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Last fall Apple released iOS5, the newest revision of their operating system for the iPhone, the iPod, and the iPad. As with all of their major iOS releases, this one has plenty of new features that you should consider using when developing (and redeveloping) your own apps.

Among the top developer features for the iOS5 release are: improvements for games; new ways to integrate with the net; and a miscellanea of other features including other new libraries and some notable Xcode expansions.

Gaming Improvements

Between OpenGL and Game Center, game developers already had a lot of power in iOS4, but iOS5 has multiplied that.

GLKit: Support for OpenGL has been available since the earliest versions of iOS, but it always felt a little half-hearted. In particular, support for Open GL ES 2.0 seemed very intimidating. That’s all changed with the introduction of GLKit in iOS5, which provides improved support for Open GL ES 2.0 and also brings Open GL support more in tune with the object-oriented paradigm at the heart of iOS.

Game Center: Though Game Center has been available and functional since the release of iOS4.1, the newest version of the operating system included some notable additions.

A lot of these additions improved ways for users to find friends, to compete with friends, to see the games of friends, and to view notifications generated by Game Center. Alhtough these features are things you don’t have to worry about, they combine to make the Game Center that much more compelling. The result is that you really should incorporate Game Center if you can.

As a developer, you’ll probably be most interested in the Game Center’s new turn-based gaming facility. Now players can play against opponents at their own speed, like in Facebook’s popular “Word with Friends” online game.

Read more about Game Center in Apple’s docs. One video specifically covers the new turn-based functionality.

New Net Integration

Not only does iOS5 give you a great interface for Twitter, but it also offers up its own new networking feature: iCloud.

Twitter: In the earliest days of iOS, developers had to do a lot of low-level networking on their own. Now that’s changing with the release of new high-level APIs, such as the Twitter framework. TWTweetComposeViewController is the core class; it lets your users compose tweets and send them—as long as they have a Twitter account defined in their preferences. If you instead want to generate tweets programmatically you can use TWTweet once you’ve authenticated with ACAccount.

iCloud: The iCloud is Apple’s new online storage. As a developer, you can use the iCloud to store key-value data and documents. That information will then sync to all devices that a user is using—so it’s a great way to ensure your users can share data between an iPhone and an iPad or restore data to a new or rebuilt phone.

As with some of the other iOS libraries, you’ll need to set your apps up to use iCloud through your developer account. However, once that’s done, using iCloud can be as easy as creating a MTICloudSaveImageButton.

Other New Features

There are a few other miscellaneous features in iOS5 that you might want to add to your programming repertoire.

Core Image: The new Core Image framework allows you to apply PhotoShop-like filters to photos. It’s as easy as creating a CIImage, making a CIContext, applying a CIFilter, and outputting the result. You can distort, stylize, composite, blur, sharpen, add shapes, and lots more.

Notifications: iOS5 revamped the way that notifications work from the user side. Now, they all congregate under a pull-down menu that’s always available at the top of the device. The result is a less-intrusive and better-integrated experience for users.

Like Game Center’s general improvements, the upgrades to the Notification Center don’t require any work on your part as a developer. However, they should make you feel more confident and comfortable about including push notifications in your apps, because users are much less likely to find them annoying under the new paradigm.

Xcode: iOS5 comes bundled with Xcode 4.2, which itself provides some notable new features for developers, among them ARC and Storyboard.

ARC, or Automatic Reference Counting, can be used to automatically generate memory retains and releases—meaning that you no longer need to code them.

Storyboard is a big expansion over the classic Interface Builder feature. It allows you not only to layout multiple screens in a single file, but also to define transitions between those screens—all without writing a single line of code.

I’ll have more about ARC and Storyboard in some upcoming tips.

iOS 5 Essentials will help you learn how to build simple, yet powerful iOS 5 applications incorporating iCloud Storage, Twitter, Core Image and Newsstand integration.
Building iOS 5 Games: Develop and Design offers real world iOS 5 examples and actual games the reader can code and play and is aimed at people who understand programming concepts but are new to iOS game development.
iOS 5 Programming Cookbook contains more than 100 new iOS 5 recipes covering iCloud, Automatic Reference Counting, storyboarding, graphics, animations, Grand Central Dispatch, threads, timers, audio and video and many other iOS 5 tools and techniques.
Assuming only a minimal working knowledge of Objective-C, and written in a friendly, easy-to-follow style, Beginning iOS 5 Development offers a complete soup-to-nuts course in iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch programming.

About the Author

  Shannon Appelcline is a versatile author and programmer. He currently works as the lead iOS developer for Skotos Tech, an online entertainment company. In the past two years, he’s written five iOS games for them, all based on tabletop releases by popular German designers. The first of these was Reiner Knizia’s Money (2010)—which has also been ported to MacOS—while the most recent was Reiner Knizia’s Modern Art: The Card Game (2011). Shannon’s two most recent books show the breadth of his interests. They are iOS4 in Action (2011), published by Manning Publications, and Designers & Dragons: A History of the Roleplaying Game Industry (2011), published by Mongoose Publishing.

Tags: Game Center, iCloud, iOS 5, OpenGL, twitter, Xcode,

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