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Apple unleashes iOS 8 SDK with HealthKit, HomeKit, and Swift programming language

As you're doubtless aware, today has seen Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference kick off, with big revelations being made on the OS X front (opens in new tab), as well as iOS 8 which had many new features unveiled (opens in new tab).

Let's not forget, though, that this is an event for developers, and they had plenty to cheer about when Apple released the iOS 8 Software Development Kit (SDK) today. In fact, this is the biggest devkit release ever for Apple's mobile platform, with no less than 4,000 new APIs introduced.

Major introductions included new frameworks such as HealthKit and HomeKit, a fresh graphics tech by the name of metal, and Swift, a new programming language.

Let's start with the new HealthKit APIs, which are part of Apple's focus on the health arena (iOS 8 does indeed boast the long rumoured health app). These facilitate inter-app communication between health and fitness apps, so they can easily share data and make for a more integrated and powerful user experience.

Remember the rumours concerning Apple's push for smart home tech at WWDC (opens in new tab)? HomeKit is all about this, and providing a protocol to enable the seamless management of smart home accessories via an iOS device, complete with Siri tied in. So, for example, the user will be able to instruct Siri that he or she is going to bed, whereby the iPhone can then send commands to lock doors, turn off lights, set the heating for night time and so forth.

Eric Rondolat, CEO of Philips Lighting, commented: "We are excited to be part of the next step in making home automation a reality, in a safe and integrated way. HomeKit will allow us to further enhance the Philips Hue lighting experience by making it simpler to securely pair devices throughout the house and control them using Siri."

Apple claims that the new graphics tech for iOS 8, Metal, will make a big difference to gaming on iOS devices, squeezing the most out of the A7 chip and allowing for "console-class 3D games" to come to mobile devices. Cupertino noted that Metal offers a massive increase in draw call speed of a factor of ten.

Perhaps the biggest news for developers, though, was the unveiling of Swift, the new programming language for iOS and OS X which Apple boasts combines the efficiency of complied languages with the simplicity of popular scripting languages. Swift will help facilitate more reliable code by doing away with entire swathes of common programming errors, Apple notes, and Swift code will sit happily alongside existing Objective-C code, meaning devs can plug it straight into their current apps. There was plenty of clamour and noise from developers surrounding this particular announcement.

Apple is also introducing new camera APIs, CloudKit – a scalable back-end solution to do away with the need to write server code, and server maintenance – and many other tweaks such as the ability for developers to add their own widgets to the Notification Centre. There's literally a ton of stuff for devs with the iOS 8 SDK, and there were broad smiles all around...

The iOS 8 beta and SDK are available to Developer Program members now, along with a beta version of the Swift programming language. The final version of Swift will arrive in the autumn, alongside the consumer release of iOS 8.

Craig Federighi, Apple's senior VP of Software Engineering, commented: "With more than 800 million iOS devices sold worldwide, the opportunity for developers is huge. This is the biggest iOS release since the launch of the App Store. The iOS 8 SDK delivers more than 4,000 new APIs including amazing new frameworks, greater extensibility and a revolutionary new programming language."

For more on today's revelations from WWDC, including Swift and Metal, check out our live coverage of the event as it happened (opens in new tab).

Darren Allan

Darran has over 25 years of experience in digital and magazine publishing as a writer and editor. He's also an author, having co-written a novel published by Little, Brown (Hachette UK). He currently writes news, features and buying guides for TechRadar, and occasionally other Future websites such as T3 or Creative Bloq and he's a copy editor for TechRadar Pro. Darrran has written for a large number of tech and gaming websites/magazines in the past, including Web User and ComputerActive. He has also worked at IDG Media, having been the Editor of PC Games Solutions and the Deputy Editor of PC Home.