How to Exploit Advantages of the iOS System

By Neal Goldstein, Dave Wilson

One of the keys to creating a great iOS app is taking advantage of what the device offers. In the case of a new platform with new possibilities, exploiting advantages is especially important. The combination of hardware and system software opens up design advantages that depart from the typical design approach for desktop and laptop apps. For example:

  • Multifinger gestures: Apps respond to multifinger gestures, not mouse clicks. If you design an app that simply uses a single finger tap as if it were a mouse click, you may be missing an opportunity to design a better user experience.

  • Movement and orientation: iOS devices have a variety of sensors that collect movement and orientation data. The new M7 chip in iPhone 5S, iPad Air, and iPad Mini (second generation) collects sensor information from the integrated accelerometers, gyroscopes, and compasses. This enhances existing location services and takes some of the workload off the main chip.

  • Split views and unique keyboards: You can use a split view on an iPad to display more than one view onscreen at a time. Both iPad and iPhone provide a special keyboard unique to a task, such as the numbers-and-formulas keyboard that appears in the Numbers app.

  • Internet access: With quick and easy access, your app doesn’t need to store lots of data — all it really needs to do is jump on the Internet and grab what it needs from there. However, to be truly useful, your app needs to be ready to function when the Internet is unavailable to it.

  • Television or projection system connection: Users can connect an iPhone or iPad to an HDTV or projection system to show content to larger audiences. With iOS’s AirPlay feature and an Apple TV, users don’t even need a physical connection.

  • Consistent system environment: The Home button quits your app, and the volume controls take care of audio, just like you’d expect them to. User preference settings can be made available in the Settings application to avoid cluttering your app’s user interface. Your native iOS apps can coexist with web services and apps created in HTML5.

  • Breathtaking imagery: Photos and video already look fantastic on this display, but the artwork you create yourself for your app should be set to 24 bits, plus an 8-bit alpha channel to specify how a pixel’s color should be merged with another pixel when the two are overlaid one on top of the other. The PNG format is recommended for graphics and artwork that are part of your app.

Here are some of the major features, grouped into the following major areas:

  • Accessing the Internet

  • Tracking location

  • Tracking motion

  • Supporting multifinger gestures and touches

  • Playing content

  • Accessing the content of Apple’s supplied apps (such as Contacts and Photos)

  • Taking advantage of the display