One feature that Apple showcased at WWDC this year is still yet to appear, which would make creating and distributing apps on iPad a reality.
Swift Playgrounds is Apple’s app to help users learn how to code in the company’s own programming language, called Swift. While developers can code in a language called Objective C, Apple’s own language allows you to code in the Swift Playgrounds app on iPad, generating simple vehicles and levels within it.
But the upcoming version allows users the ability to create and distribute iPhone and iPad apps to the App Store, all on the tablet through Swift Playgrounds.
With Universal Control delayed into Spring 2022, we wonder where Swift Playgrounds 4 is to help the next generation of developers.
Inspiring the next generation
The only way you could code and distribute an Apple app was on a Mac, through Xcode. Released in 2003, this contains everything you need to create and distribute an app on any Apple platform and update it with new features whenever you were ready.
Swift Playgrounds was released in 2016, alongside iOS 10 for iPad, with a macOS version appearing in 2020. As this can only be used in Apple’s Swift programming language, users would need to relearn how to create an app for Apple’s devices.
However, for students and those wanting to learn to code, it’s a fantastic app in how it guides you from the basics of coding to the advanced levels.
Back in June at WWDC, version 4 was announced, with an aim to release the app at the same time as iPadOS 15 in September. But while the software update came out for iPad, the Swift Playgrounds update didn’t.
While macOS users have been waiting for Universal Control to arrive, which allows an iPad to be used as a second screen with a Mac, Swift Playgrounds 4 has not seen any update from Apple on where it is.
The sign of things to come?
In the meantime, features delayed for iOS 15 and macOS 12 have been rolled out to subsequent updates in iOS 15.2 and macOS 12.1, with SharePlay and Legacy Contacts arriving one by one.
But the update to Swift Playgrounds is a significant one, which may be a sign of where programming apps for Apple devices are heading towards.
We all use our devices in different ways, with some using an iPad to edit videos, or another to write the next novel with the Smart Keyboard attachment for example.
Users have been wanting new iterations of Final Cut and Xcode from the Mac to come to the iPad. A 1:1 copy wouldn’t work, as a redesign would be needed to see these appear on the tablet.
This is why Swift Playgrounds 4 is an intriguing concept. Apple hasn’t yet made clear if you can create a watch app or a widget as well on the app, but it could be possible.
The design of the iPad makes a reality of creating apps from start to finish. There’s great potential in the next generation of developers discovering Swift code and seeing how they can create the next great app, all on their iPad.
While we don’t know when the update may arrive, around Christmas would be great timing for it, especially as many kids will be unwrapping iPads on Christmas Day.
But for now, Swift Playgrounds is a tantalizing hint into a future of creating apps, and how the next generation can be inspired to change our routines with the ideas of apps that they have.
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