WWDC 2023: How Apple is supporting the Middle East's developer community

In lead up to annual event, The National speaks with app developers and businesses in the region to understand how iOS ecosystem is shaping their work

Apple is expected to announce various innovations at its Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday. AP
Powered by automated translation

Apple is expected to announce software updates, the latest versions of its operating systems for iPhones and iPads, and several new products – including latest Macs and M3 chips – at its Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday.

In the lead up to the annual event, The National spoke with Middle East developers and businesses to understand how they are using Apple’s iOS ecosystem to develop their apps and reach global customers, and how the Cupertino-based company is enabling them in their journey through free tools and privacy features.

Apple’s iOS 16, the iPhone's operating system announced in June last year, offers many new application programming interfaces, or APIs, and capabilities that help developers innovate and do more.

API is a software intermediary that allows two different applications to connect or communicate with each other.

Besides its in-built security and privacy features, developers can use artificial intelligence to build more intuitive interface, create more engaging user experience, bring widgets to the lock screen, use enhancements in Maps, and complete tasks using Siri with new app shortcuts.

Apple's App Store attracted over 650 million average weekly visitors worldwide in 2022. Photo: Apple

Over the years, developers have gained good monetary returns by embracing iOS and launching their products in the App Store.

Apple’s App Store ecosystem facilitated $1.1 trillion in developer billings and sales last year, according to an independent study by economists at Massachusetts-based Analysis Group.

With the support of a wide range of App Store tools and initiatives, small developers – defined as those earning up to $1 million a year and with less than one million annual downloads – globally grew revenue 71 per cent between 2020 and 2022, it added.

In the US, those developers saw an above-average increase of 87 per cent in earnings during the same period.

“iOS development is a journey filled with opportunities and challenges as the landscape continues to evolve,” said Ramzi Alqrainy, chief technology officer of The Chefz, a Saudi-based food delivery application.

“Developers must stay adaptable, informed, and mindful of the balance between innovation and conformity.”

The Chefz was one of the early adopters of iOS’s Live Activities feature, which helped the company to improve customer experience and tailor customised offerings.

“Customers who are able to see what is happening in real time are more likely to stay with our app,” Mr Alqrainy said.

Over the years, Apple has rolled out various features that limit data collection and require explicit user permissions to ensure privacy and avoid misuse of personal information.

Almosafer said the implementation of passport scanning using VisionKit has reduced errors and streamlined the user journey. Photo: Almosafer

“However, the trade-off between personalisation and privacy is a constant balancing act, one that requires careful navigation by developers,” Mr Alqrainy said.

Users can adjust what information is shared, where it is shared and when it is backed up.

Apps are also required to ask users permission when they want to track them across apps and websites owned by other companies. Users can change their preferences for any app or prevent apps from asking for permission entirely in settings.

Qais Ammouri, chief digital technology officer of Saudi-based travel company Almosafer, said by instilling confidence in users and safeguarding their personal information, developers can establish trust and build long-lasting relationships.

“Developers must adhere to Apple's security requirements, implement best practices for data storage on devices, and protect customer privacy,” he said.

Middle East developers said the integration of AI into apps is an emerging trend that presents new prospects as well as challenges.

“AI can enable features like personalisation, natural language processing, and predictive analytics,” Mr Alqrainy said.

“It also raises questions about performance, privacy, security, and resource allocation. Not every app needs AI, and its implementation should be a strategic decision, not a trend-driven one.

Almosafer has been an early adopter of new technologies, such as Apple Pay and Apple Sign-in, giving the company a competitive edge in the market.

“By harnessing the power of Apple's VisionKit and Speech Recognition APIs, we have enhanced the user experience in our app,” Mr Ammouri said.

“By leveraging Apple's APIs and ensuring that data processing occurs on the device itself, our app ensures that user data remains secure and protected.”

Qais Ammouri, chief digital technology officer of Almosafer. Photo: Almosafer

How big is App Store ecosystem?

The App Store attracted more than 650 million average weekly visitors worldwide last year, according to Apple.

Users downloaded and redownloaded apps an average of more than 747 million and 1.5 billion times each week in 2022, respectively.

The App Store provides Apple developers around the world with a global distribution platform that supports more than 195 local payment methods and 44 currencies across 175 storefronts.

It also allows developers to reach users across borders. Last year, 54 per cent of downloads occurred in storefronts outside of developers’ home countries.

At next week's conference, Apple says its engineers and designers will host various activities online to help developers engage in technical discussions, get answers to their questions, and connect with each other.

Updated: June 04, 2023, 5:05 AM