We already told you about a few big new features in terms of improvements to Bluetooth coming in iOS 7: Developers will now have a standardized controller framework for hardware game controllers and new features for BLE devices that will bring Notification Center support and always-connected apps. That’s not all Apple has planned for accessory makers in the near future, below developers have reached out to explain some of the other big new features that will be available to accessory manufacturers with iOS 7 and Mavericks…
Open AirPlay Audio:
One big change for accessory makers coming soon is open AirPlay audio. Apple’s MFi program was previously restrictive to certain devices, such as audio receivers and Bluetooth speakers, for example. We’ve heard Apple is planning to make AirPlay audio an “open program”, meaning developers will now be allowed to implement AirPlay audio functionality on any hardware platform of choice.
Other audio related features included in iOS 7: Input selection (allowing devs to select which input, i.e. a headphone mic or the device’s mic). It will also let them select a certain mic on multi-mic devices. Multichannel enhancements bring support for discovering audio channel labels (like left and right) and setting a specific number of output and input channels. iOS 7 will also now require devs to ask permission for audio recording.
Configuring Wi-Fi accessories:
Apple is planning to implement a new way to configure Wi-Fi accessories in iOS 7 and Mavericks. Previously, users would have to plug a third-party Wi-Fi accessory into a physical port in order to be prompted to download a third-party app for configuring the device. Now, Apple will let users find and configure the accessories entirely over Wi-Fi, without having to plug in the device, directly from within Wi-Fi settings in the Settings app and System Preference (or its menu bar item) on Mavericks. This is similar to the experience Apple has offered with its own AirPort products. You’ll also be able to install any companion apps for the accessory during the setup process.
New Apple-designed Hearing Aid technology
We’ve heard Apple will be rolling out a new Apple-designed hearing aid technology using Bluetooth Low Energy that will significantly improve the hearing aid experience when paired to an iOS device. Apple already has its MFi program for Bluetooth and other hearing aid products, but products using a new Apple-designed hearing aid technology over BLE are on the way. Products using the technology will be coming out this year in both hearing aid and cochlear implants. The BLE technology will support both audio and data, providing possibilities such as the ability for doctors to adjust a patient’s hearing aid remotely.
Improved Device Management:
Apple is making it easier for developers to create Bluetooth LE devices with native support for the “HID over GATT profile” in iOS 7 and Mavericks, which is the first time Apple has supported BLE profiles on iOS and OS X. This will allow BLE products like keyboards and controllers to connect directly to iOS or OS X and be natively managed by the OS. As the Bluetooth SIG put it, it “means OEMs can commercialize ultra-efficient Bluetooth Smart devices that last years without changing batteries.”
We’ve heard Apple has some big improvements to Proximity related services in iOS 7. While it doesn’t exactly seem to be aimed at accessory makers initially, Apple is planning iOS to iOS proximity services over BLE using core location. This sounds a lot like the iBeacons feature Apple mentioned in a slide during its keynote. This would allow one iOS device to send information to another based on proximity– imagine entering a store and getting immediately notified of location specific information for the store.
Apple is certainly making some big steps towards enabling the next-generation of BLE and Wi-Fi accessories for iOS devices, and we suspect it has some big plans for its iBeacons proximity features with retailers and other third-parties. In case you missed it: Apple is also enabling full Notification Center access and a new Preservation and Restoration service that will mean big improvements for low energy Bluetooth products in the months to come.