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The iOS 9 features WWDC attendees are most excited about

The opening keynote for Apple’s yearly developer conference pulled back the curtain on new features across multiple operating systems: iOS 9, OS X El Capitan, and watchOS.

Updates for all three systems are scheduled for release this fall, a time that’s traditionally accompanied by new iPhone and iPad hardware releases.

This year’s iOS updates include a revamped keyboard for the iPad that makes it easier to highlight and edit text, new transit directions in Apple Maps, and an enhanced search feature that allows users to search for information stored within apps on any Apple (AAPL) mobile device.

But, with all of these new updates and upgrades I wanted to find out what features developers were most excited about. Here’s what I learned:

Samer Abousalbi, CEO of Capparsa (a company that specializes in developing productivity apps for businesses), is optimistic about the new improvements. “It will be interesting to see how we can use split-screen multitasking on the iPad,” he said, later adding that the Apple Watch updates “will make it a lot easier to launch our app.”

Another developer, Anton Bukarev, who made the journey from Moscow to San Francisco, also welcomed the changes. As an engineer for Workato, he was most excited about the new search functionality and the fact developers can use it alongside new application programming interfaces (API). The new API will allow developers to highlight more than just one app icon during searches when using the Spotlight program.



One example shown on stage during the conference to illustrate Apple’s new search function looked at baseball scores. A user could find relevant baseball information, which included data sourced by the MLB’s At Bat application, simply by searching for a team name. In the past, the same search would lead users to mobile Safari or the MLB At Bat app itself.

Joe Braidwood, CMO of SwiftKey, welcomed the new keyboard upgrades for iOS 9. “When you have moments [where] the core fundamental experience is improved, it’s quite conceivable to see that as a negative thing,” he said. “But, actually, we’re seeing it as a positive, because anything that shines a light on innovation in the keyboard tends to at some point include us.”

Braidwood also sees Apple’s proactive assistance keyboard feature as validation that the company (a popular third-party keyboard for iOS) is on the right track. The assistant feature in iOS 9 will automatically add event invites to your calendar, surface apps depending on the time of day, or display the name of a caller even if the person isn’t in your contact list.

Michael Simmons, co-founder of Flexibits, was most interested in the new iPad features. Multitasking, split-view, and the new keyboard features were the highlights, although he also pointed out problems with the company’s overall treatment of the device. “The iPad is great but they never realized [its] potential. It’s not just a blown up iPhone, but on the other hand it doesn’t really have anything productivity related to it.”

By bringing more productivity tools to the iPad, Apple is reassuring developers—despite declining sales—that the company is committed to the tablet. Hopefully with more commitment from Apple, developers can feel confident in devoting more time and resources to creating new apps and/or improving existing apps for the iPad.

Developers gained access to the new operating systems and development tools shortly after the keynote ended. The public will see the new changes for themselves this fall when iOS 9 and OS X El Capitan are released.