I know Android has pretty much all of this already, I know and I think Android is great. I've been using it for 2 years and have been very happy with the software.

But when you marry the very solid foundations of which iOS is built on with an appropriate level of third party integration into those foundations in a way that doesn't compromise the core OS and how it works, then that is a pretty powerful proposition that I don't think I can ignore.

One of Android's problems is that it wasn't always a good OS. Pre 4.0/4.1 - it was a pretty awful user experience, and wasn't much better for developers either. Android has matured at a rapid pace and it is an excellent OS now. Android still suffers in certain areas because of legacy Android, it's being improved upon very quickly - but it's still there and it may take a little while to get to where it needs to be.

iOS doesn't have this problem, it was an incredibly strong OS from day one that gradually fell behind due to Apple's attitude in protecting their platform.

But perhaps my biggest motivation for wanting to give an iPhone another go (once iOS8 is out) is the hardware (now that iOS is going where I want it to). I'm not buying a phone without Google's flavour of Android - this brings your choice of hardware in the UK down to 1. The Nexus line of phones, which are great - but they are made on a budget and they often have compromises because of it.

I'm currently using an HTC One Google Play Edition that I converted myself from a standard HTC One. It functions just as the official phone, gets all the proper updates via Google and all is good. But I had to do some ridiculous things to get the phone where I wanted it to and I don't want to go through that again.

The prospect of the HTC One with stock Android (before it was made available) made me super excited. It sounded like the perfect phone. But in fact, I can conclude now that: the build quality is good (but not as good as the iPhone), the screen is great, the specs are good but, for example, the camera is bad and the button arrangement doesn't fit with the OS in how Google wishes it to be (which I agree with). Also, the battery life really isn't great.

The iPhone may not have the best specifications, but it holds a baseline level of quality across pretty much all areas that is higher than any other Android phone I can think of. It has great specifications (looking at the actual performance results, rather than numbers on a sheet), in many ways (but not all) a market leading camera, unparalleled build quality and design, and a great screen (albeit not to the pixel density levels of modern Android phones).

The Google Play Edition and Nexus devices are the best Android 'experiences' you can buy now. But in the UK we have only have the Nexus devices, and even given the current crop of Google Play Edition phones - I'm still not sure if they're delivering what I want out of a phone hardware wise.

I'll be looking at the iPhone 6 (and its rumoured multiple screen sizes) with great interest, because at the moment I am seriously considering switching back.