Updating apps for iOS 13

It’s time for the next major iOS update. This time Apple has announced a focus on privacy, but there are plenty of new features in other areas too. Along with the iOS update, the latest Swift (5.1) is also out.

New projects will obviously benefit from the new developments, but what about your existing iOS app? Does it need to be updated?

iOS13

iOS 13 comes with a lot of great new features for users, you can read the full list here. From a development perspective though, many of the changes are likely to require updates to apps, in some cases fairly significant updates. First of all, there are a few urgent update needs:

Social sign-in

The first change requiring urgent updates affects apps which use social sign-in features. iOS 13 introduces ‘Apple sign-in’ and requires that all apps offering third party sign-in via other platforms (like Facebook or Google) should also allow users to sign-in with Apple too. If your app includes 3rd party sign-in options, you absolutely need to schedule iOS 13 optimisation as soon as possible.

Permissions

Along with ‘sign-in with Apple’, iOS 13’s other privacy focussed updates largely involve changes to the ways that a range of technologies with potential privacy implications can be implemented. This includes voip calls, location services and MDM, and if your app relies on any of these technologies you’ll definitely need to update. Even if it’s not one of those 3 examples, if your app requires any permissions at all to be granted it’s worth checking that they’re going to operate the same way from now on. As well as iOS 13’s release, recent store guidelines have changed the rules for apps aimed at children, apps that collect data of any sort and more.

Other changes are less urgent, but could still have a big impact on your app’s success:

Dark mode

Dark mode is a cool, highly publicised new development for iOS 13. Updating your app to be dark mode compatible is by no means a ‘must have’, but you can be sure that all the big brands will be doing it and that it will effectively signal to users the cutting edge relevancy of your brand too.

Catalyst

Along with the changes to iOS itself Apple are also introducing “Catalyst” a project which allows iOS apps to be easily ported to work on MacOS. With over 100 million active Mac users out there, it’s an audience worth reaching for! Could your app work well in a desktop context?

Who needs to update Swift?

As well as optimising for the new iOS, I recommend all projects currently in development to upgrade to Swift 5.1. Aside from the usual swathe of new feature capabilities, this version of Swift brings with it a lot of improvements that make it easier to use from a developer perspective. One of the biggest improvements over the Swift 4 versions is that 5 is ABI stable. This is big news as it means that when future updates are made there will be less urgency about updating, as future compilers will still be able to process Swift 5 code. It helps ensure that apps written on Swift from version 5 onwards can be used for years to come.

Make your app smaller

There’s an additional, user facing bonus to this point. Apps written on Swift 5 no longer need to contain Swift language libraries, so the apps themselves will be significantly smaller. A factor which increases the likelihood of your app getting downloaded and ranking well in the store.

There’s no deprecation deadline currently hanging over us when it comes to updating to Swift 5. But because the benefits are so tangible and the migration is not a long or complicated process, we recommend all projects being actively developed to schedule it in the near future if they haven’t already. The full migration process (updating to Swift 5, running full regression testing, bug fixing and re-release to the store), should take only a few days development time max.

While it’s not required by Apple, even legacy apps not in active development might want to make this migration for the sake of reducing app file size.