Apple's new operating system for mobile phones and tablets, iOS 8, is slated to release in the fall, and one of its features will transform how you use your apps.
Apple calls it Extensibility, and it basically allows your apps to share both information and functionality with each other, which means less time spent switching between apps.
Let's say you have a favorite app for editing your photos, such as Adobe Photoshop Express.
Before Extensibility, you would need to be inside Photoshop Express in order to use its editing tools. But with Extensibility, you'll be able to access those same editing tools right from within Apple's native Photos app. The editing tools from Photoshop Express would act as the "extension" in this case, and the Photos app would then have access to that extension, allowing you to take advantage of Photoshop Express' unique features and functionality even from within outside apps.
Popular password management app 1Password has already demonstrated how it will use Extensibility to let users easily fill in password info from within any app. Before, you had to boot up 1Password, copy the password for a site or app, and then open the site or app and paste it in. But Extensibility eliminates those extra steps. Other apps can plug into 1Password and let you use it without opening a separate app.
So how does it work?
There are different types of extensions depending on how and where they will share information with other apps. Apple wants to prevent apps from simply having full access to all of the information in your other apps, so extensions are focused on particular functions and tasks, such as Share, Action, and Photo Editing.
It's important to note that an app won't be able to randomly request important info from another app without your consent. You have complete control over when an app makes a request to use an extension, meaning an app can't request your PayPal password from 1Password unless you ask it to.
Besides being secure, Extensibility means more information at your fingertips, and faster.
Apple, for example, is allowing extensions to plug directly into your iPhone's Notification Center, where it will act as a widget. If you want to stay up to date on the latest scores, you could enable ESPN's Sports Center app to see its extension in Notification Center, allowing you to quickly check out what's going on without opening the Sports Center app.
You won't only be able to glimpse information from within Notification Center, extensions will also let you take action.
Say you were using the Philips Hue app to control your smart light bulbs. Right now, that's all done within the app, making it a tad inefficient. But Philips has shown off an iOS 8 concept for an extension that would let you turn on and off your smart lighting, even select some pre-set mood lighting, all from a simple swipe up of the Notification Center.
At its WWDC conference in June, Apple highlighted how an eBay extension would allow you to keep track of auctions from within Notification Center. And since extensions can also include actions, you're even able to place a bid without opening the app.
Extensions can also be used to share things to your favorite social media site. Apple has limited sharing features integrated into iOS 7, but iOS 8 will usher in the ability for any social media app to design its own extension.
Say you're browsing the internet using Safari. With Extensibility, you'll be able to tap the image, select which social media website or app you'd like to share the picture with, and you're done.
Extensibility even extends to core Apple software, such as its keyboard. If another app has a keyboard that you like better than Apple's, they simply have to enable a keyboard extension to give users the ability to replace Apple's keyboard with their own.
At its heart, Extensibility will both remove friction and empower preference, letting users take their favorite app's killer feature and use it from within another app.
It's a giant step in the right direction for Apple, and it means that apps no longer will have compromise on polish in the name of being able to "do it all." Instead, they'll be able to focus on creating a unique experience that users will be able to take with them into other apps.
Extensibility will be available when iOS 8 launches as a free download this fall.