The big news this autumn will come directly from Apple’s decision to introduce Extensions and free the fetters surrounding Touch ID. Already developers are working on making iOS life easier by extending their apps to talk to other applications and services. And the opportunities for Touch ID are virtually limitless.
Touch ID has been something of an experiment over the past twelve months, with most of us suffering some degree of unreliability. Even now, fingerprint storage has a habit of going AWOL and frequent refreshment is often necessary. With luck, these problems will be cured in iOS 8 as the Touch ID system is extended to the iPad. Life is going to get a lot easier when confidential information can be unlocked simply by pressing a finger on the home button. Bill payments, for instance, will become more reliable and much more common.
A prime example of the potential for Touch ID is demonstrated by AgileBits in the the iOS 8 beta version of their seminal password application, 1Password. For many users 1Password is the go-to app for storing not just passwords but credit card and bank details or any sort of confidential reference material. One strong password, which should not be used anywhere else, is used to unlock the automatic functions of the application. But the frequent request for verification is frustrating and at times annoying.
In the future, 1Password will be unlocked simply by fingerprint or, even, by using the phone’s passcode. As a further refinement, 1Password can now interact with other applications, notably Safari, using the new Extensions feature. While the iOS versions of 1Password have long included a built-in proprietary browser, this has never been a real substitute for Safari and, in future, users will have the ability to use their protected information directly in Safari.
In some ways these enhancements will allow iOS applications such as 1Password to become even more functional than their Mac companion apps. It will still be necessary repeatedly to enter the strong 1Password key every time the app is opened on a Mac—until, that is, we get TouchID on OS X.
Of course, 1Password is just one very good example of the benefits of both Extensions and the development of TouchID. Thousands of developers will be working along similar lines and we will soon find our user experience transformed. In terms of impact this is huge for Apple; it is far more important than cosmetic changes and minor enhancements in the updated OS functionality.
There is a lot to look forward to in iOS 8 and our iPhones and iPads are going to take a big leap forward in productivity and ease of use. Most of us can still remember the time when there was no cut-and-paste in iOS. Soon, however, we will be looking back to the bad old days when applications couldn’t talk to one another and when users had to keep entering passwords all day long.