Top 20 iOS 14 features which you cannot ignore

They say patience is a virtue, and the ones who are patient do get rewarded. It stands to be true for many of the iOS aficionados, if not for all. The latest iOS 14 release has unveiled many features that stand out and command attention. Here is a list of the top 20 iOS 14 features that can enhance your mobile experience.

  1. App Clips – The feature allows the user to use micro parts of the app, meaning performing a small task under 10MB without downloading the complete app. An example is purchasing coffee from a coffee shop (Without downloading the entire app) by signing in with Apple/Apple Pay (So, there is no need to create a new account) and get the rewards into the account. The user can download the app if the performance meets the user’s expectations in App Clip.
  2. Picture-in-picture – From this version of iOS 14, all iPhones have picture-in-picture support as part of multitasking. Previously this feature was available only on iPad, not on iPhone.
  3. App Library – Customize the home screen by organizing the folders by categories like Sports, Health & Fitness, Business, Travel, etc., to maintain apps in a single home screen instead of using multiple home screens with swipe gesture navigation.
  4. Widgets Enhancement – A new widget like “Today View” has many more information accommodation facilities and draggable onto the home screen with different sizes as per user’s preferences. A “Smart Stack Widget” is used to organize and swipe through the recent and liked widget.
  5. Siri Interface – Siri interface will appear like a blob at the bottom of the screen instead of occupying the whole screen for Siri functionality and shows the results as rich notifications at the top of the screen.
  6. Message Stack – User can pin nine message chats as favorites, and those pinned conversations will appear in the “Message Stack,” which is relatively easier for fast access to messages.
  7. FaceTime has performance increments, and Memoji has updated with different icons, Augmented Reality and Machine Learning has new efficient tools for better performance.
  8. Keyboard Tweaks – Emoji picker has a search bar to pick out a specific emoji faster.
  9. Camera Improvements
    • Quick Take Video feature is there in all iPhones by the press and holds the shutter button under photo mode to switch into video mode
    • Camera App can change video resolution, frame rate directly instead of using Settings
    • Picture quality and its performance has been enhanced
      Guidance Indicator will show the status of camera shot
  10. Maps Improvements – Maps has new features as well
    • The “Cycling Directions” feature has been added in Maps for the areas such as New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Shanghai, and Beijing. Later on, the feature will expand to other areas in upcoming versions
    • “EV Routes” feature has been added to denote the “Electric Vehicle Charging Stops” for charging “Electric Vehicles” along the traveling route, initially supported car companies are Ford and BMW
    • “License Plate Access” feature will show whether that particular vehicle has the privilege to travel for that specific route or not
  11. Default Email and Browsers Customization – User can set their preferred third-party email and browsers as their default email and browser
  12. Translate App – Apple supports the default “Translate App” in landscape mode by splitting the screen in a 50:50 ratio. Hold on the microphone button listens to input the word/sentence to translate in the left pane. Once the microphone button is released immediately, the translated output will get displayed on the right pane. Users can select languages for translation. Currently, it supports only 11 languages.
  13. Privacy Enhancements – iOS 14 majorly concentrated on “Privacy Policy” for data security as follows
    • Permission added to access approximate location instead of sharing the exact location
    • Permission added to access only specific photo instead of providing access to the entire gallery
    • If the Microphone is running, then the status will be indicated on the status bar with a little amber dot
    • If the Camera is running, then the status will be displayed on the status bar with a little green dot, which is easy to track the Background process of an app for security purposes
    • Mandatory addition of “Privacy Policy” in App Store pages to publish the app to show the data collection on the app from the users, which maintains data security
  14. Apple Arcade – Provides quick access to recently played games, and “Game Center Friends Preferred Games” will be stacked here for gaming.
  15. CarPlay – Provides new EV Routing in Maps, Parking, and Food Ordering apps under categories, new development tools have been introduced to integrate audio, text messages, and VoIP apps.
  16. CarKeys – Initiated better-digitized car keys via iPhones with Tesla Manufacturers.
  17. Safari Enhancements
    • Safari can access Privacy Reports of websites
    • Monitors “Saved Passwords” to prevent security breaches
    • Translate the entire webpage by using Apple default Translate App
  18. UIWebView – Deprecated and suggested to use WKWebView. UIWebView usage in the app will block the app publish from December 2020.
  19. Daylight Saving Time Issue – Under iPhone Settings in iOS14, the Automatic time setting has an improper time and timezone. So, suggested setting the time and timezone manually under Settings. Then either restarts the phone (or) Turn ON and Turn OFF Airplane Mode, saving user time to restart the phone. Now, the DST time and timezone issues are fixed.
  20. A new cell registration technique has been introduced where a new configuration API will encapsulate the cell’s contents and background view properties. It works based on “States” to set and update data into the cell. So, the user doesn’t have to use “Cell Identifiers” to register the cell in UICollectionView.

Are you looking at developing a mobile application loaded with the latest features or exploring the best mobility technology platform to create an app that meets your immediate business needs? Explore how our mobility experts can help you grow your returns and influence through contemporary mobility solutions.

The progress of PWA (Progressive Web Applications) mobile apps

The first part of a two blog series on Progressive Web Application introduces the easily adaptable and popular PWA and a very distinct history behind it. It also lines out the future and advantages of the web-based application. The second blog post will line out the adoption of PWAs among some of the recognized businesses and the benefits they have incurred.

The two blog posts will help digital business owners make up their mind on utilizing PWA to either make a foray into the mobile screens of their user base or complement their native app offering to reach out to a wider audience.

The first time the idea of Progressive Web Applications (PWA) was coined way back in 2007. Albeit, it was not christened PWA then. At the launch of the iPhone, the legendary Steve Jobs shared his idea of web apps developed in HTML5 using AJAX architecture that would be fully integrated into the device through the safari browser engine.

In 2015 Frances Berriman and Alex Russell, senior engineers with Google, observed a new class of websites providing a better user experience than traditional web applications. These applications rated high on user experience were independent of the browser tab and lived on their own while maintaining their ubiquity and linkability. Berriman and Russell named this new breed of applications as Progressive Web Applications.

Eric Bidelman, Senior Staff Developers Programs Engineer, introduced PWA at the Google I/O event in 2016.

The potential of PWAs can be gauged in the fact that two of the world’s biggest tech rivals Microsoft and Google, joined hands to make room for the technology.

Since becoming a widely recognized term in technology, PWA’s have made rapid strides towards widespread acceptance. Apple Inc., whose founder had first proposed web-based mobile applications, is actively pursuing it but calling it by a different name. They use the term: “HTML5 Apps” and “Home Screen web apps” instead.

Inside PWAs

A PWA is built and lives on the web but has capabilities similar to the native apps. Be it the look and feel or the way the app behaves it is quite similar to native apps.

A progressive web application leverages the website, adds some extra features that enhance the web properties to drive capabilities on mobile. In technical parlance, that would mean serving your web site over HTTPS and having a service worker and manifest.json file to turn your website into a PWA.

A service worker or a JavaScript enables the website to function in the absence of an internet connection. The service worker acts like a proxy server and acts as a bridge between the browser and the network and helps intercept network requests and serve custom responses.

PWA – How it works

PWA provides easy optimization of your website to enable mobile experience for your users irrespective of the platform. Simply put it renders a seamless experience across iOS and Android platforms and does not require uploading on any app stores. This also eliminates the need for users to install updates on their phones. Every time there is a new version of the app, it just needs to be deployed on the webserver and is automatically available to the users when they visit next.

PWAs are in demand and for legit reasons

Talk of PWAs and the discussion invariably steers towards a comparison between a native application and PWA capabilities. Listed below are a few factors enticing businesses to take a plunge into the mobile-first world with a PWA. It also is a viable option for businesses looking to complement their existing native application to expand their reach across devices and platforms.

  • Truly progressive: PWAs work for every user irrespective of the browser or the platform because the base is built with progressive enhancements.
  • Highly responsive: Progressive web applications are highly responsive and seamlessly adapt to the various screen sizes be it desktops, different mobile devices, and tablets.
  • Closely replicating native apps: The user experience and interface match up to that of native applications.
  • Easily and regularly updated: The process of running updates is convenient thanks to the data update process offered by service workers.
  • Secure: As PWAs run through HTTPS, it ensures safety in content delivery and content interaction.
  • Searchable: Indexed by search engines PWAs show up in Google search results.
  • Installable: Installing PWA applications is an easy affair as it does not require users to download it from the app store or play store, consuming little space.
  • Linkable: A clickable link is all it takes to install or share the application among users.
  • Offline functionality: PWAs work without the internet connection leveraging data cached from the last instance the user interacted with the application

We are confident that with the evolution of PWAs there will be many more benefits that may come to the fore. Are there benefits or interesting facts about PWA that you have come across and would like to share with us? Drop it here in the comments section.

Read the next blog on the adoption of PWAs among some of the recognized businesses and the benefits they have incurred.

How to Programmatically Make your Android Phone Look Like an iPhone

In Android Operating System (OS) based on mobile phone or devices, the UI screen that appears first after the user presses the ‘Power on’ button is called the “Android Launcher Screen”. It is possible in Android to construct a custom launcher application, which can be used as a replacement for the default launcher application that comes along with Android phones. Unlike the iPhone, this is one of Android’s best features which lets you design your phone’s interface.

Android Launcher concept

The Launcher falls into one of two categories: ‘design’ or ‘smart’.

Design launchers focus on User Interface. You can change the entire layout of your Android phone’s home screen, application icon shape, icon drag and drop concepts, image gallery etc. You can customize everything it has to offer, including the themes, animations, layout, shortcuts and colors. Some of its interesting features include unlimited scrolling, customize app drawer layout, download-able themes and widget customization.

Smart Launchers learn the most relevant information about you which can be your wake up time, head out on your commute, work at the office, most favorite spot of city etc. You also can add custom gestures to your phone such as double-tapping the screen to open a specific application, web-page or specific setting.

Requirement

You need to have the following installed and configured on your development machine:

  • Android SDK and platform tools
  • Android Studio
  • An emulator or Android device running Android 2.2 or higher

Project Manifest.xml File Modification

In manifest.xml file add two activities. First activity displays the home screen and the second activity needs to display the applications that are installed on user’s device. It is also responsible for launching the installed applications. We don’t need any special configuration for this Activity.

Add the following two categories in Manifest.xml file to the intent-filter group. This intent-filter is associated with the Activity.

 <category android_name="android.intent.category.HOME" />
 <category android_name="android.intent.category.DEFAULT" />

We also need to set the android:launchMode to “singleTask” to make sure that only one instance of this Activity is held by the system at any time. To show the user’s wallpaper, set the theme to

android:theme=”@android:style/Theme.Wallpaper.NoTitleBar.Fullscreen”

 <activity
 android_name="ah.hathi.simplelauncher.HomeScreenActivity"
 android_label="Simple Launcher Home"
 android_theme="@android:style/Theme.Wallpaper.NoTitleBar.Fullscreen"
 android_launchMode="singleTask"
 android_stateNotNeeded="true">
 <intent-filter>
 <action android_name="android.intent.action.MAIN" />
 <category android_name="android.intent.category.HOME" />
 <category android_name="android.intent.category.DEFAULT" />
 </intent-filter>
 </activity>

Add one more activity in Manifest.xml file for displaying the applications that are installed on user’s device.

<activity
 android_name="ah.hathi.simplelauncher.AppsListActivity"
 android_theme="@android:style/Theme.NoTitleBar.Fullscreen" > </activity>

Launcher Main Activity Layouts

Add UI design code in Activity_HomeScreen.xml file. Here layout has a single Button that responds to click events. Clicking the button takes the user from home screen to the list of applications.

<RelativeLayout xmlns_android="http://schemas.android.com/apk/res/android"
 xmlns_tools="http://schemas.android.com/tools"
 android_layout_width="match_parent"
 android_layout_height="match_parent"
 tools_context=".HomeActivity" >

<Button
android:id=”@+id/home_screen_apps_button”
android:layout_width=”wrap_content”
android:layout_height=”wrap_content”
android:layout_alignParentRight=”true”
android:layout_alignParentTop=”true”
android:layout_marginRight=”10dp”
android:layout_marginTop=”10dp”
android:text=”Show Apps”
android:onClick=”showApps”
/>
</RelativeLayout>

Next is to create an XML file for the AppListActivity class in the project’s res/layout folder and name it as activity_apps_list.xml. The layout contains a ListView that takes up the entire screen.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
 <LinearLayout xmlns_android="http://schemas.android.com/apk/res/android"
 android_layout_width="match_parent"
 android_layout_height="match_parent"
 android_orientation="vertical" >

<ListView
android:id=”@+id/apps_list”
android:layout_width=”match_parent”
android:layout_height=”match_parent”
>
</ListView>

</LinearLayout>

Finally, create a third XML file in the same location and name it as list_item.xml. This file defines the layout of an item in the ListView

 <?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
 <RelativeLayout xmlns_android="http://schemas.android.com/apk/res/android"
 android_layout_width="match_parent"
 android_layout_height="match_parent"
 android_padding="10dp"
 >

<ImageView
android:id=”@+id/item_app_icon”
android:layout_width=”wrap_content”
android:layout_height=”wrap_content”
android:layout_alignParentLeft=”true”
android:layout_centerVertical=”true”
/>

<TextView
android:id=”@+id/item_app_label”
android:layout_width=”wrap_content”
android:layout_height=”wrap_content”
android:layout_toRightOf=”@+id/item_app_icon”
android:paddingLeft=”10dp”
/>

<TextView
android:id=”@+id/item_app_name”
android:layout_width=”wrap_content”
android:layout_height=”wrap_content”
android:layout_below=”@+id/item_app_label”
android:layout_toRightOf=”@+id/item_app_icon”
android:paddingLeft=”10dp”
/>

</RelativeLayout>


Implementing the HomeScreenActivity Classes

With the layouts of the application created, it is time to create two Activity classes. When creating the two classes, make sure the name of each class matches the one you specified in the project manifest file earlier.

Create a new class named HomeScreenActivity and set android.app.Activity as its superclass.

Add this code in your HomeScreenActivity class or your main Activity class in onCreate method.

selectButton.setOnClickListener(new View.OnClickListener() {
 @Override
 public void onClick(View view) {

Intent i = new Intent(this, AppsListActivity.class);
startActivity(i);

}
});


We create an Intent for the AppsListActivity class and start it.

AppsListActivity Class

Create another Activity class named AppsListActivity and set android.app.Activity as its superclass. In the class’s onCreate method, we invoke setContentView, passing in the activity_apps_list layout we created earlier.

import android.app.Activity;
 import android.content.Intent;
 import android.os.Bundle;
 import android.view.View;

public class AppsListActivity extends Activity {

@Override
protected void onCreate(Bundle savedInstanceState) {
super.onCreate(savedInstanceState);
setContentView(R.layout.activity_apps_list);
}

}

AppDetail.java class file

Create a class named AppDetail that will contain the details of an application, its package name, label, and application icon. The interface is pretty basic as you can see below.

public class AppDetail {
 CharSequence label;
 CharSequence name;
 Drawable icon;
 }

Fetching installed Applications

In the LoadApplication method of the AppListActivity class, we use the queryIntentActivities method of the PackageMangaer class to fetch all the Intents that have a category of Intent.CATEGORY_LAUNCHER. The query returns a list of applications that can be launched by a launcher. We loop through the results of the query and add each item to a list named Apps.

private PackageManager manager;
 private List<AppDetail> apps;

private void loadApplication(){

manager = getPackageManager();
apps = new ArrayList<AppDetail>();

Intent i = new Intent(Intent.ACTION_MAIN, null);
i.addCategory(Intent.CATEGORY_LAUNCHER);

List<ResolveInfo> availableActivities = manager.queryIntentActivities(i, 0);
for(ResolveInfo ri:availableActivities){
AppDetail app = new AppDetail();
app.label = ri.loadLabel(manager);
app.name = ri.activityInfo.packageName;
app.icon = ri.activityInfo.loadIcon(manager);
apps.add(app);
}
}

List of Applications

The Apps variable containing all the details we need, we can show the list of applications using ListView class. We create a simple ArrayAdapter and override its getView method to render the list items. We then associate the ListView with the adapter.

private ListView list;
 private void loadListView(){
 list = (ListView)findViewById(R.id.apps_list);

ArrayAdapter<AppDetail> adapter = new ArrayAdapter<AppDetail>(this,
R.layout.list_item,
apps) {
@Override
public View getView(int position, View convertView, ViewGroup parent) {
if(convertView == null){
convertView = getLayoutInflater().inflate(R.layout.list_item, null);
}

ImageView appIcons = (ImageView)convertView.findViewById(R.id.item_app_icon);
appIcons.setImageDrawable(apps.get(position).icon);

TextView appLabels = (TextView)convertView.findViewById(R.id.item_app_label);
appLabels.setText(apps.get(position).label);

TextView appNames = (TextView)convertView.findViewById(R.id.item_app_name);
appNames.setText(apps.get(position).name);

return convertView;
}
};

list.setAdapter(adapter);
}

ListView OnClickListener Method for List item

When the user clicks an item in the ListView, corresponding application will be launched by our launcher. We use the getLaunchIntentForPackage method of the PackageManager class to create an Intent with which we start the application.

private void addonClickListener(){
 list.setOnItemClickListener(new AdapterView.OnItemClickListener() {
 @Override
 public void onItemClick(AdapterView<?> av, View v, int pos ,long id) {
 Intent i = manager.getLaunchIntentForPackage(apps.get(pos).name.toString());
 AppsListActivity.this.startActivity(i);
 }    
 });<br > }

Putting It All Together

We need to invoke loadApplication, loadListView and AddClickListener in the onCreate method of AppsListActivity class as shown below.

protected void onCreate(Bundle savedInstanceState) {
 super.onCreate(savedInstanceState);
 setContentView(R.layout.activity_apps_list);

loadApplication();
loadListView();
addClickListener();
}

Conclusion

Build and run your application once more to see the result. You should now be able to see the applications that can be launched when you click a button on the home screen of our launcher. Click on an item to launch the corresponding applications. That’s it! Now, try to mimic the UI look and feel of iPhone in your launcher application as you have got complete control over everything!

Here’s a quick read to help you update Android apps outside of Google Play.